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Title: The Story of Viteau
Author: Stockton, Frank Richard
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                          THE STORY OF VITEAU

[Illustration: RAYMOND, LOUIS, AND THE PAGE RETURN TO VITEAU.]

                                  THE

                            STORY OF VITEAU

                                   BY

                           FRANK R. STOCKTON

      AUTHOR OF "A JOLLY FELLOWSHIP," "THE FLOATING PRINCE," ETC.

                             _ILLUSTRATED_

                                NEW YORK
                        CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
                                  1907

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                             COPYRIGHT 1884
                       BY CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                         LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.


RAYMOND, LOUIS AND THE PAGE RETURN TO VITEAU, (Frontispiece.)

BERNARD, RAYMOND AND LOUIS MEET THE MONK, 9

LOUIS AND BERNARD ON THEIR WAY TO DEBARRAN'S CASTLE, 20

LOUIS, AGNES, AND THE FALCON, 29

LOUIS FINDS ONE OF THE HIGHWAYMEN A GOOD-NATURED FELLOW, 41

BERNARD TEACHING RAYMOND THE USE OF THE LONG SWORD, 50

BROTHER ANSELMO THREATENS BERNARD AND RAYMOND, 60

THE COUNTESS SENT FOR JASTO AND THANKED HIM WARMLY, 93

A SMALL WINDOW WAS OPENED, 97

AGNES TELLS RAYMOND AND LOUIS OF HER PLAN, 109

SIR HUGO AND SIR CHARLES CHARGE THE ROBBERS, 120

THE FLIGHT OF THE COUNTESS, 132

MICHOL WELCOMES THE COUNTESS, 136

AGNES MAKES A PLEA FOR THE MOTHER OF RAYMOND AND LOUIS, 141

THE ROBBERS IN THE OLD WOMAN'S COTTAGE, 160

THE ROBBERS IN THE HALLWAY WERE FORCED INTO THE COURT-YARD, 178

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                          The Story of Viteau.


                               CHAPTER I.


BY the side of a small stream, which ran through one of the most
picturesque portions of the province of Burgundy, in France, there sat,
on a beautiful day in early summer, two boys, who were brothers.

They had been bathing in the stream, and now, having dressed, they were
talking together on the bank.

Raymond, the elder, was about fourteen years old, and his brother Louis
was some eighteen months younger. In form and feature, and in general
disposition and character, they were not unlike many of the boys of our
day, and yet these two young fellows lived more than six hundred years
ago. They were dressed in simple tunics, one green, one brown, and wore
short breeches, dark-colored stockings, and rather clumsy shoes.

The two brothers were very busily engaged in conversation, for they had
a great deal to say to each other, and not much time to say it in. On
the next day Louis was going away from home, to be gone a long, long
time.

Raymond and Louis were the sons of the Countess of Viteau, whose chateau
stood on a little eminence about half a mile away. Their father, the
Count of Viteau, had been one of the most steadfast adherents and
supporters of the Duke of Burgundy, in his endeavors to maintain the
independence of his dukedom against the claims of the French crown, and
had fallen in one of the battles between the Duke's followers and the
army of the Regent, Queen Blanche, who, in those days, ruled France in
the name of her son, the young King, Louis IX., afterward known as Louis
the Just, or St. Louis.

The Duke's forces had been defeated, Burgundy had been compelled to
acknowledge the supremacy of the French crown, and peace reigned in the
kingdom.

The widowed Countess of Viteau now found herself the sole protector and
guardian of her two boys. Fortunately, she had a large estate, but even
this added to her cares and responsibilities, and rendered her less able
to attend to what she had intended should be the aim and business of her
life—the education of her sons.

Education, in those days, did not mean what it does now. The majority of
the people, even of the upper classes, were not educated at all, some of
the lords and barons being unable to write their names. Printing had not
been invented; all books were in manuscript, and were scarce and
valuable. Most of the learning, such as it was, had been, for a long
time, confined to the monks and priests; but, in the era in which our
two boys lived, people had begun to give more attention to general
education, and there were schools in some of the large cities which were
well attended, and where the students of that day were taught grammar,
logic, rhetoric, music, arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy, although
their studies in most of these branches were not carried very far. The
school of Paris was one of the most celebrated of these institutions.

The Countess of Viteau was among the few ladies of the time who really
cared for an education beyond that which included the small number of
accomplishments then considered necessary to persons of high position.
When quite a young woman, she had learned all that the priests, one or
more of whom generally lived in her father's house, could teach her, and
afterward, when her sons were old enough, she made it her personal
business to attend to their studies. Some things she taught them
herself, and, for other branches, she employed such men of
knowledge—almost always members of some order of the clergy—as could be
obtained.

But now the time had arrived when the customs of the day demanded that
one of her sons, at least, should leave her to receive an education of
another sort, and her younger boy was to be sent away to the castle of
the Count de Barran, an old friend and fellow-soldier of her husband, to
be taught, as most of the boys of his station were taught, the arts and
usages of knighthood and chivalry. Raymond would also be a knight, but
his mother wished him to be more than that. He would succeed to the rank
and estate of his father, and she hoped that he would not only be a
nobleman and a soldier, but a scholar. When he should leave her to go to
the school at Paris,—and it was for this school that she was now
endeavoring to prepare him,—he would live with one of his relatives, by
whom he would be instructed in the noble duties of chivalry. His mother
felt sure that his studies at the school and his knightly exercises
would not interfere with each other.

"Only one more day," said Raymond, "and then it will seem so strange
here without you, Louis."

"But it will be ever so much stranger for me," said Louis, "for I shall
be without everybody. I have never seen a single soul of the castle
people, excepting the Count de Barran, and it is so long since he was
here that I have almost forgotten him. He was a big, stout man, and
that's all I know about him."

"You might as well have never seen him," said Raymond, "for he is not
stout, and he is not big. He's a tall, thin man, and, I think, a kind
one. But I expect you soon will know everybody."

"Or they will know me," said Louis, "which will be the same thing. I
know I shall have lively times. Let me see: For a year and a half I
shall be a page. There must be ever so many ways for the pages,
especially if there are a good many of us, to have royal fun. And then,
when I am fourteen, I shall be a squire. I think I shall not like that
so much, excepting for the fighting part."

"Fighting!" exclaimed his brother. "You'll have none of that."

"Oh yes, but I shall have," returned Louis. "Barran has always been
fighting, ever since I heard of him; and if he does his duty by me, he
is bound to take me with him to the wars."

"But the wars are all over," said Raymond. "You know that as well as I
do."

"Oh, there'll be more," said Louis, laughing. "There is sure to be
trouble of some kind before I'm fourteen. And, if there are any wars,
you must come to them. It won't do to be spending all your time here,
with priests and books."

"Priests and books!" exclaimed Raymond. "I don't expect to spend half my
time with them. I shall ride and fence, and tilt and hunt quite as much
as you will, or even more, I doubt not. But I can do all that, and be a
scholar too."

"I'd like well enough to be a scholar," said Louis, "if it were not so
much trouble. Just to learn to write, like the monks who make our books,
must take years! I tell you, Raymond, it would be time wasted for me."

"No doubt of that," said his brother, laughing. "You would never have
the patience to write out all the pages of a book, even if you could do
it so well that people could read it. If you can do so much as write me
a letter from the castle, to tell me how you find things there, and what
happens to you, I shall be glad enough."

"I never did write a letter," said Louis, "but I feel quite sure that I
could do it. The trouble would be for you to read it."

"That's true;" said Raymond, "but I will do my best to read, if you will
do your best to write."

"Did not our mother tell you to ask me this?" said Louis, turning
towards his brother with a smile.

"She did," answered Raymond.

"I thought it sounded like her," said Louis. "She greatly wants me to
read and write; and, for her sake, and yours, too, Raymond, I'll try a
letter. But is not that Bernard, over in the field?"

"Yes, it is," said Raymond. "He is training a young falcon for me."

"For you!" cried Louis, jumping up. "I did not know that. Let us go down
to him."

"I did not know it, either," said his brother, rising, "until yesterday.
Bernard is going to teach me to fly the bird as soon as it is trained."

"And I am going away to-morrow," cried Louis. "It is too bad!"

The boys now ran down to the field, where a tall, broad-shouldered man,
dressed in a short, coarse jacket of brown cloth, with tight breeches of
the same stuff, was walking towards them. He bore on his left hand a
large falcon, or goshawk, a bird used in that day for hunting game of
various kinds.

"Ho, Bernard!" cried Louis, "how is it I never heard that you were
training that bird? I should have liked to watch you all the time."

"That is the reason you were not told," said Bernard, who had been the
squire of the late Count, and was now a well-trusted member of the
household of Viteau.

"If you had known what I was about," he continued, "you would have done
nothing but watch me, and therefore it was that your good mother told me
to keep the matter from you. It takes a long time and a world of trouble
to train a hawk, especially one that was nearly full-grown when caught,
as this one was. Those taken from their nests are far easier to manage."

"But he is trained now, isn't he?" said Louis. "Why not try him to-day?
Just one flight, good Bernard, for, you know, I shall be gone to-morrow.
We can easily find a heron, or a pheasant, or something he can go
after."

"No, no, my boy," said the squire; "this bird is not yet ready to cast
off for a free flight. Why, it was only last week that I ceased using
the long string with which I brought him back when I wanted him; and,
ever since, I have been very careful to have a lure which should be so
tempting that he would be certain to come down to it, no matter how high
he might soar. See, here is the one I used to-day. He has eaten from it
the whole breast of a pigeon."

With this he showed the boys his "lure," which was a rude figure of a
bird, the body made of cloth, with the head, talons, and wings of a real
bird, and to which had been attached a piece of some kind of meat of
which the falcon is fond. By being thus accustomed to find something
good to tear and eat when called to his master, the bird gradually
learned to obey the call whenever he heard it.

[Illustration: BERNARD, RAYMOND, AND LOUIS MEET THE MONK.]

Raymond was quite willing to wait until the hawk was thoroughly trained,
before testing him in actual sport; but Louis, very naturally, made
great complaint. To-day was his last chance. Bernard, however, was firm,
and so they walked towards the chateau, the hooded bird still perched
upon the squire's wrist.

Just as the three, now busily talking of Louis' future life at the
castle of the Count de Barran, were about entering a little gate in the
lower part of the grounds which surround the house, there came out of
the gate a monk wearing a long, dark, and rather dirty gown, and walking
with his eyes fixed upon the ground, as if deeply engaged in thought. He
seemed scarcely to perceive the boys or the squire, as he passed them.

"I shall be glad to be free from those long-gowned folk," said Louis, as
they entered the grounds. "No more priests' lessons for me. I shall have
knights and soldiers for my teachers."

"All very fine," said Bernard, "but you will have other things to do
besides learning how to be a knight and soldier. You will serve your
masters and your mistresses at table, clean armor, hold stirrups, and do
everything else they ask of you."

"Oh yes," said Louis; "but that will be only while I am a page. In a
year and a half all that will be over."

"A year and a half seems to me like a long time," said Raymond; "but
time always passes quickly with Louis."

This remark was made to Bernard, but the squire did not appear to hear
it. He was looking back through the gate at the departing monk.

"If I only knew that _he_ was never coming back," he said to himself, "I
would not much care what else happened."

And then he followed the boys up to the chateau.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER II.


THE good squire did not make his inhospitable remark in regard to the
monk because he had any dislike for monks or priests in general. He had
as high an opinion of the members of the clergy as any one, but he had a
very strong dislike for this particular prior. To understand his reasons
for this feeling, we must know that, not very long before the period at
which our story begins, and soon after the Queen Regent had conquered
the rebellious provinces, and so consolidated the kingdom, there was
established in the city of Toulouse that terrible tribunal of the Romish
Church known as the Holy Inquisition. Here persons suspected of holding
opinions in opposition to the doctrines taught by the Church were tried,
often subjected to tortures in order to induce them to confess the
crimes with which they were charged, and punished with great severity if
found guilty. This inquisition was under the charge of the Dominican
friars, of which order the man who had just passed out of the little
gate was a member.

For several weeks the frequent visits of this prior to the Countess of
Viteau had given a great deal of uneasiness to Bernard. The man was not
one of the regular religious instructors of the family, nor had he
anything to do with the education of the boys. There was some particular
reason for his visits to the chateau, and of this the household at large
knew nothing; but the fact of his being a Dominican, and therefore
connected with the Inquisition, made him an unpleasant visitor to those
who saw his comings and goings, but who did not know their object.

Squire Bernard thought that he knew why this Brother Anselmo came so
often to the chateau, but he could not be certain that he was right. So
he kept his ideas to himself, and did no more than hope that each visit
of the friar might be the last.

When the two brothers entered the chateau, they went directly to their
mother's apartments. They found her in a large room, the floor of which
was covered with soft rushes, for there were no carpets in those days.
There was an abundance of furniture, but it was stiff and heavy, and on
the walls there hung various pieces of tapestry, of silk or wool, most
of which the good lady had embroidered herself.

The Countess of Viteau was a woman of about thirty-five years of age,
and of a sweet but dignified appearance and demeanor. She was evidently
very fond of her children, and they were equally fond of her. She had a
book in her hand when the boys entered (it should be remembered that she
was one of the very few ladies of that day who read books), but she laid
it down, and drew her sons to her, one on each side.

"Mother," said Louis, as she leaned over to kiss the young fellow who
was to leave her the next day for such a long, long time,—"Mother, I
wish you would write a letter to the Count de Barran, and ask him to
have me taught falconry as soon as possible, and also to get me a hawk
of my own, and have him trained."

"What put that into your head?" asked his mother, who could not help
smiling at this absurd idea on the part of a boy who was going to begin
life as a page, but who expected to enter at once into the sports and
diversions of the grown-up nobility.

"It was Raymond's falcon that made me think of it," said Louis. "I
suppose I shall not see that bird fly,—at least, not for ever so
long,—and so I want one of my own."

"I did not intend you should know anything about Raymond's falcon," said
his mother, "for I knew it would fill your head so full that there would
be no room for anything else. But we will not talk of falcons now. I
have a great deal to say to my little boy——"

"Not so very little either," said Louis, drawing himself up to his full
height.

"Who is going away," continued his mother, "to learn to be a page, a
squire, and a Christian knight."

We need not know what she said to him, but the three were together until
the room grew dark, and there was no treasure that Louis could take with
him which could be so valuable as the motherly advice he received that
afternoon.

Louis was to start for Barran's castle in the forenoon of the next day,
and was to be accompanied by Bernard and a small body of archers, for,
although there were no wars going on at that time, there was always
danger from robbers. All over France, and in many other parts of Europe,
there were well-organized bands of men who made a regular business of
pillaging travelers on the highways. So it was necessary that Louis
should have with him enough men to defend him against an attack by these
brigands.

Very early in the morning,—earlier than any one else in the chateau,
excepting a few servants,—Louis arose and dressed himself. He did this
very quietly, so as not to wake his brother. Then he stole softly down
to a room in the lower part of the building, where he knew Bernard kept
the falcon he was training. The door of this room was shut, but not
locked, and Louis slipped in without waking the squire, who slept
soundly in a chamber just across the passage-way.

He closed the door, and looking around the room, into which a little
light came from a small, high window, he soon perceived the falcon
sitting on a wooden perch, in a corner. The bird was unhooded, but was
tied by the leg, with a short cord, to the perch. On a small table near
by lay the hood. As Louis approached the falcon, it turned its head
quickly towards him and slightly raised its wings. This threatening
gesture made the boy hesitate; he did not want to be bitten or
scratched. Drawing back, and looking about him, he saw a cloth lying
upon a bench. Seizing this, he quickly threw it over the bird, untied
the cord, and, muffling with the cloth a little bell which was fastened
to one of the falcon's legs, Louis snatched up the hood from the table,
and, with the bird under his arm, he hurried out of the room, carefully
closing the door behind him.

Out-of-doors, he quickly made his way to the little gate at the bottom
of the grounds, and, through this, passed out into the road. When he
reached a spot where he could not be seen from the chateau, he sat down,
carefully uncovered the head of the falcon, and clapped over it the
little hood. Then he threw aside the cloth, and set the bird upon his
wrist, where it perched contentedly, although not finding it quite so
firm a support as the strong hand of Bernard. While wearing the hood,
which completely covered its eyes, it would not attempt to fly.

"Now, then," said he to himself, "I shall try what this fine bird can
do; and when I have had an hour's sport, I shall take it back and put it
on its perch, and no one will be any the worse for it. If I meet
Bernard, as I go back, I shall not care. I shall have had my bit of
falconry, and he can have his falcon. There must be herons, or some kind
of birds, down in that field by the wood, where we saw Bernard
yesterday."

When Louis reached the field, he gazed eagerly into the air and all
about him for some flying creature, after which he could send his falcon
in chase. But nothing, excepting a few small birds, could he discover,
and he was not to be content with such game as they. If he had had dogs
with him, or knew how himself to arouse the birds from their covers, he
might have had a chance to send his falcon after a long-legged heron, or
a pheasant; but no large bird chose to make its appearance, and poor
Louis began to think that he would lose the one chance he had of seeing
Raymond's falcon in pursuit of its prey.

Suddenly, from under some bushes near the edge of the wood, a large hare
leaped out, and went jumping across an open space towards a little copse
a short distance beyond the spot where Louis stood. Our young hunter
knew that falcons chased hares, and such small animals, as well as
winged game, and he instantly jerked the hood from the head of his bird,
and cast it off toward the flying hare.

But, to his amazement, the falcon did not pursue the hare, which, in a
few moments, disappeared in the copse. Louis did not know that hawks or
falcons were not always trained to chase both hares and birds, and that
this one had been accustomed to fly after winged game only.

Instead of swooping upon the hare, which, it is probable, it did not
see, the falcon rose into the air, and began to soar around in a great
circle.

"Perhaps it will see some game for itself," thought Louis, "and that
will do just as well."

But the falcon did not appear to be in pursuit of anything. It only flew
around and around, apparently rising higher and higher each moment.
Louis now became anxious for it to come down, so that he could try again
in some other place to scare up some game, and he began to whistle and
call, as he had heard the falconers do when they wished their birds to
descend.

But the falcon paid no attention to his calls, and, after rising to a
great height, it flew away to the south, and presently was lost to
sight.

Poor Louis was overwhelmed with grief. It seemed to him that he could
never hear anything so dismal as the last tinkle of the little bell on
the falcon's leg, nor see anything so sad as the dark speck which he
watched until it appeared to melt away into the distant sky.

For some minutes Louis stood gazing up into the air, and then he hung
his head, while a few tears came into his eyes. But he was a sturdy boy
in mind and body, and he did not cry much. He slowly turned, and, with
the hood of the falcon in his hand, went back to the house.

"If they ask me about it, I shall tell them," he said to himself, "but I
hope they will not find it out just as I am starting away."

It was yet quite early when Louis reached his room, where he found his
brother still asleep, and there was soon so much hurry and bustle, in
the preparation for the departure of the little expedition, that the
absence of the falcon did not seem to have been discovered.

After a prolonged leave-taking, and a great many tears from his mother
and brother, and from many of the retainers and servants of the chateau,
Louis set forth for the castle of Barran. He rode his mother's palfrey,
a small and gentle horse, and was followed by quite a train of archers
and men-at-arms, headed by the trusty Bernard.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER III.

WHEN the first pain caused by the separation from his dear mother and
brother began to subside in Louis' heart,—and it must be admitted that
it began to subside pretty soon, the day being so bright and everybody
in such good spirits,—he felt quite proud to see himself at the head of
such a goodly company, and greatly wished that they would fall in with
some enemy, so that he might have a little conquering to tell about when
he should reach his future home. But no enemy was met, and, if a fight
had taken place, it is not likely that the boy would have been able to
boast of his part in it, for Bernard was very careful of his young
charge, and as soon as they had left the neighborhood of the Chateau de
Viteau, and had entered the forest through which ran their road for the
greater part of the journey, he made Louis ride about the middle of the
little procession, while he himself went a short distance in advance,
looking carefully about him for the first signs of robbers, or any one
else who might be likely to dispute their passage. [Illustration: LOUIS
AND BERNARD ON THEIR WAY TO DE BARRAN'S CASTLE.]

But no such persons were met, and towards the end of the afternoon Louis
and his train rode into the court-yard of the castle.

The moment that he entered the great gates, the quick eye of the boy
perceived that he had come to a place very different from his mother's
chateau. He had supposed there would be a difference, but had never
imagined it would be so great. There were a good many serving-people, of
various ranks and orders, at Viteau. There were ladies in attendance on
his mother; and sometimes there were knights and other visitors, whose
diversions had made what Raymond and Louis had considered a very gay
time; but there never had been anything like the lively scenes which met
the eye of our young friend, both in the court-yard and in the halls of
the castle itself. Outside there were boy-pages running on various
errands, or standing about, watching other people and neglecting their
own business; and there were squires, men-at-arms, and archers who were
lounging in the shade, or busily at work rubbing up a piece of armor, or
putting a point on an arrow-head or on a blunted lance. Here and there
was a knight not clad in armor, but in fine silk and embroidered cloth,
looking at horses which were being led about the inclosure by varlets or
inferior serving-men, who generally were dressed in clothes of dirty
leather. Two barefooted monks, one of them holding the bridle of a
donkey, with a bag thrown across his back, were talking together near
the gate. Some people were laughing, some were talking, some were
calling to others at a distance, and some were hammering; the horses
were making a good deal of noise with their feet; a man was blowing a
horn, which he had begun to blow as soon as Louis entered the gates, and
which was intended, it appeared, as a general announcement that somebody
had arrived who was a friend, and had been admitted freely. All
together, there was more noise, and moving about, and standing still,
and lying down, than Louis had ever seen, at one time, before.

Inside the castle there was not so much bustle; but knights and ladies,
the first generally dressed much more finely, and with more show of
color and ornament than their female companions, were to be seen here
and there. The pages who were not running about or standing still
outside, seemed to be doing the same inside; there was a clatter of
metal and wooden dishes in the dining-hall, where the servants were
preparing supper; and, in a room opening into the great hall, a tall
knight sat upon a stool, with a little harp on his knee, singing one of
the romantic songs which were so much liked in those days, and
accompanying his voice with a steady "tum-tum" on the harp-strings.
Around him were several knights and ladies, some sitting and some
standing, and all listening, with much satisfaction, to his song.

The Count de Barran, a tall, spare man, with an ugly but good-humored
face, gave Louis a kindly welcome.

"He is the son of Raymond de Viteau, my old brother-at-arms," he said to
a knight with a great brown beard, who stood beside him, "and I shall
try to make of him as good a knight as his—as I can."

"You were going to say 'as good a knight as his father,' good sir," said
Louis quickly, looking up into Barran's face. "Do you think I cannot be
that?"

"That will depend upon yourself," said the master of the castle. "Your
father was brave and noble above his fellow-knights. If you become his
equal, my little fellow, I shall be very proud. And now I shall send you
to my sister, the Lady Clemence, who will see that you are taken care
of."

"The boy's quickness of wit comes out well, even now," said the
brown-bearded knight; "but you may have to wait for the bravery and the
honor to show themselves."

"Not long, I hope," replied Barran. "Good blood must soon make some
sign, if he has it in him."

The next day Bernard and his train returned to Viteau, with many
messages from Louis, and the life of the boy, as the youngest page in
the castle, fairly commenced. In a few days he began to understand his
duties, and to make friends among the other pages, all of whom were sons
of well-born people. These boys had come to the castle to receive the
only education they would ever have. Louis did not at first very much
like to wait upon the knights and ladies at table, and to find himself
expected to serve so many people in so many ways; but he soon became
used to these things, especially when he saw other boys, whom he knew to
be just as good as he was, doing what he was expected to do.

He had a bright, interesting face, and he soon became a favorite,
especially among the ladies, for they liked to be waited upon by a page
who was so good-humored and quick. The Count de Barran was not married,
and his sister, the Lady Clemence, was at the head of domestic affairs
in his castle.

The only very young person among the visitors at the castle was a little
girl named Agnes, the motherless daughter of Count Hugo de Lanne, the
brown-bearded man who had talked with De Barran about his new page.
Between this girl and Louis a friendship soon sprang up. Agnes was a
year older than he, and she knew so much of castle-life, and of the
duties of a page, that she became one of his best instructors. She was a
lively, impulsive girl; and this was the reason, no doubt, why she and
Louis got on so well together.

One morning, as Agnes was passing through an upper hall, she saw,
standing at a window which overlooked the court-yard, our young friend
Louis, with an enormous battle-ax over his shoulder. As she approached,
he turned from the window, out of which he had been looking.

"What in the world," she cried, "are you doing with that great ax, and
what makes you look so doleful?"

"I am taking the ax down to the armorer's shop, to be sharpened and
polished," he said.

"It is too big a thing for you to be carrying about," said Agnes, "and
it seems sharp enough now. And as to you, you look as if you were going
somewhere to cut your head off with it. What is the matter with you?"

"That is the matter," said Louis, turning again to the window, and
pointing to a body of horsemen who were just riding out of the gate.
They had dogs with them, and several of them carried each a hooded
falcon perched upon his wrist.

"Did you want to go hunting herons? Is that what troubles you?" asked
Agnes.

"No, indeed; I don't want to go," said Louis. "I hate to see falcons."

"What did you look at them for, then?" asked Agnes. "But I don't see how
you can hate them. I love to see them swooping about, so lordly, in the
air. Why do not you like them as well as I do?"

Moved by a strong desire to share his secret with some one, Louis, after
a little hesitation, finally put the battle-ax on the floor, and told
Agnes the whole story of the loss of his brother's falcon, first making
her promise that she would never repeat it to any one. He told it all in
a straightforward way, and finished by explaining how the sight of the
hunters made him think of his poor brother, who could not go hawking for
ever so long. Indeed, he did not know that Bernard would be willing to
get another hawk and take all the trouble of training it. He might be
very angry.

"I think it's easy enough to make that right," said Agnes. "You ought to
give your brother another hawk, already trained."

"I would like much to know where I am to get it," said Louis.

Agnes thought for a moment.

"My father will give you one," she said, "if I ask him. If he questions
me as to what you want with it, I can tell him, with truth, that you
want to give it to your brother, who has no falcon, and who needs one
very much."

"Do you really think he would give me one?" asked Louis, with
brightening face.

"I am sure of it," said Agnes. "He has plenty of trained falcons, and he
could spare one easily enough. I will ask him, as soon as he comes back
to-day."

Accordingly, when Count Hugo returned from his hawking expedition that
afternoon, he was met by his little daughter, who asked him for a
falcon, a well-trained and good one, which could hunt hares as well as
birds, and which would be sure to come back to its master whenever it
was called.

Of course such a request as this excited some surprise, and required a
good deal of explanation. But when Count Hugo, who was a very indulgent
father, and who had also quite a liking for Louis, heard what was to be
done with the bird, he consented to give it.

"If he wanted it for himself," he said, "I should not let him have it,
for a page has no need of falcons, and a boy of the right spirit ought
not to desire gifts; but, as he wants it for his brother, who is in a
station to use it, it shows a generous disposition, and he shall have
it." And calling to one of his falconers to bring him a hawk, he handed
it to Agnes, and told her that she should herself give it to her young
friend.

"He and you can look at it for a quarter of an hour," said the Count,
"and then he must bring it back to Orion, here, who will feed and take
care of it until the boy has an opportunity of sending it to his
brother. Don't take its hood off, and keep your fingers well clear of
its beak."

When Agnes appeared with the falcon unsteadily perched on her two small
fists, which she had covered with a scarf, to keep its talons from
hurting her, Louis was overwhelmed with delight. He was sure that this
was a much finer bird than the one he had lost.

When the falcon had been sufficiently admired, and had been returned to
its keeper, and when Louis had run to find Count Hugo, and had thanked
him for his kindness, the question arose between the two young friends:
How was he to be carried to Raymond?

[Illustration: LOUIS, AGNES, AND THE FALCON.]

"If I had any way of riding there, I'd take it to him myself. I want him
to have it just as soon as he can get it," said Louis.

"I can lend you my jennet," said Agnes. "He is small, but can travel
far."

"You will lend him!" cried Louis. "And are you not going to use him for
two days? It will take at the very least two days to go to Viteau and
come back."

"I may not ride him for a week," said Agnes. "But you must not travel to
your mother's house alone. You must wait until some company is going
that way."

Louis would have been willing to start off by himself, but he knew he
would not be allowed to do so; and he had to curb his impatience for
three whole days before an opportunity of making his journey offered
itself. Then a knight from the south was leaving the castle, with a
small train, and as they would pass near Viteau, Louis was allowed to
accompany them.

The Count de Barran was not pleased that his new page should ask for
leave of absence so soon; but, as it was represented that there was good
reason for the journey, and as the Lady Clemence urged the boy's
request, he was allowed to go.

So, early one morning Louis started away, the gayest of his company, his
little Spanish steed were evidently the present dwelling-places of these
robbers, or _cotereaux_, as they were called. There were several classes
of highwaymen, or brigands, in France at this time, and of these the
_cotereaux_ were, probably, the most numerous.

There were fires built in various places about the open space in which
the huts had been erected, and there were a good many men around the
fires. A smell of cooking meat made Louis feel sure that supper would
soon be ready, and this was a comforting thing to him, for he was very
hungry. The supper which was served to him was of plain food, but he had
enough, and the bed he slept on, at the back part of the Captain's hut,
was nothing but a lot of dry leaves and twigs, with a coarse cloth
thrown over it; but Louis was very tired, and it was not long before he
was sound asleep.

He was much troubled, of course, at the thought of going to bed in this
way, in the midst of a band of robbers, but he was not afraid that they
would do him any injury, for he had heard enough about these _cotereaux_
to know that they took prisoners almost always for the purpose of making
money out of them, and not to do them useless harm. If he had been an
older and a deeper thinker, he would, probably, have thought of the harm
which might be done to him in case no money could be made by overtaken.
He expected to be pursued, for he knew the knight and his men would not
allow him to go off by himself if it could be prevented.

So he galloped on, his falcon tightly grasping the saddle-bow, and he
himself turning around every few minutes, to see if he were followed.
But he saw no horsemen riding after him. The knight's men had straggled
a good deal after they had turned into the new road, and Louis was not
missed for an hour or two. Then, when his absence was discovered, the
knight sent three men after him, with instructions to bring him back, or
to escort him to Viteau, in case they found him near that place. It was
supposed, of course, that he had slipped away, so as to get home as soon
as possible.

The men did not like the job at all, for they feared they would not be
able to return until after dark to the chateau where their party was to
spend the night, and they did not fancy traveling at night for the sake
of a boy they knew very slightly, and cared very little about. So, after
riding five or six miles, they agreed to halt until nearly night, and
ride back to their party at the top of their speed, and report that they
had overtaken Louis, and had accompanied him to a spot within sight of
his mother's chateau. This story was believed by the knight from the
south, who had no very clear idea as to the distance of Viteau from the
forks of the road; and no further thought was given to the young page.

As for Louis, he kept madly on his way. His horse was strong and fleet,
but it was beginning to flag a little in its pace, when, suddenly, it
stopped short. A tall man stood in front of it, and in a moment had
seized the panting animal by the bridle. Another man, with a pike in his
hand, appeared on the right, while several others came out from behind
some bushes on the left. The tall man wore a cuirass, or body-armor, of
steel rings linked closely together, which had probably once been bright
and shining, but which was now very rusty and old. He wore no other
armor, and his clothes seemed torn and soiled. The whole party, indeed,
as Louis, with open mouth and eyes, glanced quickly around him,—too much
startled to speak,—seemed to be a very rusty set of fellows.

Louis did not long remain silent. Indeed, he was the first one to speak.
He had often seen such persons as these among the serfs and varlets at
the castle, and he had been accustomed to respect from them.

"Ho there!" he cried, "move out of my way. Step from the road, do you
hear? I am going home to my mother's chateau, and I am in a hurry."

"Your mother can wait," said the tall man. "We should be pleased to have
your company ourselves to-night. So do not be angry. You can not go on."

"I believe," cried Louis, his eyes flashing, although they were full of
tears, "that you are a set of robbers."

"That is true," said the other, "and this little man, and this little
horse, and this very fine falcon, are our booty."

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER IV.


LOUIS did not submit readily to his captors. At first he was angry; then
he cried, and when some of the men laughed at him for being a baby he
got angry again, and told them they were a band of cowards to set upon
him in this way,—a dozen men on one boy,—and that if they wanted to rob
him they might do it and go about their business. He did not care; he
could walk home.

"No, no, my valiant page," said the leader of the robbers; "we don't
want you to walk and we don't want you to go home. We shall take you
with us now, and we will see about the robbing afterward."

And with this he turned the little horse around, and led him, by a path
which Louis had passed without noticing it, into the depths of the
forest. On the way, the robber asked his young prisoner a great many
questions regarding his family, his connections, and his present
business in riding thus alone through the forest roads. To these
questions Louis was ready enough to give answer, for it was not his
nature to conceal anything, unless he thought it absolutely necessary.
Indeed, he was quite proud of the opportunity thus afforded him of
talking about the rank and importance of his mother, and of dwelling
upon the great power and warlike renown of the nobleman under whom he
served.

"They will not let me stay here long, you may be sure of that," said
Louis. "As soon as they hear that you have carried me off, they will
take me away from you."

"I hope so, indeed," said the robber, laughing; "and if I had not
thought that they would take you from me, I should not have taken the
trouble to capture you."

"Oh, I know what you mean," said the boy. "You expect them to ransom
me."

"I most certainly do," replied the other.

"But they will not do it," cried Louis. "They will come with soldiers
and take me from you!"

"We shall see," returned the robber.

It was almost dark when, by many winding and sometimes almost invisible
paths through the forest, the party reached a collection of rude huts,
which his capture; but this matter did not enter his mind. He went to
sleep with the feeling that what he wanted now was a good night's rest,
and that, in some way or other, all would be right on the morrow.

Michol, the captain of the band, was very plain-spoken, the next
morning, in telling Louis his plans in regard to him. "I know well," he
said, "that your mother is able to pay a handsome ransom for you, and,
if she is so hard-hearted that she will not do it, I can depend on
Barran. He will not let a page from his castle pine away in these woods,
for the sake of a handful of gold."

"My mother is not hard-hearted," said Louis, "and I am not going to pine
away, no matter how long you keep me. Do you intend to send to my mother
to-day?"

"Not so soon as that," replied Michol. "I shall let her have time to
feel what a grievous thing it is to have a son carried away to the heart
of the forest, where she can never find him, and where he must stay,
month after month and year after year, until she pays his worthy captors
what she thinks the boy is worth."

"I'll tell you what I'll do," said Louis. "If you will give me my horse
and my falcon, which your men have taken from me, and will let me have
again my dagger, I will go to Viteau, myself, and tell my mother about
the ransom; and I promise you that she will send you all the money she
can afford to spend for me in that way. And, if there is no one else to
bring it,—for our men might be afraid to venture among so many
robbers,—I shall bring it myself, on my way back to Barran's castle. I
am not afraid to come."

"I am much pleased to hear that, my boy," said Michol, "but I do not
like your plan. When I am ready, I shall send a messenger, and no one
will be afraid to bring me the money, when everything is settled. But
one thing you can do. If you have ever learned to write,—and I have
heard that the Countess of Viteau has taught her sons to be
scholars,—you may write a letter to your mother, and tell her in what a
doleful plight you find yourself, and how necessary it is that she
should send all the money that I ask for. Thus she will see that you are
really my prisoner, and will not delay to come to your assistance. One
of my men, Jasto, will give you a pen and ink, and something to write
your letter on. You may go, now, and look for Jasto. You will know him
by his torn clothes and his thirst for knowledge."

"Torn clothes!" said Louis, as he walked away. "They all have clothes of
that kind. And, as for his thirst for knowledge, I can not see how I am
to find out that. I suppose the Captain wanted to give me something to
do, so as to keep me from troubling him. I am not going to look for any
Jasto. If I could find my horse, and could get a chance, I should jump
on him and gallop away from these fellows."

Louis wandered about among the huts, peering here and there for a sight
of Agnes's little jennet. But he saw nothing of him, for the animal had
been taken away to another part of the forest, to keep company with
other stolen horses. And even if he had been able to mount and ride away
unobserved, it would have been impossible for Louis to find his way
along the devious paths of the forest to the highway. More than this,
although he seemed to be wandering about in perfect liberty, some of the
men had orders to keep their eyes upon the boy, and to stop him if he
endeavored to penetrate into the forest.

"Ho, there!" said a man, whom Louis suddenly met, as he was walking
between two of the huts, "are you looking for anything? What have you
lost?"

"I have lost nothing," said Louis, deeming it necessary to reply only to
the last question.

"I thought you lost your liberty yesterday," said the other, "and,
before that, you must have lost your senses, to be riding alone on a
road, walled in for miles and miles by trees, bushes, and brave
_cotereaux_. But, of course, I did not suppose that you came here to
look for either your liberty or your senses. What is it you want?"

Louis had no intention of telling the man that he was looking for his
horse, and so, as he felt obliged to give some answer, he said:

"I was sent to look for Jasto, so that I could write a letter to my
mother."

"Jasto!" exclaimed the man. "Well, my young page, if you find everything
in the world as easily as you found Jasto, you will do well. I am Jasto.
And do you know how you came to find me?"

"I chanced to meet you," said Louis.

"Not so," said the other. "If I had not been looking for you, you never
would have found me. Things often happen in that manner. If what we are
looking for does not look for us, we never find it. But what is this
about your mother and a letter? Sit down here, in this bit of shade, and
make these things plain to me."

Louis accepted this invitation, for the sun was beginning to be warm,
and he sat down by the man, at the foot of a tree.

"I do not believe you are Jasto," he said, looking at his companion.
"Your clothes are not torn. I was told to look for a man with torn
clothes."

[Illustration: LOUIS FINDS ONE OF THE HIGHWAYMEN A GOOD-NATURED FELLOW.]

"Torn clothes!" exclaimed the other. "What are you talking of? Not torn?
Why, boy, my clothes are more torn and are worse torn and have staid
torn longer than the clothes of any man in all our goodly company. But
they have been mended, you see, and that is what makes them observable
among so many sadly tattered garments."

Louis looked at the coarse jerkin, breeches, and stockings of the man
beside him. They were, certainly, torn and ripped in many places, and
the torn places were of many curious shapes, as if the wearer had been
making a hurried journey through miles of bramble bushes; but all the
torn places were carefully mended with bright-red silk thread, which
made them more conspicuous than if they had not been mended at all.

"I see that they have been torn," said Louis, "but they are not torn
now."

"A great mistake, my good sir page—a great mistake," said the other;
"once torn, always torn. If my clothes are mended, that but gives them
another quality. Then they have two qualities. They are torn and they
are mended. If one's clothes are torn, the only way to have clothes that
are not torn is to have new ones. Think of that, boy, and make no rents
in yourself nor in your clothes. Although mending can be done very
well," he added, looking complacently at his breeches, "the evil of it
is, though, that it always shows."

"I could mend better than that," said Louis.

"That is to be hoped; it is truly to be hoped," said the other, "for you
have had better chances than I. This red silk, left in our hands by a
fair lady, who was taking it to waste it in embroidery in some friend's
castle, was all the thread I had for my mending. Now, you could have all
things suitable for your mending, whether of clothes or of mind or of
body, if it should so happen that you should have rents in any of these.
But tell me, now, about your letter."

"There is nothing to tell," said Louis, "excepting that your Captain
wishes me to write a letter to my mother, urging her to send good ransom
for me, and that he said you could give me pen and ink and something to
write upon."

"Pen and ink are well enough," said the man, who, as Louis now believed,
was really Jasto, "for I can make them. But something to write on is a
more difficult matter to find. Paper is too scarce, and parchment costs
too much; and so there is none of either in this company. But I shall
see to it that you have something to write on when you are ready to
write. It strikes me that the chief trouble will be to put together the
three things—the pen and the ink and the something to write on—in such a
manner as to make a letter of them. Did you ever write a letter?"

"Not yet. But I know how to do it," said Louis; and, as he spoke, he
remembered how he had promised his brother to write a letter to him. He
was now going to send a letter to Viteau, but under what strange
circumstances it would be written! If he were at the castle, Agnes would
help him. He wished he had thought of asking her, weeks ago, to help
him.

"I have written a letter myself," said Jasto, "but before I had written
it I trembled to say I could do it. And I was a grown man, and had
fought in three battles. But pages are bolder than soldiers. Would you
like to hear about my letter?"

"Indeed I should," said Louis, anxious to listen to anything which might
give him a helping hint regarding the duty he had taken upon himself.

"Well, then," said Jasto, stretching out his legs, "I shall tell you
about my letter. It was just before——"

"Jasto!" rang out a voice from the opposite side of the inclosure formed
by the huts.

"There!" cried Jasto, jumping to his feet, "that is the Captain. I must
go. But you sit still, just where you are, and when I come back, which
will be shortly, I shall tell you about my letter."

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER V.


WE must now go back to the Chateau de Viteau, and see what has happened
there since the departure of Louis for his new home. Of course, the boy
was greatly missed by his mother and brother, but Raymond soon found
himself so busy that he had not time enough to grieve very much over the
absence of his old playmate. In order to prepare himself for the school
at Paris he was obliged to study diligently, and in order that he might
make a good appearance at the house of his cousin, with whom he was to
live, Bernard insisted on his employing nearly all his leisure time in
out-door exercises and knightly accomplishments. Hawking was postponed
for the present, for, after the loss of Raymond's falcon was discovered,
Bernard declared that he had not the heart to train another one
immediately, even if a good bird could be easily obtained, which was not
the case.

Very little was said about the disappearance of the falcon. Raymond, his
mother, and the squire each had a suspicion that Louis had had something
to do with it; but no one of them mentioned it to either of the others.
Each hoped the suspicion was unfounded, and therefore said nothing about
it.

While Raymond was busy with his studies and his manly exercises, the
mind of Bernard, even while giving the boy the benefit of his knowledge
of the management of horses and the use of arms, was occupied with a
very serious matter.

As has been said before, the Countess of Viteau was one of the very few
ladies in France who was fairly educated, and who took an interest in
acquiring knowledge from books. This disposition, so unusual at that
time, together with her well-known efforts to have her sons educated,
even giving a helping hand herself whenever she found that she was
qualified to do so, had attracted attention to her, and many people
began to talk about her, as a woman who gave a great deal of time to
useless pursuits. Why should a lady of her rank—these people said—wish
to read books and study out the meaning of old manuscripts, as if she
were of no higher station than a poor monk? If there were anything in
the books and parchments which she ought to know, the priests would tell
her all about it.

But the Countess thought differently, and she kept on with her reading,
which was almost entirely confined to religious works, and in this way
she gradually formed some ideas about religious matters which were
somewhat different from those taught at that time by the Church of Rome,
or, at least, from those taught by the priests about her. She saw no
harm in her opinions, and did not hesitate to speak of them to the
priests who came to the chateau from a neighboring monastery, and even
to argue in favor of them.

The priests, however, did see harm in the ideas of the Countess, simply
because, in those days, people had very narrow and bigoted ways of
thinking in regard to religious affairs, and it was generally thought
that any person having an opinion differing, even very little, from what
was taught by the monks and priests, was doing a wicked thing to persist
in such an opinion after he had been told it was wrong.

For this reason, when the priests who had charge of the religious
services at Viteau found that their arguments made no impression on the
Countess, who was able to answer them back in such a way that they could
find nothing more to say on their side of the question, they reported
the state of affairs to some of the higher officers of the Church, and,
in due time, a man was sent to Viteau to find out exactly what its
mistress did think, and why she was so wicked as to think it.

The person who was sent was the Dominican monk, Brother Anselmo, who was
met by the two boys and Bernard, on the occasion when we first made
their acquaintance. Brother Anselmo was a quiet-spoken man, making no
pretensions to authority or to superior knowledge; and the Countess
talked with him and answered his questions freely and unsuspectingly.
She knew he was a Dominican, and she knew he had come to the
neighborhood of Viteau on purpose to talk with her on certain religious
subjects; but this did not surprise her, as she supposed all good people
were just as much interested in these subjects as she was; but she had
no idea that he was connected with the Inquisition at Toulouse.

Bernard, the squire, however, knew well who he was, and it troubled him
greatly to know it.

Some weeks after the Dominican had begun to make his almost daily visits
to Viteau, he came, one day, accompanied by another monk, who did not
enter the grounds, but who remained outside the little gate, waiting for
his companion to return.

Bernard noticed the monk waiting outside, and thinking that this unusual
occurrence had something suspicious about it, he followed Brother
Anselmo when he left the chateau, and, as he rejoined his fellow monk,
the squire slipped quietly up to the wall and listened to what they said
to each other. In this case, Bernard did not consider that he was doing
a very improper thing. He feared that danger threatened the household of
Viteau, and that these two monks were the persons through whom the evil
would come. Therefore, he believed that it was his duty to employ every
possible means of averting this danger; and he listened with all his
ears.

What he heard was very little. The two monks stood silent a few moments,
and then the one who had been waiting said something in a low voice,
which Bernard could not hear. To this Brother Anselmo answered: "We have
done all we can. I think it is a case for the Holy Inquisition."

And then the two walked off together.

Bernard now knew that his fears were correct. His beloved mistress, on
account of some of her religious opinions, was in danger of being
carried a prisoner to Toulouse, there to be tried before the officers of
the Inquisition. He had no doubt that her opinions, whatever they were,
were entirely correct, for he had a great respect for her religious
knowledge, and he felt sure she knew more than the monks who came to the
chateau, but he well understood that, if she should be put on trial, and
if the doctrines she believed to be true were found to differ, in the
least point, from those taught by the priests, she would be considered
guilty of heresy, and perhaps be put to death.

The squire went away from the wall a very sad man. He was certain that
no one at the chateau but himself knew of the danger of its mistress,
and he felt that it rested on him to take some immediate steps to save
her, if that were possible.

As he approached the house, Bernard met Raymond, who was coming to take
some lessons from him in the use of the long sword. The good squire
never threw so much energy and good-will into his lessons as he did that
day.

"If he has to fight for his mother," he said to himself, "I want him to
fight well."

[Illustration: BERNARD TEACHING RAYMOND THE USE OF THE LONG SWORD.]

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER VI.


FOR some days after the departure of Louis for his mother's chateau,
none of his friends had the least idea of his unfortunate situation. At
the castle it was supposed that he was overstaying his time with his
family, and at Viteau no one knew that he had left the castle. At last,
Barran, somewhat provoked that the boy should so deliberately disobey
his orders,—for he had told him to return promptly,—and knowing that his
mother could always furnish him an escort, sent messengers to Viteau,
demanding that Louis should immediately come back with them.

This, of course, caused great consternation at the chateau, and the
messengers went hurriedly home, accompanied by Raymond, to tell the news
that Louis had not yet been seen at his mother's house.

The Countess wished Bernard to go with the messengers, but this he
refused to do, urging that his place could be nowhere else than at
Viteau, and that Raymond could confer as well as any one else with
Barran, regarding the immediate steps which should be taken to find out
what had become of Louis, and to rescue him from any danger he might
have fallen into.

The Countess spent the time, during Raymond's absence, in tears and
prayers. When he returned, there came with him a small troop of
well-armed men, which Barran had sent to press on, as rapidly as
possible, to the estates of the knight from the South, for it had been
thought very likely that this knight had been prevented in some way from
stopping at Viteau, and that he had taken Louis on with him, intending
to send him back at some convenient opportunity. That the boy should
have been lost, in any way, from the company of the southern knight,
Barran did not consider possible.

This belief of a man so sensible as Barran partially comforted the
Countess; but when the troop returned, and told how Louis had left the
knight's company to ride on by himself, as none could doubt, to his
mother's house, the poor lady was completely overwhelmed with grief, and
thus she remained until Barran arrived at Viteau, for which place he
started as soon as he heard the news.

Vigorous measures were now taken for a search after Louis. It was
generally agreed that he must have been captured by robbers, for there
was no other danger which was likely to befall him on the road; but what
robbers had taken him, and to what place they had conveyed him, were
questions not easy to answer. That a band of _cotereaux_ might then be
in the forest, within ten or fifteen miles of Viteau, was not at all
improbable; but to find out their hiding-place, and, also, to find them
in it, would certainly be difficult tasks. The forests of that time
spread over such a vast extent of country, and were so dense, and in
many places so apparently pathless, that to find anything so carefully
hidden as a robber's camp would be a matter almost as much of chance as
of skill and design.

Barran privately declared that, if it were not for the Countess, who
seemed almost overcome with grief, he would quietly wait a few days
before attempting to penetrate the forest with any force; for he was
sure that, if the boy had been captured by _cotereaux_, their only
object was to get a ransom for him, and that they would soon be heard
from. Under the circumstances, however, Count de Barran saw that it
would be necessary to take immediate action, and Bernard was very active
in pushing forward the most warlike preparations.

Some of these appeared almost ridiculous to the Count.

"How now, Squire?" he said. "One might think that we expected the
rascals to attack this chateau, and carry off the other boy. By the
plans you lay, there will be more cross-bows and lances left at Viteau
than we shall carry with us into the forest."

"I should not leave the Countess defenseless, good Sir Count," replied
the squire.

"I know you are a good man and a brave soldier, Bernard," said Barran,
"and as much to be trusted, in peace or war, as many a knight of good
renown; but this is something too prudent. In these times the
_cotereaux_ do not come out of their holes to our chateaux and castles
to carry us away."

Bernard hesitated before making answer to this speech. He had intended
informing Barran of his recent discoveries in regard to the visits of
the Dominican monk, but he had not thought it well to speak of the
matter now, when the minds of every one were so occupied with the
present great trouble. However, he knew that it would be necessary to
give the reasons for the peculiar measures he advocated, and so he said,
in a low but impressive tone:

"No, good Sir Count, the _cotereaux_ do not come to our houses to carry
us away, but the officers of the Holy Inquisition do."

"What means that?" cried Barran, turning pale; and then, on a warning
signal from the squire, he lowered his voice and continued: "Has the
Countess brought upon herself the censure of the priests, by her strange
ideas about the saints? I have heard of them. Tell me quickly, is that
what you mean?"

The squire bowed his head.

"This is, indeed, grievous," said Barran; "but, surely, we need have no
great fears. Tell me, quickly, what has happened?"

Then Bernard told all that he feared and all that he had heard.

Barran was not easily frightened. Indeed, he was too apt to sneer at
things which other people considered dangerous; but this was such a very
serious matter that it caused him great anxiety and even fear, when he
heard of the peril to which the wife of his dear old friend was likely
to be exposed.

"This must not be allowed," he said. "We can not suffer that gentle lady
to be taken from us by the Inquisition. Even if she should be found
entirely innocent, which is not likely, the trial itself is something I
cannot think of for a moment. And yet what is to be done? We can not
fight the Church."

"No, Sir Count," said Bernard, "but I shall be here, with all the force
of men and arms that I can bring together, to defend my lady, and if the
Church fights me, I shall do my best battle."

"And you shall not do battle alone, my good Bernard," said Barran; "but
it may be that we shall find some better way to avert the evil than by
force of arms, which, indeed, would amount to very little, I fear me, in
the end. But now we must give our hearts and hands to the finding of
this poor, foolish boy."

Bernard was perfectly willing to give his heart to the finding of Louis,
but he would not give his hand. Nothing could induce him to leave the
chateau, where he insisted upon being left with a moderate force of
well-armed men.

Barran, with several knights from his castle, for whom he had sent when
he found that there would, probably, be more work to be done than he had
at first anticipated, set out as soon as possible, at the head of a
large body of followers, some of whom were expert in all kinds of
wood-craft, and as capable as any men could be of finding out the paths
of beasts or human beings in the depths of the woods.

The party quickly made its way along the road down which Louis must have
ridden; and, a few miles below the place where the road forked, turned
into the woods, to the west, and made careful search for paths, or any
traces of the passage of men through the undergrowth. Several
well-marked paths were soon discovered, and along the most promising of
these Barran and his men pushed their way, sometimes separating, in
various directions, and then coming together again, until they had
penetrated far into the forest.

Unfortunately for the success of their search, the camp of the
_cotereaux_ was in the woods to the east of the road. To be sure, the
forest, in every direction, would be searched in time, but if the
Count's party should keep on in the way it was going, it would be long
before it could find the huts of Captain Michol.

Raymond stayed at the chateau with his mother. He much wished to join
the Count's party in the search for his brother, but Barran told him
that it was his duty to try to comfort and console the Countess until
Louis should be brought back, and, therefore, Raymond reluctantly
remained at Viteau. He loved his mother, and was always willing to do
anything that would please or benefit her, but, in this case, he thought
that she, being safe at home, did not need him nearly so much as his
poor brother, who probably was suffering in captivity, no one knew
where.

On the evening of the second day after the departure of the searching
party, Raymond came down into the grounds of the chateau. His mother was
asleep, and he came out for a little exercise.

Not far from the house he met the squire.

"Bernard," said Raymond, "I think it is a foolish thing for you and me
and all these men to be idling here. We might leave my mother with her
ladies, and a man or two, and go, the rest of us, to help scour the
woods to find dear Louis."

Just at this moment, and before Bernard could answer him, Raymond saw,
coming up from the lower part of the grounds, the Dominican monk,
Brother Anselmo.

"What does that man want, Bernard?" he exclaimed. "There have been two
priests here to-day, to console my mother in her affliction, and I do
not think another one is needed now, especially not this man, who does
not belong to our monastery and who keeps himself a stranger to me. My
mother is asleep, and should not be disturbed."

"If she is asleep," said the squire, "she shall not be disturbed."

He then walked back to the house, closely followed by Raymond, and stood
in the entrance door. In a few moments the monk appeared, and with a
slight motion of the head, but not a word, stepped forward to pass in.
But the squire stood stoutly before him, and stopped him.

"My lady, the Countess," he said, "is weary and sick at heart on account
of the loss of her young son. She is sleeping now and can not be
disturbed."

"If she is sick at heart," said Brother Anselmo, "that is the greater
reason why I should see her."

"It can not be," said Bernard. "She needs rest, and no one must disquiet
her."

"What right have you, Squire Bernard," said the monk, "to forbid my
entrance? Are you the master of this house?"

"No," said Raymond, stepping forward, "but I am, when my mother can not
act as its mistress, and I say that no one shall disturb her this night.
Two priests have been here to-day, and I know she expects no others."

"Boy," said Brother Anselmo, "stand aside! You should be chastised for
such presumptuous words; and as for you, Squire, I command you, in the
name of the Church, to let me pass."

"I honor the Church as much as any man," said Bernard, "but I do not
believe that she grants to her priests the right to ask what they
please, in her name. I might come to be asked for my purse, in the name
of the Church; and that I would not give up, any more than I shall give
up my right to protect my mistress, the Countess, in this, her first
hour of sleep and rest for many days."

Brother Anselmo was very angry. Shaking his fist at the sturdy squire,
he cried:

"Stupid blunderer! You shall see, and that right soon, what power the
Church gives me." And then, without another word, he turned and walked
rapidly away.

"What does he mean?" asked Raymond. "I greatly dislike that monk. He is
always asking my mother questions which trouble her much to answer."

Bernard made no reply, but stood for a moment in deep thought. Then he
said to himself: "An hour to the monastery, and an hour back. There is
yet time, and the plan I think of will be the better one. I can not
trust the men to stand against the priests. Raymond! Run now, and have
your horse saddled and bridled, and ride out of the upper gate, and wait
for me in the road."

"Why so?" cried Raymond, in surprise. "It is too late for exercises."

"I can not answer now," said Bernard, hurrying away. "Be speedy and I
will tell you on the road."

[Illustration: BROTHER ANSELMO THREATENS BERNARD AND RAYMOND.]

Raymond, much amazed, but feeling quite sure that the squire had some
good reason for this strange proceeding, ran to get his horse, while
Bernard ordered the men-at-arms to hastily equip themselves for an
expedition, and to gather together, mounted, inside the north gate. Then
he went upstairs to the apartments of the Countess, and asked to speak
with one of her ladies. The Countess, who was only lightly dozing on a
couch, heard the squire's voice, and, instantly rising, called to him to
know what news he brought.

Bernard advanced within the door-way, and in a hurried voice told his
lady that the news he brought was of great import, but that he must tell
it to her alone. The Countess then desired the ladies who were with her
to retire to another room, and the squire, in as few words as possible,
but very earnestly and forcibly, told her of her great danger, of the
threats of the Dominican monk, and of the fact that he had heard, that
day, of the arrival of a body of men, well-armed, at the neighboring
monastery.

"In an hour or so," he said, "these men will be here, I greatly fear me.
Raymond is already on the road, for I wished to spare him this wretched
story, and, if we do not start quickly for Barran's castle, where you
will find present safety, it may happen that weeks and months may pass
before you will have news of Louis, even if he should be found
to-morrow."

"You mean that I may not be here to meet the news?" the lady said.

Bernard bowed his head. The Countess did not hesitate, but came to a
decision at once.

"I shall be ready," she said, "in a very short time. Have horses
prepared for myself and my three ladies. We must hasten to Raymond, if
he be alone on the road."

She then called her ladies, and began to make rapid preparations for the
journey.

The horses were scarcely ready when the ladies made their appearance in
the court, and, in a few minutes, accompanied by Bernard and the
men-at-arms, they rode out of the north gate. An elderly man, who acted
as seneschal, or keeper of the establishment, was left, with the
ordinary servants and vassals, in charge of the chateau.

Raymond, riding slowly up and down the road, was soon overtaken, and
then the squire, without entering into explanations, urged his party
onward as swiftly as possible.

"What is the meaning of all this?" cried Raymond, in great perplexity,
riding up to his mother. "It is stranger than any of the old tales the
women used to tell me."

The Countess was a lady of strong mind and body, and although the
unknown fate of her younger son had overwhelmed her with grief, this new
peril to her whole family had thoroughly aroused her, and she was riding
steadily and swiftly onward.

"It is a strange tale," she said—"stranger far than any I thought would
ever be told in this fair land; but I can not tell it to you, my boy,
until our journey's end. Then you shall hear it all."

So Raymond, with the rest, rode on, and he, with all the others,
excepting the squire and his mother, supposed that this long night-ride
had something to do with the rescue of Louis.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER VII.


LOUIS sat for a long time, in the bit of shade by the tree, before Jasto
returned; but, when that learned man at last made his appearance, he
merely remarked that the Captain had kept him longer than he had
supposed he would, and, after that, he had to look for a quill, of which
to make a pen.

"It is not an easy thing to get the right kind of quill for a pen, you
must know," he said, as he took his seat by Louis, and began to scrape
the lower end of a long quill with a broad, sharp knife which he took
from his belt. "A crow-quill will do very well, or even a quill from a
hawk; but I like a long one, like this, which came from a heron's wing,
nailed up in one of our houses. And he who nailed it up never dreamed of
the benefit that a quill from that wing would bring to our good
company."

"What benefit?" asked Louis.

"The benefit that comes from the money your mother will send us when she
reads your letter."

"Oh!" said Louis.

"And while I make this pen," continued his companion, "I shall tell you
the story of my letter."

"Yes, indeed," cried Louis; "I should rather have that than the pen—at
least, just now."

"That is a bad choice, for the pen is to give you liberty, and the story
will not do that. However, there is a lesson in the story, and you shall
have it. It was just before one of the battles between Queen Blanche and
the Duke of Burgundy. I was a soldier then, in the service of a good
knight; and although I was not his squire, but a simple man-at-arms,
ready to fight on horse or on foot, or not to fight at all, just as the
case might be, still I was a better man than the squire—for he could not
write, any more than his master could. So, just before the battle, the
knight sent for me, and, said he, 'Jasto, I have heard that you are a
wise fellow and can write, and I want you to write me a letter.' He knew
I could write, because I had told him so, and had told all my companions
so, for this I found I must do, otherwise they would never be aware of
it; for, not knowing how to write themselves, how could they comprehend
that I knew? 'I want to send a messenger back to my castle,' said my
good knight, 'and I want him to carry a straight and fair message, which
he can not do if I send it by word of mouth. So you must write what I
wish to say in a letter to my seneschal, and the messenger shall carry
it.' With that, he showed me a little piece of parchment that he had
with him, and a phial of ink and a pen, and he bade me sit down and
write what he told me to say. I liked not this haste, which gave me no
time for study and preparation, and I told him, with due respect, that I
could not write unless I had a table on which to lay my parchment.
Whereupon he made a man with a cuirass get down on all-fours before me,
so that on this man's steel back I could write as on a table. My master
then told me to write how that, knowing the enemy would soon reach the
spot where we then lay, and feeling the want of a stronger force, he
desired his seneschal to send him five more men, and five horses, with
arms and all things needful, and also to send therewith a new casque
which he expected from the armorer, and a long sword which hung up in
the great hall, and divers other things, of which I wot not now. When I
came to write down all this, I found myself sorely troubled, for you
must know that to write a letter requires a knowledge of many things.
One must know what letters are needed for a word, what order to put them
in, and how to make them.

"Some words need a good many letters, and if the letters in a word are
not the right letters, and are not set in a befitting order, it will be
of no use for any man, even the most learned scholar, to try to tell
what that word is. So I soon found that for many of the words I could
not remember the letters, and of those letters I did remember there were
some that I could not make, for I had forgotten their shape. But I would
not tell my master that, for it would have been a sorrowful thing to
have fallen from my high place as the most learned person in our
company, not to speak of the punishment I might have expected. So I
wrote on, making the best words I could devise with the letters at my
command, and urging my master to repeat every sentence, so that I should
be sure to get it straight and fair; and in that way I learned the whole
letter by heart, and read it to him, when I had finished it, so that he
was greatly gratified. 'Let me see the letter, my good Jasto,' said he;
and when he looked at it, he said, 'The words seem very much like each
other'—which was the truth, indeed, for most of them had the same
letters in them, measured out in very much the same measurement. 'But it
all looks simple enough,' he went on to say, 'and I greatly desire that
I could read it, but that is beyond my powers.' And then he made his
mark, which his seneschal well knew, and the letter was done.

"Thereupon he called for a messenger to take it in all haste to his
castle, but I told him that he could have no better messenger than I
should be, because, having writ the letter, I could read it to the
person to whom it was sent, if it should so be that he could not read it
himself. 'But old Hubert can read, else I would not send him a letter,'
said my lord. But I answered that, if he had never seen my writing, it
might be so strange to him that it would take much time for him to
understand the proper slope and indication of the letters, and so the
re-enforcements might be sorely hindered in their coming. Therefore it
was that I was sent, and I so saved my life; for, shortly after, the
battle came off, and, if I had been there, I know I should have been
killed, as most of my knight's men were. But I was safe in the castle,
and when I went back with the men and the horses and the armor, I met my
lord coming to his castle, and right glad was he to see me with my
company, for he was in such sore plight that he was even afraid of
thieves, although there were but few of them to be met with then, being
mostly in the wars. And therefore, I, being fresh and unwounded, took
the lead among the men-at-arms, and felt high in my lord's favor, and
this was far better than being able to scratch off a poor letter that
could be read."

"But what said the seneschal to your letter?" asked Louis.

"Oh, nought at all," answered Jasto. "I read it to him out of my head,
and showed him his master's mark."

"But did you not feel, all the time, that you were a great trickster and
cheat?" said the free-spoken Louis.

"No more than I do now," answered Jasto, "coming here to help you with
your letter to your mother, and telling you a story with a moral to it,
showing how arduous a thing it is to write a letter, so that you may be
ready for your difficulties when they come upon you. And now this pen is
done, and it ought to be, for I have put a score of nibs to it, and
there is not enough quill left for another one. It may be blunt, but it
will make a mark."

"And what am I to write on?" asked Louis.

"I'll find that and the ink this afternoon," said Jasto, "but now I
smell dinner."

In the afternoon, Jasto mixed up a black compound with some water, so as
to make an ink,—rather thick and gritty, to be sure, but good enough for
its purpose,—and he produced a piece of parchment, completely written
over on one side. This writing he proceeded to obliterate, as far as
possible, by rubbing it with a piece of pumice-stone.

Louis was impatient, and suggested that he might mark out the words on
one side and go on writing on the other; but Jasto would not hear to
this, for it would argue too great poverty on the part of the
_cotereaux_ to send a letter on the back of another, and so he rubbed
and rubbed, and talked, and came and went, until it was nearly dark, and
so the letter was postponed until the next day.

On the morrow, however, Jasto refused to produce the writing materials,
because there was to be a grand expedition of the band, which would
require nearly all the men; and Michol had said that Louis must be taken
along, as he did not wish to leave him behind, guarded only by the few
men who would stay at the camp.

"That's a pretty way to do!" exclaimed Louis. "Suppose I should be
killed in this expedition, what will your captain say to my mother then?
I am not afraid to go, but I do not want to be taken for a robber, and
be shot with an arrow, or have my head cut off."

"Be not afraid," said Jasto, laughing. "The enemy will not hurt you, if
you keep out of the way. You are to be under my special keeping, and I
will warrant that the foe shall not kill you."

Early in the morning, nearly the whole of Captain Michol's force, some
armed with lances, some with bows and arrows, and others with long
knives, or swords of various descriptions, set out, on foot, for a march
through the forests. Louis went with them, closely accompanied by Jasto,
who never lost sight of him.

On the way, the good-humored robber, who seemed to be of a better class
than most of his companions, using more correct language, and behaving
himself better in every way, informed Louis of the object of the
expedition. About eight or ten miles to the east of the camp of the
_cotereaux_ there was a chateau, almost as strongly fortified as a
castle, the owner of which possessed a great number of hogs. These
animals, until within a few days previous, had been confined within
close bounds, for fear that they should be stolen. But as no
evil-disposed persons had been seen for a long time in the neighborhood,
the whole herd had been let out into the adjacent woods, where they
would thrive much better, during the hot weather, than in their former
quarters. Michol had been informed that these hogs were ranging through
the woods, under the charge of two or three men, and he was now going to
try to capture as many of them as possible. He took his large force, not
because he expected any opposition from the keepers of the hogs, but
because a great many men would be needed to surround and capture the
animals, many of which would be lost if the herd should be allowed to
scatter itself through the forest.

As they walked along, Louis thought that it was a great pity that the
first foray he ever set out upon should be an expedition, in time of
peace, to steal pigs; but he considered it wise not to say what was in
his mind, for it was the business of these men to steal pigs, or
anything else they could lay their hands on,—even boys and borrowed
jennets,—and they might not fancy his finding fault with them. He was
not afraid of Jasto, with whom he had become very friendly and
communicative; but many of the other men looked like fellows whom it
would not be at all pleasant to offend. So he went along with the
company, and made no objections until he had walked five or six miles
through the forest, when he informed Jasto that he was getting very
tired, and that he hoped they would soon come to the end of their
journey, so that he could sit down and rest.

"As for that," said Jasto, "the end of your journey will soon come, if
the signs ahead of us mean anything. Some of our foremost fellows have
come back, and I think they are telling the Captain that the herd is not
far ahead of us. And if that be so, it will make our work easier, for
the herdsmen will be far from home and can not call for help. You and I
will not go up to the field of battle, but will be posted outside, with
here and there another brave fellow, to arrest any of the enemy who may
take to flight in our direction. So keep up a brave pair of legs for a
little while longer, and then you shall have your rest."

Sure enough, in less than a quarter of an hour Jasto received orders to
wait with Louis, at the end of a small path through the underbrush,
while the rest of the force spread themselves out widely through the
forest. Before long a great noise of squealing and shouting was heard in
the distance.

"We have come upon them," said Jasto, "and many a good meal of pork
shall we have this year."

"I hope the poor herdsmen are not getting killed," said Louis.

"Have no fear for them," replied Jasto; "they will run away the moment
they see one of us. And as they can not bring help, there will be no
Christian blood shed. Look out there! Stand close behind me! Hear you
that?"

Louis plainly heard something rushing through the bushes, and in a
moment a pig, about half-grown, dashed along the path toward them. When
he saw Jasto, he stopped for an instant, and then made a rush,
endeavoring to pass him. But the robber was too quick to allow that, and
he stooped and seized the scampering porker by the hind leg. In an
instant, Jasto was jerked upon his back, still however, holding fast to
the struggling pig.

[Illustration]

Louis shouted in laughter, and he enjoyed the fun so much that it was
some moments before he considered that the shouting and wriggling Jest
probably wanted his assistance. He then ran up, and, taking hold of the
other hind leg of the prisoner, enabled Jasto to get up, and to tie the
pig's legs together with a strong cord which he had in his pocket.

"There, now," cried Jasto, with a very red face, "the rest of the pork
will be ready to cook or salt down, but this fellow I shall take home to
fatten. He is too lean and lively for good eating now."

In less than half an hour the rest of the company appeared, walking in a
long line, some of the men bearing each a slaughtered pig, while here
and there two fellows carried a larger animal between them. Jasto threw
his prize across his shoulders, and, although there was a good deal of
struggling on the part of the pig, his captor held him firmly, and
carried him thus throughout the whole long tramp back to the camp.

When he reached the huts, Jasto immediately set to work to make a rude
pen of stakes and poles, in which he shut up his pig, which was to be
thoroughly fattened before sharing the fate of his brethren who had been
slain in the forest.

Louis was a very tired boy when he found himself again in the camp, and
he slept until a late hour the next morning; but, as soon as he had had
his breakfast and felt fully awake, he went to hunt up Jasto, so that he
could begin his letter.

But he found that individual, his well-mended and red-lined clothes
exchanged for an indescribably wretched suit, busily engaged, with a
large portion of his comrades, in cutting up and curing, in various
ways, the pork which had been brought in the day before. The band had so
much hog-flesh on hand that they hardly knew what to do with all of it,
and they were so busy for several days that Jasto had no time to give to
Louis and his literary labors.

But, as soon as the pork business was finished and Jasto was at liberty,
Louis set to work in earnest to write his letter to his mother.

Jasto prepared the parchment, nearly obliterating the writing on one
side of it, and, the ink and pen being ready, the work began, and a very
important work it seemed to be. Louis, of course, was anxious that his
first letter to his mother should be a good one, well spelled and well
expressed; Jasto continually suggested forcible and high-sounding
sentences, containing words which neither Louis nor he could spell; the
Captain came several times to the place where the writing was going on,
to insist on certain terms of ransom being clearly stated; and nearly
all the men in the band straggled up, one or two at a time, to know how
the letter was coming on, and to hear Louis read what he had already
written. It was a document of great interest to every one of the
robbers, for, if it should succeed in its purpose, it would bring a
large sum of money to the band.

At last, after much labor and consultation, Louis finished the letter
just as the sun was setting, and as one of the men called out that the
evening meal—which that day consisted principally of fresh pork—was
ready.

Louis laid his letter, the last words of which were scarcely dry, upon
the ground, putting a stone upon it to keep it from blowing away, and
ran to get his supper. While he and the rest of the company were busily
eating, Jasto's pig broke out of the pen, and, seeing the parchment
letter under the tree, devoured it without the slightest hesitation.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER VIII.


WHEN Barran had searched the forest on the western side of the highway
for nearly three days, and had found no traces of the _cotereaux_, he
was obliged to return to Viteau, before entering the woods to the east,
to obtain a fresh supply of provisions. He was utterly astounded, of
course, when he heard of the flight of the Countess, with nearly all her
household; but he was still more surprised, and very much alarmed, when
the seneschal told him that, in an hour or so after the departure of the
Countess and her party, the chateau had been visited by a large body of
armed men, accompanied by several priests, among whom was Brother
Anselmo. These men were admitted because the presence of the priests was
a token that they were friends, but they behaved very strangely after
they entered. One of them demanded to see the Countess, and when he was
told that she had gone away to look for her son, as the seneschal
supposed she had gone, he ordered the other men to search the chateau
from top to bottom, evidently believing not a word that was told him.

But after every room and every part of the house and grounds had been
ransacked, and when it was found that the Countess was really not in the
chateau, and that her ladies, and almost all her attendants, as well as
the horses in her stables, had gone away, the search was given up, and,
after a great deal of talking among themselves, and a great deal of
severe questioning of the seneschal and the other servants of the house
who had been left behind, the unpleasant visitors departed.

What they wanted, and why they came, the seneschal did not know, any
more than he knew why the Countess had left. But Barran was not long in
divining the truth. He felt certain that the men with the priests were
officers of the Inquisition, and that the Countess had heard of their
intended visit, and had escaped from the chateau. Whether or not she was
then really out of their power, he did not know; but, as he hoped that
her destination was his own castle, the Count determined to hasten home
as fast as he could.

After a brief halt for rest and food, Barran, with all his men, hastened
back to his castle, where, to his great delight, he found the Countess
safe from her pursuers.

But the relief and satisfaction of the poor lady at her present security
was entirely overbalanced by the news that her son had not been found.
She was in such grief that Barran had not the heart to tell her of the
visit of the Inquisitors. He assured her that he would immediately begin
the search of the forests on the other side of the road; but, before he
started the next day, he held an earnest consultation with Bernard and
with Count de Lanne, who was taken into confidence in this most
important matter, in regard to the measures to be adopted should the
officers of the Inquisition follow the Countess to the castle.

Nothing was agreed upon, excepting that Bernard declared that she should
never be given up, so long as life remained in his body; but Barran
considered it necessary that he himself should be at home, in case the
Inquisitors should come to the castle; and so, after conducting his men
to the forest, and instructing them as to the manner in which they
should proceed, he returned to the castle, where he remained quietly,
without informing the Countess of his presence.

He would have been glad to assist in the search for Louis, for whose
safety he was very anxious, but he regarded the mother's position as one
which required his personal attention much more than did that of the
son. He would have told her everything, and have urged her to leave
France, if possible; but he knew she could not be induced to take a step
of the kind until she had seen her son, or had had definite news of him,
and so he deemed it unwise to say any thing about the Inquisitors as
long as he felt sure that she would go no farther to escape from them.
She asked no questions, for her mind seemed entirely occupied by the
loss of her boy.

She would not allow Raymond to go with the searching party, for fear she
should in some way lose him also; and this troubled her eldest son
greatly until she told him, as she had promised, of the danger with
which she was threatened, and which had caused her to leave her home.

This information had a powerful effect upon Raymond. It seemed to make
him several years older. At first he scarcely could believe that there
were people in the world who could wish to punish his dear mother for
believing what she thought right about religious matters; but when he
heard how so many persons had been cruelly tried and punished by the
Inquisition for saying and thinking no more than his mother had said and
thought, he saw what peril she was in; and he determined, like Bernard,
that he would never leave her until she should be safe from all her
dangers.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER IX.

WHEN Captain Michol heard of the fate of the letter,—and there could be
no doubt as to what that fate was, for the pig was found rooting around
the spot where the parchment had been left, evidently searching for
something else good to eat,—he was very angry. He knew that there was no
more parchment in the camp, nor anything else on which a proper letter
could be written, and he did not know when or where he could procure any
material of the kind. He had made all his arrangements to send the
letter, which had now been too long delayed, to Viteau the next day; and
this disappointment enraged him very much. He ordered Jasto's pig to be
instantly slaughtered, and he told Louis that he would cut off one of
his ears and send that to his mother, and then, if a handsome ransom did
not soon arrive, he would cut off the other one and send it also.

Whether or not the Captain was in earnest in making this threat is not
to be known; but it frightened Louis greatly, and he determined that the
morning should not find him in the power of a man who would do such
terrible things, and he made up his mind to escape that night, no matter
what might afterward happen to him.

Accordingly, when Jasto was fast asleep, poor little Louis slipped
quietly past him and made his way into the forest. He pushed blindly
through the thickets and undergrowth, not knowing in what direction he
was going—only anxious to get away as far as possible from the cruel
Captain. It was very dark, and he frequently came violently against a
tree, or stumbled over tangled vines and bushes, scratching his hands
and face and bruising his body; but he still pressed on, wherever he
could push himself through the bushes. When daylight should appear he
hoped to be able to make his way to the high road, and, once there, he
felt sure he could walk to Viteau.

But, after hours of toilsome and painful struggling through the pathless
underbrush, he found that, even by the increasing light, he could not
discover, although he searched diligently, any sign or indication of a
passage through the thicket. He even climbed a tree, but could see
nothing except trees and bushes—the latter extending, in what seemed
like impenetrable masses, in every direction.

Almost tired to death, he sat down at the foot of the tree he had
climbed, and in a few minutes was fast asleep. He slept for hours, and
it was after noon when he was awakened by some one laughing very close
to him.

Louis opened his eyes with a start, and there was Jasto, who at that
moment laughed again. The boy sprang up with a cry, and was about to
plunge into the bushes, but the robber seized him by the arm.

"No, no, my good Sir Page," said Jasto. "Don't lead me over any more
such wretched ways as you have led me this morning. I've had enough of
them."

"Oh, Jasto!" cried Louis, "you are not going to take me back?"

"I don't know," said the robber, "what I shall do with you, but I
certainly shall not take you back the way you came. Where you crept
under the bushes, I had to break through them. I never saw such a fellow
for hiding. How do you suppose I found you?"

"I don't know," said Louis.

"I found you," said Jasto, "by not looking for you. The rest of our
men—and nearly all of them turned out to search for you, when we found
you had run away—scattered themselves about in all directions, to see if
they could catch a glimpse of _you_. I did nothing of that kind. I knew
that if a boy like you were to crouch under a thick bush, I could not
see him. So I looked for little bits of blue silk from a pair of trunk
hose, and little shreds of purple cloth from a tunic that I knew of. I
saw a bit of the silk on some briers when I started out, and I knew I
should find more. I lost your track many times, but every now and then a
bit of rag on a thorn would encourage me; and so, at last, I came up to
the gallant young page who was marking his way with pieces of silk and
costly cloth. It made me laugh to think how truly these rags had led me
to him."

"I am glad, Jasto," said Louis, "that you found me, and not one of the
other men. I don't believe you will make me go back to the Captain to
have one of my ears cut off. You will show me the way to go home, and I
promise you, if you will do that, that my mother will send you a good
sum of money, quite as much as she would have sent to the Captain if she
had got my letter and had ransomed me."

"I am not sure about that," said Jasto, "but I have been thinking over
the matter, and it may be that I shall not take you back to our camp. I
have a kindly feeling for you, Sir Page. First, because I think you are
a lad of spirit, as I used to be; and second, because my pig ate your
letter, and so brought your trouble on you. Therefore, I feel bounden to
help you out of it. But, if I send you to your mother, she may forget my
sole share in your rescue and return, and may send the ransom-money to
our company, when it will be so divided and shared, and measured into
parts, that I shall get very little of it. So I think I shall take you
to your mother, and then I shall get all the ransom myself, and not be
obliged to share it with any one. And I am sure the good lady, your
mother, will give more to him who brings you back than to him who has
merely carried you away."

"Indeed would she!" cried Louis, more than delighted at the prospect of
being taken directly to his home.

"Well, then," said Jasto, "take you this piece of bread, which I put in
my pocket before I set out this morning, and when you have eaten it, you
will be strong enough, mayhap, to go on to your mother's chateau, though
it is still a good distance from here; and I promise you that I shall
not lead you through such rough ways as you led me. But we must be
careful, for, if we meet any of my good comrades, there will be an end
of our plan."

When Louis had finished eating,—and, coarse and hard as the bread was,
he devoured every morsel, for it was his breakfast and his dinner,—the
two started off for Viteau. Louis supposed that they would try to reach
the main road as soon as possible; but Jasto assured him that he had no
idea of doing that, for the woods would be occupied, at various points
along the road, by the _cotereaux_, who would expect the fugitive boy to
take the highway as soon as he could find it. Instead of that, Jasto
intended to slyly make his way, through the woods, to the nearest point
to Viteau, and then to strike across the country to the chateau.

Jasto was an expert and experienced woodsman, and he found paths where
Louis would never have imagined they could exist; and with great care
and caution, and frequent halts for outlook and listening, he led the
boy through the devious mazes of the forest, without meeting one of his
comrades. About dark they reached the edge of the forest, and then they
cautiously made their way to the chateau, where they arrived late in the
night.

It would be hard to express the consternation of Louis—and that of Jasto
was almost as great—at finding that the Countess had gone away; that
Barran had been there that day, returning from a search for his lost
page, but had almost immediately set out for his castle, and that a body
of strange men, accompanied by priests, had been searching the house for
his mother only the night before.

Poor Louis, who could not imagine what all this meant, and who was
bewildered and astounded at seeing the happy home he had always known
deserted by every one excepting the seneschal and a few servants,
desired nothing so much as to go immediately to his mother. But this
Jasto would not have allowed, had it been possible, for the boy was
nearly exhausted by fatigue and want of food. After some supper had been
prepared for the two travelers, and Louis had eaten as much as Jasto
thought good for him, the robber accompanied his young companion to the
room he had been used to occupy with his brother Raymond, and, after
seeing him safely in bed, lay down on the floor across the door-way, and
went to sleep himself. It was evident that he intended to take good care
that Louis should not leave him this time until he had conducted him
into his mother's presence.

The seneschal was rather surprised at the actions of this man, who
announced himself as a friend to the boy, and one who had saved him from
the robbers who had captured him; but, as he and Louis seemed on very
friendly terms, the old man made no objection to anything that Jasto
said or did.

In the morning, Louis insisted upon an early start for Barran's castle;
but, although Jasto was now perfectly willing to go, he was afraid to do
so, for there was no other road but the one which led through the woods,
and on that he certainly would be seen by some of the _cotereaux_, who
would keep the road under constant watch. To make his way with the boy
through the woods on the west of the road would be almost impossible,
for he was not familiar with that part of the forest, and did not know
the paths; and Louis would of a certainty be tired out long before he
could reach the castle, which was distant almost a day's journey for a
horse.

But fortune favored him, for, after he had spent most of the day in
endeavoring to impress these things on the mind of the impatient Louis,
and in making efforts to find some one who would be willing to go to the
castle and inform the Countess of her son's arrival at Viteau, there
came to the chateau a party of horsemen who had been sent by Barran to
see if anything had been heard from the boy at his home, the party in
the eastern woods, having, so far, met no traces of his captors.

The course was now easy enough, and the next day Barran's men set out
for the castle, taking with them the happy Louis and Jasto, who felt no
fear of capture by his former comrades now that he was escorted by a
body of well-armed men.

The scene at the castle, when Louis arrived was a joyous one. The
Countess forgot all her troubles and fears about herself, in her great
happiness for the return of her son; and even Raymond ceased to think,
for a time, of his mother's danger, so glad was he to see his dear
brother again. Every one at the castle, indeed, was in a state of great
delight, for Louis was a general favorite, and few persons had expected
to see him again.

Among the most joyful of his welcomers was Agnes. She listened to his
story with the greatest eagerness, and, when he began to lament that he
had lost her horse, she exclaimed:

"We don't think much about horses, my father and I, when we are afraid
that we have lost boys. It is easy enough to get another Jennet, and,
before many years, this one would have been too small for me. Do you
think he is in a comfortable place?"

"I don't know," answered Louis. "I did not see where they took him."

"At any rate," said the girl, promptly, "the thieves can not ride him in
the forest, and so he will not be worn out by hard work. But we won't
talk about him any more. And your brother's new falcon is gone, too, I
suppose."

"Oh, yes," said Louis, ruefully. "But he will not grieve about that, for
he did not know he was going to have one. I thought of that a good many
times, when I was among the robbers. If he had been expecting it, things
would have been a great deal worse than they are now."

"Of course he did not expect the bird," said the girl, "but he knows you
have lost it, for everybody was told that it was to carry him a new
falcon that you left the castle. But he never will scold you for not
bringing it, and so we need not say anything more about it. But he must
wonder that you were bringing him a falcon; for how could you know he
had none, when you left your mother's house before anything was said
about his bird having been lost? He must suspect you had something to do
with it."

"Of course he does," said poor Louis. "I intended to tell him all about
it when I should give him the new falcon; but it will be harder to do it
now."

"Don't you say a word about it," said Agnes, who was really a
kind-hearted girl, although she liked to talk about everything that was
on her mind. "I'll tell him myself. It will be easy enough for me to do
it, and I can tell him better than you can, anyway."

She did tell Raymond all about it, dwelling with much earnestness on
Louis's sorrow for his fault, and his great desire to make amends for
it; but she found that Raymond cared very little about falcons. His mind
was occupied with weightier matters.

[Illustration: THE COUNTESS SENT FOR JASTO AND THANKED HIM WARMLY.]

"Louis is a good fellow and a true one," he said, "although he often
plays wild pranks, and the only reason I am sorry that he lost my bird
is that it caused him such danger, and all of us such grief."

"I like Louis better than Raymond," said Agnes to herself. "Raymond
talks so much like a man, and he isn't half so glad as he ought to be,
now that his brother is saved from those dreadful robbers. If I were in
his place, I'd be singing and dancing all the time."

The Countess sent for Jasto, and thanked him warmly and earnestly for
bringing her son to her, instead of taking him back to the _cotereaux_.

"If I could do it now," she said, "I should reward you handsomely for
what you have done for me; but, as I left my chateau for this place very
suddenly, I have no money with me. However, as soon as I shall have
opportunity to send for some, I shall more than pay you for the trouble
you have taken. Meantime, as your conduct shows that you wish to leave
your companions and give up your evil ways, you can remain here, and I
shall see that you receive fair treatment and are well employed." And
then, with a few more gracious words, she dismissed him.

This was all very pleasant, for the Countess spoke so sweetly and looked
so good that it greatly gratified Jasto to have her talk to him so
kindly, and thank him for what he had done; but still he was not
satisfied. He had expected to make a regular bargain about a ransom, and
hoped that Louis would have told his mother how much Michol was going to
charge for his return; but he found the boy had never mentioned the
matter, and he did not feel bold enough, in his first interview with the
Countess, to do it himself. He knew that he would be rewarded, but he
felt sure that a lady would have no idea of the proper sum to pay for a
page's ransom. If the pig had not eaten the letter her son had written,
she would have been astonished indeed. He would wait, and, when the
proper time came, he would let it be known that he expected ransom-money
just as much as if he had kept the boy in some secret spot, and had made
his mother send the sum required before her son was restored to her.
Meanwhile, he was perfectly willing to remain in the service of the good
Countess, and the first thing he asked for was a suit of clothes not
composed of patches sewn together with bright-red silk. And that he
received without delay.

Now that Louis was safe at the castle, the minds of the Countess and her
friends were occupied with the great question of her safety. It was not
to be expected that the officers of the Inquisition would give up their
attempts to arrest the lady; and although Barran's castle and Barran's
forces might be strong enough to hold her securely and to drive back her
persecutors, a contest of this kind with the Church was something not to
be desired by the Count nor by his friends. Barran and Lanne were both
of the opinion that the safest refuge for the Countess would be England;
but a secret journey there would be full of hardships, and might compel
her to give up all her property, and to be separated from her sons.

It was hard to decide what to do, and at any day the officers of the
Inquisition might appear at the gates of the castle.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER X.

A FEW days after the arrival of Louis and Jasto at the castle of Barran,
the Countess found it necessary to send to Viteau for some clothing and
other things which were needed by herself and her ladies, for they had
brought very little with them in their hasty flight from the chateau.

A trusty squire—not Bernard, for he would not leave his mistress for so
long a time as a day and night—was sent, with a small, but well-armed
body of men, to convey to the castle the property desired by the
Countess, and to give some orders to the seneschal in charge. When the
party reached the chateau, early in the evening, the squire was greatly
surprised to find that he could not enter. The gates were all closed and
barred securely, and no answer came to his calls and shouts to the
inmates.

[Illustration: A SMALL WINDOW WAS OPENED.]

At length, a small window in the principal gate was opened, and a man's
head, wearing a helmet with the visor down, appeared in the square
aperture.

"Which of the varlets that we left here are you?" cried the angry
squire. "And what are you doing with the armor of the Countess on your
rascally head? Did you not know me when I called to you, and when are
you going to open this gate for us?"

"I am not any man's varlet," said the person in the helmet, "and you did
not leave me here. I wear this helmet because I thought that some of
your impatient men might thrust at me with a spear, or shoot an arrow at
me when I should show my head. I did not know you when you called, for I
never heard your voice before, and I am not going to open the gate for
you at all."

The squire sat upon his horse, utterly astounded at this speech, while
his men gathered around him, wondering what strange thing they next
would hear.

"Who, then, are you?" cried the squire, when he had found his voice,
"and what are you doing here?"

"I have no objection," said the other, "to make the acquaintance of any
man who wants to know me, and to tell him what I do, if it be, in any
way, his business. I am Michol, the captain of the good and true band of
_cotereaux_ who for some time past have lived in this forest, near by;
and what I am doing here is this: I am dwelling in this goodly chateau,
in peace and comfort, with my men."

The squire turned and looked at his followers.

"What think you," he said, "does all this mean? Is this a man gone
crazed?"

"Not so," said the man with the helmet; "not so, my good fellow. I may
have done crazy deeds in by-gone days, but this is the most sane thing I
ever did in all my life. If you should care to hear the whole story,
straight and true,—and I should like much to tell it to you, that you
may take it to your mistress,—come closer and listen."

The squire, anxious enough to hear, rode close to the gate; the men
crowded near him, and Michol, for it was really the captain of the
_cotereaux_, told his story.

"I am going to make this tale a short one," he said, "so that you can
remember it, and tell it clearly, all of you. When the boy, son of the
Countess of Viteau, was stolen from us——"

"Stolen!" ejaculated the squire.

"Yes," said the other, "that is the word. We captured the youngster
fairly on the road, and held him for fitting and suitable ransom; and
before we had opportunity to acquaint his friends with his whereabouts,
and with the sum demanded for him, he was basely stolen by a traitor of
our company, and carried away from us, thus cheating us of what was our
fair and just reward."

"Reward!" exclaimed the squire. "Reward for what?"

"For treating him well and not killing him," said Michol, coolly. "When
I found out the base deed that had been done to us," he continued, "I
gathered all my men, together with another band of brave fellows, who
gladly joined us, and I came boldly here to demand the ransom for the
boy, and the body of the wretched villain who stole him away. And when I
found no boy, and no traitor, and no Countess, and no one in the whole
chateau but an old man and some stupid varlets, I blessed my happy
stars, and took possession of the whole domain. And this I shall hold,
occupy, and defend, until the Countess, its former mistress, shall send
to me one hundred silver marks, together with the person of the traitor
Jasto. When these shall have been fairly delivered to me, I shall
surrender the chateau, and honorably depart, with all my men."

"You need expect nothing of that kind," cried the squire. "Count de
Barran and the good knights with him, when they hear this story, will
come down upon you and drive you out with all your men; and never a
piece of money, gold or silver, will you gain by this deed—unless,
indeed, it shall be such as you shall find here."

"I shall have my money," replied Michol; "but until I hear that my just
demands are denied, I shall break no bars or locks to look for it. My
men and I will live merrily on the good stores of the Countess; but
while we hold this place as warranty for her son's ransom, we shall not
sack or pillage. But if your lord and his knights should come to drive
me out, they would find more good soldiers here than they can bring, for
in times of peace we are strong, and the lords of the land are weak,
unless, indeed, they keep retainers and men-at-arms for mere show and
ostentation. My men are well armed, too, for the Count of Viteau kept
his armory well furnished, as became a valiant knight and a leader of
fighting men. So, therefore, if Barran shall come to give us foul blows,
instead of fair words and just deeds, he will get blow for blow, and
harder blows, methinks, than he can strike; and if it should be, by
strange fortune, that he drive us out, he would drive us only from the
blazing ruins of this chateau.[A] All this I tell you, my good squire,
that you may tell it to Barran and the Countess. Think you you will
remember it?"

Footnote A:

  Such was the lawlessness of the times, when people had to rely on
  themselves for protection and defense, that a deed like the taking of
  this chateau would probably meet with no immediate punishment, unless
  it were inflicted by the injured owner or his friends.

"Indeed will I," said the squire. "Such words can not easily be
forgotten. But then I truly think——"

"No more of that!" interrupted Michol. "I do not care what you think.
Hear, remember, and tell. That is enough for you in this matter. And,
now, what brought you here? You did not come to bring word, good or bad,
to me?"

"Indeed I did not," said the other, "for I knew not you were here. I
came, at the command of the Countess of Viteau, to get for her certain
garments and needful goods belonging to herself and ladies, which she
could not, with convenience, take with her to the castle, but which, I
suppose, if your tale be true, I shall go back without."

"Not so," said Michol. "I war not on fair ladies, until they themselves
declare the war. You shall come in, and take away what your lady needs.
That is, if you fear not to enter alone."

These words made the squire turn pale. He was afraid to trust himself,
alone, inside the walls of the chateau court-yard, but he was ashamed to
own it—ashamed that his own men should see his fear, or that Michol
should see it. And so, out of very cowardice and fear of mockery, he did
a thing which was exceedingly brave, and entered by the wicket in the
gate, which Michol opened for him.

Inside the court and in the chateau, the squire saw, as Michol was very
glad to have him see, hundreds of _cotereaux_, well armed, and in a good
state of discipline, and he felt sure, at last, that the tale he had
been told was true.

The articles he had been sent for were all delivered to him, and
properly packed by Michol's men for conveyance on the baggage-horses
that had been brought for the purpose. Then the goods were carried out,
and the squire was allowed to depart, without hurt or hindrance.

Provisions were sent outside the gates for the squire and his men and
horses, and that night they bivouacked by the roadside.

The next morning they rode back to Barran's castle, and the squire
delivered to the Countess the property he had been sent for, and told
the wonderful tale that the captain of the _cotereaux_ had instructed
him to tell.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XI.

THE news of the occupation of Viteau by a band of robbers, occasioned,
as well might be supposed, the greatest astonishment at the castle of
Barran. At first, every one, from the Lord of the castle to the lowest
varlet, was loud in favor of an immediate march upon the scoundrels,
with all the force that could be gathered together on the domain. But
after Barran had held a consultation with the Countess, Hugo de Lannes,
and the very sensible and prudent Bernard, he determined not to be too
hasty in this important matter. If the story of the squire who had been
sent to Viteau was true,—and there was no reason to doubt it,—it would
require every fighting man on the estates of the Count de Barran to make
up a force sufficiently strong to compel the _cotereaux_ to leave the
chateau; and if this force should not be large enough to completely
surround and invest the place, the captain of the robbers might make
good his threat of burning the chateau and retreating to the forest,
which he could probably reach in safety, if the retreat should be made
in the night.

But, even if the Count had been able to raise men enough to make a
successful attack upon the _cotereaux_ at Viteau, he did not wish, at
this time, to strip his castle of all its defenders. If it should be
concluded that the Countess should endeavor to escape to England, a
tolerably strong party might be necessary to conduct her to the coast;
and if the officers of the Inquisition should appear at his gates, he
would like to be there with enough men to compel at least parley and
delay.

It would, also, be difficult to hold the chateau, after it should be
taken, during this serious quarrel with the _cotereaux_. If the lady of
Viteau had been at home, she might have summoned many of her vassals to
her aid, but it was not to be supposed that these people would willingly
risk their lives, and expose their families to the vengeance of the
robbers, to defend a dwelling which its owner had deserted.

It was, therefore, determined not to attempt, at present, to disturb the
_cotereaux_ at Viteau, who, as long as their demand for a ransom for
young Louis was not positively denied, would probably refrain from doing
any serious injury to the property. When the Countess should be in
safety, a force could be raised from some of the estates, and from
villages in the surrounding country, to thoroughly defeat the
_cotereaux_ and to break up their band. Suitable arrangements then could
be made to hold and defend the chateau until the Countess or her heirs
should come back to take possession.

What was to be done for the unfortunate mother of Raymond and Louis, now
became again the great question. Flight to England, which, though a
Catholic country, was not under the power of the Inquisition, as were
France and some of the neighboring countries, would have been
immediately determined upon, had it not been for the great unwillingness
of the Countess to consent to separate herself from her sons.

If she should leave France and take her children with her, her property
would probably be taken possession of by the Church or the Crown;
whereas, if her sons, under a proper guardian, should remain in France,
the estate would be considered to belong to them, for they had done
nothing to make them forfeit it; and everything could go on as usual,
until the friends of the Countess should have opportunity to represent
the matter to some of the high authorities of the Church. Then, if she
could be released from the prosecution by the Inquisition, she could
return in peace to her home.

On the day after the squire's return from Viteau, and after it had been
decided to leave the _cotereaux_ in possession for the present, Raymond
and Louis, with Agnes, were sitting together at a window in one of the
great towers of the castle, talking of the proposed journey of the
Countess; Louis had been told the reason of her flight from Viteau, and,
of course, Agnes knew all about it.

"If I were the Count de Barran," said Louis, very much in earnest, "I
should never make a lady, like our mother, run away to England, nor to
any other savage country, to get rid of her enemies. I should fill this
castle with soldiers and knights, and I'd defend her against everybody,
to the last drop of my blood. Wasn't Barran the brother-in-arms of our
father? And isn't he bound, by all his vows, to protect our mother, when
her husband isn't here on earth to do it himself?"

"You don't look at things in the right way, Louis," said Raymond. "Of
course, the Count would defend our mother against all enemies, for he is
a brave and true knight; but we can not say that the priests and
officers of the Church are our enemies. Now, if Barran fights the people
of the Inquisition, he is fighting the Church, and no Christian knight
wants to do that."

"I'd like to know what an enemy is," said Louis, "If he isn't a person
who wants to do you an injury; and that, it seems to me, is exactly what
these Inquisition people are trying to do to our mother. I shouldn't
care whether they belonged to the Church or not."

"Oh, yes, you would," said Raymond, "if you had taken the vows of a
Christian knight. The Count will do everything he can to save our mother
from these people, but he will not want to fight and slay Church
officers, and his men-at-arms would not help him,—I heard Count de
Lannes say that,—for whoever should do such a thing would be
excommunicated by the Pope of Rome, and would be cast out from all
Christian fellowship and all hope of salvation. Our mother would not let
any one fight for her, when she should know that such things would
happen to him."

"Bernard would fight for her," said Louis; "and so would I."

"And so would I, as well you know," said his brother, "and so would the
Count and many another knight, if things came to the worst. They would
not stop to think what would happen afterward. But it would be a sad
thing to do. It would be much better for our mother to go away, than to
put her friends in such jeopardy of their souls. I have heard all this
talked about, and I know how hard a thing it is for the Count to send
our mother away. But one thing is certain: when she goes, I go with her.
I care not for the domain."

"And I go too!" cried Louis. "Let the robbers and the priests divide
Viteau between them. I will not let my mother go among the barbarians
without me."

"The English are not barbarians," said Raymond. "There are plenty of
good knights and noble ladies at the court of King Henry, and all over
the land, too, as I have read."

"I thought they must be savages," said Louis, "because they have no
Inquisition. Surely, if England were a Christian land like France, there
would be an Inquisition there."

Up to this time Agnes had been silent, eagerly listening to the
conversation of the boys. But now she spoke:

"Louis and Raymond!" she cried, "I think it will be an awful, dreadful
thing for your poor mother to go to England; I don't care what sort of a
country it is, or who goes with her. Isn't there somebody who can make
these people stop their wicked doings without fighting them? Can't the
King do it?"

"Of course he can," cried Louis. "The King can do anything."

[Illustration: AGNES TELLS RAYMOND AND LOUIS OF HER PLAN.]

"Perhaps he can," said Raymond. "I spoke to my mother about that this
morning, and asked her why Count de Barran did not go to the King and
beseech him to inquire into this matter, and to see why one of his
subjects—as good a Christian as any in the land—should be so persecuted.
She said I spoke too highly of her——"

"Which you did not," cried Louis.

"Indeed, I did not," continued Raymond. "And then she told me that the
mother of our King, Queen Blanche, who has more to do with the affairs
of France than her son himself, does not like Barran, who, with our
father, opposed her long with voice and sword, in the disputes between
Burgundy and the Crown. So it is that he could not go to ask a favor of
her son, for fear that it would do us more harm than good."

"But is he the only person in the world?" cried Agnes. "Why can't
somebody else go? Why don't you go, Raymond, with Louis—and with me? Let
us all three go! We can tell the King what has happened, as well as any
one, and the Queen-Mother can not bear a grudge against any of us. Let
us go! My father will not say me nay."

Louis agreed instantly to this glorious plan, and Raymond, after a
moment's thought, gave it a hearty assent.

"We'll start by the dawn of day to-morrow," cried Agnes; and away she
ran to ask her father if she might mount a horse, and go with Louis and
Raymond to Paris, to see the King.

Strange as it may seem, this wild plan of the children was received with
favor by their elders. Something must be done immediately, and the
Countess must either leave France, or some powerful aid must be asked
for. Measures had been taken to put the matter before some of the high
officials of the Church, but it was believed that they would first send
for Brother Anselmo and the priests, and would hear their story, before
interfering for the Countess; and, therefore, whatever help might be
expected in this direction, would probably be much delayed and come too
late.

But if the King should desire it, the matter would be instantly
investigated, and that was all that the Countess and her friends
intended to ask. They felt sure that if some one, more competent and
less prejudiced than the two or three monks who had been incensed by
their failure to answer her arguments, should examine the charges
against her, it would be found that she believed nothing but what was
taught by the fathers of the Church, and believed in by all good people
who had read what the authors had written.

And who could go with better grace to ask the help of the King—himself
young—than these three young people: two boys who would speak in behalf
of their mother, and the young girl, their friend, who might be able to
talk with the Queen-Mother, if there should be need of it?

Count Hugo de Lannes readily agreed to take charge of the young
embassadors, if his daughter should be one of them. He was well known in
Paris, and could give them proper introduction and guarantee their
statements. Thus his assistance would be very great.

It was agreed that by dawn the next morning, just as Agnes had said, the
party should start for Paris, and that, until its return, the Countess
should postpone her flight from France.

And many earnest prayers were said that night, that nothing evil might
happen to the Countess while her two boys should be absent from her.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XII.

THE cavalcade, which started from the castle early the next morning, was
a gay and lively one, for everybody seemed to think that it would soon
return, with happy news.

At the head rode Count de Lannes, and, at his side, Sir Charles de
Villars, a younger knight, visiting at the castle, who had volunteered
his services to help defend the party, should it be attacked on the way.

Next came the three young people, each mounted on a small Arabian horse,
from the castle stables. After them came two women, in attendance on
Agnes; and then followed quite a long line of squires, pages, and
men-at-arms, with servants carrying the heavy armor of the two knights,
all mounted and armed.

It was calculated that the journey to Paris would take about four days,
if they pressed on as fast as the strength of the horses and that of the
young riders would permit; and as it was desirable to be back as soon as
possible, they rode away at a good pace.

Some distance in advance of the whole party were two men-at-arms, whose
duty it was, when passing through forests, or among rocks and hills,
where an enemy might be concealed, to give timely notice of any signs of
danger. The Count de Lannes did not expect any attack from robbers, for
he felt quite sure that the _cotereaux_ who had been in the neighborhood
were all engaged in the occupation of Viteau.

But he did not know as much about the robber bands of Burgundy as he
thought. A short time before, there had come into the country, between
Barran's castle and Viteau, a company of _brabancois_—freebooters of
somewhat higher order than the _cotereaux_, who generally preferred to
be soldiers rather than thieves, but who, in times of peace, when no one
would hire them as soldiers, banded together, stopped travelers on the
highway, and robbed and stole whenever they had a chance. They were
generally better armed and disciplined, and therefore more formidable,
than the _cotereaux_, or the _routiers_, who were robbers of a lower
order than either of the other two.

These _brabancois_, when Michol was making up his force with which to
seize and hold the chateau of Viteau, offered to join him, but he
declined their proposition, believing that he had men enough for his
purpose, and not wishing, in any case, to bring into the chateau a body
of fellows who might, at any time, refuse to obey his rule, and endeavor
to take matters into their own hands.

The captain of the band of _brabancois_, when he found that he would not
be allowed to take part in the ransom speculation at Viteau, moved up
nearer the castle of Barran, and sent one of his men, dressed like a
common varlet or servant, to take service with the Count, as an
assistant in the stables and among the horses. In this occupation he
would learn of the intended departure of any party from the castle, and
could give his leader such information as he could manage to pick up
about the road to be taken, and the strength and richness of the
company.

So it was that, on the night of the day on which the expedition to Paris
was determined upon, and after orders had been given to have the
necessary horses ready early the next morning, this fellow got away from
the castle, and told his captain all he knew about the party—who were to
go and which way they were going.

It was not likely that the company under the charge of Count de Lannes
would carry much money, or valuable baggage of any sort, and, therefore,
the enterprise of waylaying these people on the road did not appear very
attractive to the leader of the robbers, until he heard that Louis, and
Jasto, who was to go with the boy as servant, were to be of the party.
Then he took a great interest in the matter. If he could capture Louis,
he could interfere with Michol in getting the ransom he demanded, and so
force himself, in this way, into partnership with the prudent captain of
the _cotereaux_; and if he could take Jasto, of whose exploits he had
heard, he felt sure that Michol would pay a moderate ransom to get
possession of that traitor to his cause and his companions.

Therefore, principally to capture, if possible, these two important and
perhaps profitable personages, the band of robbers set out before
daylight, and took a good position for their purpose on that road to
Paris.

It was nearly noon when the cavalcade of our friends entered a wide and
lonely forest, where the road was thickly overgrown, on each side, with
bushes and clambering vines. It was an excellent place for an ambuscade,
and here the _brabancois_ were ambuscaded.

Count Hugo de Lannes was a prudent man, and he proceeded slowly, on
entering the forest, giving orders to his scouts to be very careful in
looking out for signs of concealed marauders.

He also called up the men who carried the heavy armor, and he and Sir
Charles proceeded to put on their helmets and their coats of mail, so as
to be ready for anything which might happen during their passage through
the forest.

They were prepared none too soon, for the scouts came riding back, just
as Count Hugo had exchanged his comfortable cap, or bonnet, for his iron
head-covering, with the news that men were certainly concealed in the
woods some hundred yards ahead.

Quickly the two knights, with the assistance of their squires, finished
putting on their armor, and each hung his battle-ax at his saddle-bow.
Their long swords they wore at all times when riding. Then Count Hugo,
turning, gave rapid orders for the disposition of his force.

Part of the men-at-arms, all ready for battle, drew up before the young
travelers, and part took their place in their rear. On either side of
each of the boys, and of Agnes and her women, rode a soldier in mail,
holding his shield partly over the head of his charge. Thus each of
these non-combatants was protected by two shields, and by the bodies of
two mail-clad men, from the arrows which might be showered upon them
should a fight take place.

All these arrangements were rapidly made, for the men of the party were
well-trained soldiers, and then Count Hugo and Sir Charles rode forward
to see what they could see.

They saw a good deal more than they expected. As they went around a
slight bend in the road, they perceived, a short distance ahead, three
mounted men in armor, drawn up across the road. Behind them were a
number of other men, with spears and pikes. And in the woods, on either
side, were a number of archers, who, though they could not be seen, made
their presence known by a flight of arrows, which rattled briskly on the
armor of our two horsemen, and then fell harmless to the ground.

If this volley and this brave show of force were intended to intimidate
the travelers, and to cause them to fall back in confusion, it did not
have the desired effect.

Turning to their squires, who followed close behind them, the two
knights called for their lances, and when, almost at the same instant,
these trusty weapons were put into their hands, they set them in rest,
and, without a moment's hesitation, charged down upon the three
horsemen.

Count Hugo was an old soldier, and had been in many a battle, where,
fighting on the side of the Crown, he had met in combat some of the
bravest soldiers of France and many of the finest knights of England,
whom King Henry III. had sent over to aid the provinces which were
resisting Queen Blanche; and Sir Charles, although a younger man, had
met and conquered many a stout knight in battle and in tournament.

Therefore, although the _brabancois_ horsemen were good, strong
soldiers, and well armed, and although all three of them put themselves
in readiness to receive the charge of the knights, they could not
withstand or turn aside the well-directed lances of these veteran
warriors, and two of them went down at the first shock, unhorsed and
helpless.

The other man, reining back his horse a little way, charged furiously on
Count Hugo, who was nearest him; but the latter caught the end of his
lance on his shield, and then, dropping his own lance, he seized his
battle-ax, rose in his stirrups, and brought the ponderous weapon down
upon the ironclad head of his assailant, with such a tremendous whang
that he rolled him off his horse at the first crack.

Upon this, both knights were attacked at once by the spearsmen and other
men on foot, but so completely and strongly were the Count and Sir
Charles clad in their steel mail that their opponents found no crevice
or unguarded spot through which their rapidly wielded weapons could
penetrate.

But the knights gave them little time to try the strength of their
armor, for whirling their battle-axes over their heads, and followed by
their squires, they charged through the whole body of the foot-soldiers,
and then, turning, charged back again, driving the _brabancois_ right
and left into the woods.

Meantime, all had not been quiet in the rear. The captain of the
robbers, as soon as he had seen the knights engaged with his picked men,
had come out of the woods with a strong force of his followers on foot,
and had made a vigorous attack on our young travelers and their
attendants.

Here the fighting was general and very lively. Arrows flew; swords,
spears, and shields rattled and banged against each other; horses reared
and plunged; the women screamed, the men shouted, and Raymond and Louis
drew the small swords they wore, and struggled hard to throw themselves
into the middle of the fight.

But this was of no use. Their mailed and mounted guardians pressed them
closely on either side, and protected them from every blow and missile.

Little Agnes was as pale as marble. Every arrow, as it struck against
the shields and armor about her, made her wink and start, but she sat
her horse like a brave girl, and made no outcry, though her women filled
the air with their screams.

There were so many of the _brabancois_, and they directed their attacks
with such energy on the one point, that it seemed for a time as if they
certainly must get possession of one or all of the children. Three men
had pulled aside the horse of Louis's protector on the left, and others
were forcing themselves between the soldier and the boy, with the
evident intention of dragging the latter from his horse.

But the fight at the head of the line was over sooner than the captain
of the robbers expected it would be. His men had scarcely reached
Louis's side when Count Hugo and Sir Charles came charging back.

Straight down each side of the road they came. Their own men, seeing
them come, drew up in a close column along the middle of the road, and
before the _brabancois_ knew what was going to happen, the two knights
were upon them. Standing up in their stirrups, and dealing tremendous
blows with their battle-axes as they dashed along, they rode into the
robbers on each side of the road, cutting them down, or making them
wildly scatter into the woods. As the knights passed, some of the
men-at-arms left their line and, rushing into the woods, drove their
enemies completely off the field.

[Illustration: SIR HUGO AND SIR CHARLES CHARGE THE ROBBERS.]

At least they supposed that this was the case; but, when Count Hugo and
Sir Charles had turned and had ridden back to the young people and the
women, and were anxiously inquiring if any of them had been injured
during the affray, a cry from Louis directed everybody's attention to a
new fight, which was going on at the rear of the line.

"Jasto!" cried Louis. "They are taking Jasto!"

The boy had happened to look back, and saw his friend of the
robber-camp, whose horse had been killed, struggling on foot with four
men, one of whom was the captain of the _brabancois_. They were,
apparently, endeavoring to drag him into the bushes; Jasto, who was a
very stout fellow, was holding back manfully, but the others were too
strong for him, and were forcing him along. No one of the Count's party
was near, except a few men who had charge of the baggage horses, and
these were too busy with their frightened animals to take any notice of
the re-appearance of some of the robbers.

"Help him!" cried Louis. "Don't let them take Jasto away!"

Count Hugo turned, as he heard the boy's cry, but little Agnes was close
by his side, trying to get her arms around his iron neck, and several
horsemen were crowded up near him, so that he could not clearly see what
was going on in the rear. A few of the men-at-arms saw the affair, and
rode toward the scene of the unequal contest, but Jasto would certainly
have been dragged into the thicket before they could have reached him.

Sir Charles, however, was sitting on his horse, on the outside of the
group around the children, and when he heard the alarm and saw the
struggle, he immediately galloped to the rear. He did not know who Jasto
was, but he saw that one man was contending with four others, whom he
perceived, by their appearance and arms, to be members of the robber
band. As he rode, he put his hand on his long sword to draw it, but he
instantly saw that, if he struck at any one in that twisting and
writhing knot of men, he would be as likely to kill the Count's follower
as one of the robbers; and so he dashed up, and seized Jasto by the
collar with his mailed hand. Then, reining in his horse vigorously, he
suddenly backed. The jerk he gave in this way was so powerful that it
almost pulled Jasto out of the hands of his captors. He was so far
released, indeed, that, had the right hand of Sir Charles been free, he
would have been able to cut down the robbers.

But as he still held Jasto in his iron grasp, and prepared to back
again, the robber captain, seeing that, in a moment, his captive would
be torn from him, and infuriated by the idea that he would lose
everything, even the chance of some ransom-money from the captain of the
_cotereaux_, drew from his belt a great, heavy knife, almost as long as
a sword and very broad, and with this terrible weapon aimed a blow at
Jasto's head.

"Traitor!" he cried. "If I can't take you, you can take that!"

But Jasto did not take anything of the kind; for, at the instant that
the robber made the blow, two arrows from the archers, who were coming
up, and who saw that the only chance of saving Jasto was a quick shot,
struck the robber captain in the side of the head, and the knife dropped
harmlessly by Jasto's side, while the robber fell back dead. Instantly
the other _brabancois_ took to their heels, and Sir Charles released the
red and panting Jasto.

"Heigho!" cried the knight. "Surely I cannot mistake that round face and
those stout legs! This must be Jasto; my old follower and man of
learning! Why, good letter writer, I knew not what had become of you,
and I have often missed you sorely."

Jasto recognized his old master, and, indeed, he had recognized him as
soon as he had seen him in Barran's castle, but he had not wished to
make himself known, fearing that Sir Charles might interfere in some way
with his plan of demanding a reward for the return of Louis. Now, he
would have spoken, but he was too much exhausted and out of breath to
say a word. He merely panted and bobbed his head, and tried to look
grateful for his deliverance.

"No need of speaking now," said the knight, laughing. "When the breath
comes back into your body, I will see you again, and hear your story.
And, I doubt not, I shall soon have need to call on you to use your pen
and ink for me. If we stay long in Paris, I surely shall so need you."

But now orders were given to form into line and move onward, and Sir
Charles galloped up to his place by Count Hugo. The order of marching
was taken up as before, and the party, leaving the dead and wounded
_brabancois_ to be cared for by their companions, who were doubtless
hiding in the forest near by, rode cautiously on until they cleared the
woods, and then they proceeded on their way as rapidly and comfortably
as possible. But few of the men-at-arms had been wounded, and none
seriously.

The two boys and Agnes were in high good spirits as they galloped along.
Agnes was proud of her father's bravery and warlike deeds, and Raymond
and his brother were as excited and exultant as if they had won a
victory themselves. Louis would have ridden back to see if his friend
Jasto had been injured, but this was not allowed. He was told that the
man was safe and sound, and had to be satisfied with that assurance.

As for Jasto himself, he rode silently among the baggage men, having
been given a horse captured from the _brabancois_.

For once in his life, he was thoroughly ashamed of himself, and two
things weighed upon his mind. In the midst of his struggles with the
robbers, and when he had felt certain that they would overpower him and
take him back to Michol, by whom he would be cruelly punished and
perhaps slain, he had heard that shrill young voice calling for help for
Jasto.

"And yet," he said to himself, "I am following that boy about and
keeping in his company, solely that I may, some day, have the chance of
claiming pay for freeing him from the _cotereaux_, to which bad company
I should have gone back this day if it had not been for him. For had he
not called for help none would have come to me. I owe him my freedom
now, and as he is worth surely twice as much as I am, I will charge his
friends but half the sum I had intended. And I shall think about the
other half. But a poor man must not let his gratitude hinder his
fortune. I shall think of that too.

"But as for Sir Charles, who has saved my life to-day, and who was ever
of old a good master to me, I shall never deceive him more. I shall
either tell him boldly that I can not write a letter any more than he
can himself, or I shall learn to read and write. And that last is what I
shall surely do, if I can find monk or clerk to teach me and he ask not
more pay than I have money."

With these comforting resolutions Jasto's face brightened up, and
raising his head, as if he felt like a man again, he left the company of
the baggage, and rode forward among the men-at-arms.

That night our travelers rested in a village, and the next day they came
to the river Yonne, along the banks of which their road lay for a great
part of the rest of their journey.

They passed through Sens, a large town, in which there lived a bishop,
to whom their errand might have been made known had not there been
reason to fear that such an application might injure the cause of the
Countess more than it would benefit it, and then they crossed the Seine
and passed through Melun and several small towns and villages; and, late
in the afternoon of the fourth day, they rode into Paris, with dusty
clothes and tired horses, but with hearts full of hope.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER XIII.

IT must not be supposed that the officers of the Inquisition and the
monks of the monastery which, as has been mentioned before, stood a few
miles from Viteau, were all this time ignorant of the fact that, when
the Countess of Viteau fled from her home, she took refuge in the castle
of the Count de Barran.

It was not many days before this was known at the monastery. But the
officers had returned to Toulouse to report their failure to secure the
person for whom they had been sent; and the monk who was dispatched with
the information that the Countess had not fled the country, as was at
first supposed, but had taken refuge within a day's ride of Viteau, had
a long journey to make to the south of France; while the party which was
immediately dispatched by the Inquisition to the castle of Barran had a
long journey to make back to him.

But it finally came, and it was a different party from that which had
been sent before. It was larger; it contained many more armed men, and
it was under the control of a leader who would not give up the pursuit
of the Countess simply because he should fail to find her in the first
place in which he sought her.

About the time that the Count de Lannes and our young friends entered
Paris, the expedition from the Inquisition at Toulouse reached the great
gate of the castle of Barran.

This visit threw the Count, and those of his household who understood
its import, into a state of despair almost as great as if it had not
been daily feared and expected ever since the Countess had come to the
castle.

The Count did not know what to do. He had thought the matter over and
over, but had never been able to make up his mind as to what his course
would be in case the officers should appear while the Countess remained
in his castle. He felt that he could not give up this lady, the wife of
his old brother-in-arms, who had come to him for protection; but he
could not fight the company that was now approaching, for such an act
would have been considered the same thing as fighting Christianity
itself.

He was in a sad state of anxiety as he went to the gate to meet, in
person, these most unwelcome visitors; and he wished many times, as he
crossed the court-yard, that he had yielded to his first impulse and had
insisted that the Countess should fly to England while there was yet
time.

All that the Count de Barran could do was to detain the officers as long
as possible at the gate, and to endeavor to induce them to consent to a
friendly council before taking any steps to arrest the Countess. If they
would do this, he hoped to prevail upon them to remain at the castle,
with the lady really under their watch and guard, until news should
arrive from Paris.

But the good squire Bernard acted in a very different way. He did not
believe in parleying, nor in councils. Ever since he had come to the
castle he had expected this visit, and he had always been ready for it.

In five minutes from the time that he had seen the officials approaching
the castle,—and his sharp eyes had quickly told him who they were,—the
Countess and her women, the squire himself, and the men-at-arms who had
come with them from Viteau, were in their saddles; and, leaving the
castle by a lower gate, were galloping along a forest road as fast as
their horses' legs would carry them.

The leader of the party from the Inquisition would not parley, and he
would listen to no talk of councils. He showed his credentials, and
demanded instant entrance; and as soon as he was inside the court-yard,
he posted some of his men at every gate.

If the men at the lower gate had put their ears to the ground, they
might have heard the thud of horses' feet as the Countess and her party
hurried away into the depths of the forest.

The main body of the officers then entered the castle, and the leader
demanded to be conducted to the Countess of Viteau. The Count de Barran
did not accompany him and his men as they mounted the stairs, but,
downcast and wretched, he shut himself in a lower room.

In a very short time, however, the sound of running footsteps and a
general noise and confusion brought him quickly into the great hall, and
there he learned that the Countess was not in her apartments, and that
the Inquisitors were looking for her all over the castle. He instantly
imagined the truth, and a little inquiry among his people showed him
that he was right, and that the Countess had been carried off by
Bernard.

"A trusty and noble fellow!" said Barran to himself, almost laughing
with delight at this sudden change in the state of affairs. "But what
will he do? So small a party, unprepared for a long journey, could not
get out of the country, and these people here, as soon as they find that
the Countess has really gone, will make pursuit in every direction. And
if they overtake her it will be all the worse for the poor, poor lady."

Barran was right. When the Inquisitors had made a rapid but thorough
search of the castle, and when the angry leader had examined some of the
servants and had become convinced that the Countess had again fled,
almost from under the very hands of her pursuers, he sent out parties of
his horsemen on every road leading from the castle, with orders to
thoroughly search the surrounding country, and to make all possible
inquiries of persons by whom the fugitives might have been seen. The
leader himself remained at the castle, to receive reports and to send
out fresh horsemen in any direction which might seem necessary. It was
impossible that a lady like the Countess could have the strength and
endurance to ride so far that his tough and sturdy men-at-arms could not
overtake her. And if she took refuge in any house, castle, or cottage,
he would be sure to find her.

The party of soldiers which left the lower gate of the castle and took
the road through the forest were mounted on swift, strong horses, and
the Countess and her company were only a few miles ahead of them.

The squire Bernard did not keep long upon the road he had first taken.
He knew that the officers would probably pursue him this time, and he
had seen that their body was composed of many well-mounted men. So he
felt that he must bring into play, not only the fleetness of his horses,
but his knowledge of the country, if he hoped to escape the soldiers who
would be sent after him.

Bernard did know the country very well. He had been born in this part of
Burgundy, and had, in youth and manhood, thoroughly explored these
forests, not only after deer and other game, but in expeditions with his
master and Barran against parties of _cotereaux_ and other thieves who
at various times had been giving trouble in the neighborhood.

About four miles from the castle Bernard turned sharply to the left, and
rode into what, in the rapidly decreasing daylight, the Countess thought
to be the unbroken forest. But it was in reality a footway wide enough
for a horse and rider, and along this narrow path, in single file, the
party pursued its way almost as rapidly as on the open road.

They had been riding northward; now they turned to the west, and in a
half hour or so they turned again, and went southward, through a road
which, though overgrown and apparently disused, was open and wide enough
for most of its length to allow two persons to ride abreast.

[Illustration: THE FLIGHT OF THE COUNTESS.]

They went more slowly now, for it was quite dark; but the squire led the
way, and they kept steadily on all night.

At daybreak they reached what seemed to be the edge of the wood, and
Bernard ordered a halt. Bidding the rest of the company remain concealed
among the trees, he dismounted and cautiously made his way out of the
forest.

Creeping along for a short distance into the open country, he mounted a
little hill and carefully surveyed the surrounding fields and plains.
Feeling certain that none of their enemies were near at hand in the flat
country before them, Bernard went back to the woods, got on his horse,
and, turning to the Countess, he said:

"Now, my lady, we must make a rapid dash, and in a quarter of an hour we
shall be at our journey's end."

Without a word the Countess—who had put herself entirely into her
faithful squire's care, and who had found early in the ride that he
wished to avoid answering any questions in regard to their
destination—followed Bernard out of the forest, and the whole party
began a wild gallop across the fields.

For a few minutes they rode in silence, as they had been riding for the
greater part of the night, and then the Countess suddenly called out:

"Bernard! Oh, Bernard! Where are we going? That is Viteau!"

"Yes," shouted back the squire. "That is Viteau, and, by your leave, we
are going there. For you, it is the safest place in France."

"But the _cotereaux_! The _cotereaux_!" cried the Countess. "It is
filled with those wicked men!"

"I hope it is yet filled with _cotereaux_," cried the squire, still
galloping on; "for it is those fellows who will make it safe for you.
Fear them not, fair lady. They want only your money, and as long as they
have a good hope of that they will not harm you nor yield you up to any
claimant."

The Countess answered not a word; but very pale, and trembling a little,
she rode on, and in a very short time the party drew up before the great
gate of Viteau.

"Open!" cried Bernard, "open to the Countess of Viteau!"

Receiving no immediate answer, Bernard shouted again:

"Open! Open quickly! It is the lady of this chateau who asks admittance.
She is pursued! Open quickly!"

There was now heard inside a sound of running and calling, and in a few
minutes the head of Michol appeared at the window in the gate.
Perceiving that his visitors were but three ladies and half a dozen men,
all looking very tired and anxious to enter, and recognizing Bernard,
whom he had seen several times and with whose position in the household
of Viteau he was quite familiar, he concluded that he could run no risk,
and might do himself much good, by admitting the little party; and he
therefore ordered the gate to be opened and bade the Countess ride in.

The moment the fugitives had entered the court, and the gate had been
closed behind them, Bernard sprang from his horse exclaiming:

"Now, at last, I can breathe at ease."

The Countess, although a good deal frightened at her peculiar situation,
could not help smiling at this speech, considering that they were
surrounded by a great crowd of armed men, known to have in their number
some of the most notorious robbers in the country, and who were crowding
into the court to see the visitors, although keeping, by command of
their captain, at a respectful distance.

Bernard now approached Michol, and with the utmost frankness, concealing
nothing, he told him all about the troubles of the Countess and why she
had fled to his protection.

"As your object," said the squire, "is the payment of the ransom, for
which you have taken this chateau as security, you will not wish to
injure that lady by whom you expect the money to be collected and paid.
And, if I mistake not, until the ransom is paid to you, you will not
allow that lady to be taken out of your possession and keeping."

"You are a shrewd man, and a knowing one," said Michol, with a smile,
"and have judged my temper well. And yet," he said, lowering his voice,
"you must have terribly feared those Inquisitors, to bring that lady
here."

"Fear them!" said the squire in a voice still lower than the captain's.
"Indeed did I fear them. Do you know that they would begin her trial
with the torture?"

Even the rough bandit gave a little shudder as he heard these words, and
looked at the gentle lady before him.

[Illustration: MICHOL WELCOMES THE COUNTESS.]

Advancing to her, and removing the steel cap he wore, he said:

"Fair lady, you are welcome, as far as I have power to bid you welcome,
to this chateau. Your apartments have not been molested nor disturbed,
and you can take immediate possession of them, with your attendants. And
you may feel assured that here you may rest in safety from all attacks
of enemies of any sort, unless they come in numbers sufficient to
overcome my men and carry these strong defenses. And I promise you that
when the matters of ransom shall be settled between us, I and my men
will march away from your estates, leaving no damage nor injury behind
us, excepting your loss of what we have consumed and used for our
support and defense."

"Impudent varlet!" said Bernard to himself. "Your hungry rascals have
fattened on the possessions of the Countess, and yet you talk in a tone
as large and generous as if you gave to her what was your own."

"Sir," said the Countess to Michol, "I accept your offer of protection
until I receive tidings of some sort from my lord the King."

"You shall certainly have it, fair dame," said Michol. "My men and I
will never stand and be robbed, be the robber who he may."

The Countess bowed her head, and, without having heard all of this
remark, rode up to the chateau and entered with her party.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XIV.

AS soon as possible on the day after the arrival of his party in Paris,
the Count de Lannes made arrangements for an interview between his young
ambassadors and the King.

The seneschal of the palace, to whom Count Hugo was known, gave
permission to Raymond, Louis, and Agnes, with their proper attendants,
to seek the young King in the woods of Vincennes, where, on fine days,
he generally walked with some of his courtiers, after the daily
religious services which he always attended. In after years, when he
managed the affairs of his kingdom without interference from Queen
Blanche, and managed them, too, in such a way as to win for himself the
reputation of being the most just and honorable ruler that France or
Europe had ever known, Louis the Ninth used to hold regular audiences in
these beautiful woods, where those of his subjects who desired to
petition him or speak with him could do so with very little ceremony.
And even now the young King generally saw the few persons who asked
audience of him in this place, which was already becoming his favorite
promenade.

Louis, at the time of our story, was about twenty-two years old, but he
had been married at nineteen, and was crowned when he was but twelve.
His mother, who had been governing the country so long, still continued
to do so, and also governed her son and his wife, as if they had been
small children. She did not even allow them to see each other, excepting
at such times as she thought fit.

This may have been all very well for the nation, for Queen Blanche was a
wise and energetic woman, although very bigoted in regard to religious
affairs, but it must have greatly fretted the soul of the young monarch,
whose crown was like an expensive toy given to a child, but put up on a
high shelf, where he might look at it and call it his own, but must not
touch it.

The Count de Lannes knew of all this, but he thought it well that his
young people should address themselves to the King, who, being a young
person himself, and of a very kind disposition, would be apt to
sympathize with them and to take an interest in their unusual mission.
Not being much occupied with state or other affairs, it might happen
that he would give his mind to this matter; and if he could do nothing
himself he might interest his mother, who could do something.

It was a bright and pleasant day when Raymond, Louis, and Agnes,
followed by a lady and a page, with Jasto a little farther behind, and
Count Hugo and Sir Charles bringing up the rear at quite a distance,
were conducted to the King, who was seated under a large tree, with
three or four of his noble attendants standing around him.

When the three children approached him, and bent down on their knees
before him, as they had been told they must do, the King gave them a
smile of welcome, and bade them stand.

"And now, my little friends," he said, "what is it you would have of
me?"

[Illustration: AGNES MAKES A PLEA FOR THE MOTHER OF RAYMOND AND LOUIS.]

Raymond was a straightforward, honest boy, not backward to speak when he
should do so, and it had been arranged that he should be the spokesman.
But he had never seen a king, even a young one, and his heart failed
him. He looked at Louis, who, though bold enough, could not think of
anything but the astounding fact, which had suddenly struck upon his
mind, that this king was not old enough to be of any good to them. He
looked as young as some of the pages at the castle. The silence was a
little embarrassing, and both boys looked at Agnes. She did not want to
speak first, although she doubtless expected to say something on the
subject, but she presently saw she would have to begin, and so, with a
little flush on her face, she addressed the King:

"May it please you, sire," she said, "we have come to speak to you about
the mother of these two boys, who is the Countess of Viteau and is in
great trouble. We came to you because, as you are the King of France,
you can have the wicked business stopped instantly, until some good
persons can look into it; and if we went to any of the bishops or the
people of the Church, they would take a long time to think about it, and
the poor lady might suffer dreadfully before they would do a thing."

"I should gladly help you, my fair little lady," said the young King,
with a smile; "but, on my kingly honor, I can not imagine what you would
have me do. What is the wicked business, and what have bishops to do
with it? Bishops are lofty personages for such young people as you to
deal with."

"They are not so lofty as kings," remarked Louis, as the thought came
into his mind—although, indeed, he was not impressed with the loftiness
of any king present.

"You are right," said the King. "Some kings are loftier than bishops.
But come, one of you, explain your errand, that I may know how a poor
king can be more expeditious than a great bishop."

As the ice was now broken, and as Raymond knew that he could tell the
story better than either of the others, he began it, and laid the whole
matter, very clearly and fully, before the King, who listened to the
statement and to the petition for his interference with much attention
and interest.

"It is a sad, sad tale," he said, when he had heard it all; "but I see
not what action the King can take in a matter which belongs entirely to
the Church, and is subject to the ecclesiastical laws which extend over
France and all Christian countries. In such things, like my lowest
subject, I am but an humble follower of our holy fathers, who know what
is good for our souls."

"But it is her body, sire," exclaimed Agnes. "Think how she may suffer
before they find out about her soul! We are not afraid for her soul."

The young King smiled again, although he evidently did not think it
proper to smile about such subjects.

"My fair child," said he, putting his hand on Agnes's head, "you seem to
take this matter as greatly to heart as if the lady was your own
mother."

"My own mother is dead," said Agnes, "and I fear that I ought to be glad
of that, for she, too, was a pious lady, and knew how to read; and all
these things might have been done to her had she lived to see this day."

The King's face grew serious at this, and he was silent for a few
moments. But presently, turning to Raymond, he said:

"Then what you would have me do is to request these proceedings to be
stopped, until some learned and pious man, with mind not prejudiced in
this affair, shall examine into your mother's belief, and shall see if
there be cause or need that she be tried by the Inquisition?"

"That is all, good sire," said Raymond. "That is all we ask."

"I will lay this matter before my royal mother, the Queen," said the
King, "for she has far more knowledge of such subjects, and far more
influence with our clergy, than I have, and I fear me not that what you
desire will be readily obtained. It is a fair and reasonable request you
make, and I am right well pleased you came to me to make it. So be
comforted, my little friends. I will speak with the Queen this very day
in your behalf."

With this he rose, and with a smile and a little wave of the hand
dismissed his young petitioners. They were about to step back, when
Jasto, who had been gradually getting nearer and nearer to the central
group, so that he had heard all that had been said, pulled Louis by the
end of his doublet, and whispered in his ear:

"Ask if you shall come again, or if you may go home with the good news."

Then Louis advanced a little, and spoke up quickly, asking the question.

"Come to-morrow an hour earlier than this time," said the King, who
evidently was much interested in the matter,—the more so, perhaps,
because so little kingly business was submitted to him,—"and you shall
hear exactly what will be done, and who shall be sent to catechise the
Countess." He then walked away, and the children rejoined their elder
companions.

When Sir Charles heard of the suggestion made by Jasto, he slapped him
on the shoulder and said to him:

"You were always a good fellow, Jasto, with ideas suitable to the
occasion, both to speak and to write down with ink. Now I shall be able
to see this great city of Paris, which I have not visited for ten long
years."

And with minds relieved, and with the fresh and eager curiosity of young
people who had never seen a city before, our three friends accompanied
Sir Charles on a sight-seeing tour through Paris. The capital of France
was nothing like so large and wonderful as the Paris of to-day, but it
contained, among other public edifices, that great building, the Louvre,
which still stands, and which was then used, not only as a residence for
the King, but as a prison. There were also beautiful bridges across the
Seine, which runs through the city; the streets were paved, and there
were shops; there were many people, some going one way and some
another—some attending to their business, and some taking their ease,
with their families, in front of their houses; gayly dressed knights
were prancing through the streets on their handsome horses; ladies were
gazing from windows; artisans were at work in their shops, and,
altogether, the sights and delights of the Paris of 1236 produced upon
these three children very much the same effect that the Paris of 1883
would have produced upon them had they lived in our day.

A little before the appointed time, the next day, Raymond, Louis, and
Agnes, accompanied as at the previous interview, were in the woods of
Vincennes, and advanced to the spot where they were to meet the King.

In about a quarter of an hour, the young monarch made his appearance,
walking quite rapidly, and followed by several attendants. There was
much less ceremony observed in those days between royal personages and
their subjects than at present, and the King walked straight up to our
three friends and spoke to them.

"I am sorry," he said, "that I have not performed for you all the good
offices which you asked, and which I should gladly have performed. But
the Queen, who understands these important matters better than myself,
assures me that it would be an action unbefitting royalty to interfere
in this emergency which you have brought before me. It is a matter with
which the clergy and its appointed institutions have to do, and with
which the King can not meddle without detriment to Christianity, and to
the proper power and influence of the Church. Whatever ought to be done,
in order that the Countess of Viteau shall be justly treated in this
matter, will, as I am earnestly assured, be done. And with this," he
continued, after a moment's hesitation, "we ought all to be satisfied;
ought we not? It was to discover the truth, and to uphold and support
good Christians, that the Inquisition was established, and it is not
fitting that the King or the nobility of France should doubt or fear the
justice of its actions and decisions."

At these words, Agnes burst into tears; Louis, too, began to sob, and
Raymond stood pale and trembling. Count Hugo and Sir Charles, perceiving
that something unhappy had occurred, drew near their young charges,
while the courtiers about the King exchanged looks of compassion, as
they gazed upon the sorrowful children.

"There is but one thing, then, to do," exclaimed Raymond, half turning
away. "We must fly to England."

"What?" exclaimed the King; "to England! Fly? What means that?"

"In England," said Louis, his voice half-choked with tears, "the King
does not allow——"

At this point Raymond gave his brother such a pull by the arm that he
instantly stopped speaking, to turn around and see what was the matter,
and then Raymond spoke:

"My Lord King," he said, "we must now make our way with our mother to
England, because there we shall be safe from the power of the
Inquisition. It may be that its trials may be just and right, but we
have heard something of the horrible tortures that its prisoners have to
bear, to prove whether they will tell the truth or not; and, while I
live, my mother, my own dear mother, shall never be dragged from her
home and be made to go through such a trial. I would kill her first
myself."

"And so would I," cried Louis, "if Raymond were dead!"

"Oh, boys!" exclaimed Agnes, imploringly, "do not say such horrible
things!"

The King, apparently, had not heard these latter remarks. For a moment
he seemed in troubled thought, and then he said, half to himself:

"Can it be that a noble lady, and a pious one, I doubt not, must flee my
dominions, to take refuge with Henry of England, because, as it appears,
she is persecuted by enemies, and threatened with the rigors of the
Inquisition, which, whatever they be, may perhaps well frighten the
souls of a gentle dame and these poor children!"

"And they could not certainly save themselves by flight, sire," said the
courtiers, "for the Pope could doubtless order them to be apprehended
and remanded to these shores."

"Is there, then, no place to which we can fly?" cried little Agnes. "For
I am going, too. Father and I will go."

The young King made no reply. He stood, silent and pale. Then, stepping
forward a little, his head held very high, and his eyes sparkling, he
said:

"Do not fly to any land. Leave not France. You are as safe here as in
any spot on earth. Go back to your mother, my brave youth, and tell her
that her own King will protect her from needless molestation, and will
give that opportunity she asks for to show her true faith and sound
belief. I will desire, as a favor to myself, that the Inquisition shall
cease its action against this lady until some wise and learned members
of our clergy, whom I will send to her to inquire into this matter,
shall give their fair and well-considered opinion of it. And now," said
he, turning to his courtiers, his face flushed with youthful pride, "I
feel more like a king of France than I ever felt before."

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XV.

THE leader of the officers of the Inquisition was not long in
discovering the retreat of the Countess. He was greatly assisted by the
monks of the monastery near Viteau, who suspected, from what had been
said by some of the _cotereaux_ who occasionally found it necessary to
go outside of the chateau court-yard, that something of importance had
occurred at Viteau. By careful inquiries they soon found out that the
Countess was there, and reported the fact to the chief officer at his
headquarters at Barran's castle.

The Count, on the contrary, did not know where the Countess of Viteau
had gone. She and Bernard had thought it best not to inform him of her
place of refuge, and Barran had not endeavored to discover this place,
deeming it unsafe for any one in the castle to know where she was, so
long as her pursuers were with him. He knew by the actions of his
unwelcome visitors that she had not been captured, but he never imagined
that she was in her own chateau of Viteau.

Early on the morning of the second day after that on which Count Hugo
and his party started on their return from Paris, bearing the happy news
that the King had consented to interfere in behalf of the Countess, and
that one or two well-qualified persons were, as soon as possible, to
visit her at the castle of Barran to give her an opportunity of properly
representing her case, the Inquisitors appeared at Viteau.

Viteau, although not exactly a castle, was, like all the residences of
the upper classes in those days, a strongly defended place. It had a
wall around the court-yard, and its numerous towers and turrets and
little balconies were constructed to accommodate and protect a large
number of archers and cross-bow men.

Therefore it was that Robert de Comines, the leader of the Inquisitorial
party, thought it well to have a strong body of men with him in case it
became necessary to force his way into the chateau.

First posting soldiers at every entrance to the grounds, Comines marched
to the great gate and demanded admittance. Michol, who had received
notice that a large body of men was approaching, and who felt quite sure
that he knew who they were, gave some orders to his under-officers and
hastened to the gate.

"Who may you be?" said Michol from the window in the gate, "and why come
you here? These gates open, now, to no visitors, friends or foes."

Comines did not see fit to state the object of his visit, nor to exhibit
his authority, and without answering Michol's questions, he asked
another.

"Are you the captain of the robbers who have seized upon this chateau?"
he said.

"I am the captain of the good and valiant _cotereaux_, who hold this
chateau and its belongings as a warranty for a just and righteous debt,"
answered Michol. "Have you aught to say to me concerning the matter?"

"I have something to say to you," replied Comines, "which you will do
well to hear, and that speedily. Open the gate and let me enter."

"If you wish to speak with me," answered Michol, "I am ready to hear
what you have to say. But you need not enter, fair sir. I will come out
to you."

"No, no!" cried the other. "I must go in. Open the gate!"

"That will I, gladly," said Michol, "but it must be for me to go out and
not for you to come in. This is not my dwelling, nor are these my lands.
I meet my friends and foes in the forest and on the road."

At these words the gates were thrown open, and Michol rushed out,
followed by nearly all his men, who had been closely massed behind him
while he spoke. The _cotereaux_ were in such a large and solid body that
they completely filled the gateway and forced back Comines and his men,
who vainly endeavored to maintain their ground before the gate.

Comines shouted and threatened, and his followers manfully struggled
with the robbers, who surged like a great wave from the gate; but it was
of no use. Out came the _cotereaux_, and backward were forced Comines's
men, until all the robbers, excepting those who were left to guard the
other gates, and some archers who were posted on certain of the towers,
had rushed into the road, and the gates had been locked behind them.

The sudden confusion had been so great that, at first, the two leaders
could not find each other. At length they met in the middle of the road,
and the men of each party disengaged themselves from one another as
rapidly as possible, and gathered in two confronting bodies, each behind
its leader.

"Here am I. What would you have?" said Michol.

"Thief and leader of thieves!" cried the enraged Comines. "Do you
suppose that I want you! You shall feel the power of the Church in your
own person for this violence. Know that I am an officer of the Holy
Inquisition, with all due authority and warrant to carry out my purpose,
and that I come to apprehend and take before our high tribunal the
person of the Countess of Viteau, who is behind those walls. Now that
you know my errand, stand back and let me enter."

"That will I not," said Michol, firmly. "Whatever your errand and your
authority, you come too late. The Countess of Viteau is now my prisoner.
I hold her and this chateau as security for the payment of ransom-money
justly due me; and I will give her up to no man until that ransom shall
be paid. Whatever warrant you may have, I know well that you have none
to take from me my prisoner."

"Rascal!" cried Comines, "who would show a warrant to a thief? Will you
open that gate to me?"

"No," said Michol, "I will not."

"Then take that for my authority!" said Comines, drawing his sword as he
spoke, and making a sudden thrust at the robber leader.

Michol had no sword, but in his right hand he bore a mace or club with a
heavy steel or iron head. This was a weapon generally used by knights on
horseback, but Michol was a tall, strong fellow, and he carried it with
ease. Stepping quickly aside as Comines thrust at him, he swung his mace
in the air, and brought it down upon his adversary's head with such
rapidity and force that it knocked him senseless to the ground.

This blow was followed, almost instantly, by a general conflict. As none
of Comines's men were mounted, their horses having been left at the
monastery, and as they did not number half as many as the
_cotereaux_,—who were, indeed, in much stronger force than Comines and
the monks had imagined,—the fight was not a long one. The robbers soon
overpowered their opponents, killing some, causing others to make a
disorderly flight, and taking a number of prisoners.

The latter were carefully robbed,—not an article of value, not a weapon,
nor piece of armor being left on their persons,—and then they were set
free to carry away their wounded and dead comrades.

Michol sent a detachment of his men to attack the soldiers who had been
placed outside of the other entrances to the chateau; and when these had
been routed and the battle-field in front of the great gate had been
cleared of enemies, dead and alive, the robber captain entered the
court-yard with his men, and the gates were locked and barred behind
him.

Bernard, the squire, had been watching the combat from a high tower.

"I knew," he said to himself, when it was over, "that this was the only
place in France where the Countess would be safe. For none but a pack of
thieves would have dared to fight those who came to capture her."

The Countess was greatly agitated when she heard of the affair, for she
knew nothing of it until it was over. She was glad and thankful that her
pursuers had been defeated in their object, but she thought it was a
terrible thing to have had an actual conflict with them.

Her good squire did his best to make matters look as well as possible.

"You must remember, my lady," said he, "that the fight was not within
our walls, and that none of us took part in it. And, I trow, we shall
not soon see again those men from Toulouse; for the leader of them has
been grievously disabled, and it will be many a day before he will again
desire to carry off anybody."

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XVI.

THE Countess of Viteau now became very anxious to learn, as soon as
possible, the result of her embassy to the King, and she also wished her
sons to know where she was. She consulted with her squire, Bernard, in
regard to the matter; and they concluded that it would be better, if the
travelers brought bad news, and the young King had refused to interfere
in behalf of the Countess, that Raymond and Louis should know the place
of her refuge before any of their party could reach Barran's castle, and
that they should immediately join her, when, with them, she should fly
the country without delay or further consultation with any one.

She had determined at last that, if she should be obliged to leave her
country, she would take her boys with her, and let the Count de Barran
and her other friends do the best they could in regard to her estates.
She had money enough in her possession to provide for the expenses of a
journey to England, but she did not consider, when making her plans,
that the captain of the _cotereaux_ would require his claims paid before
he would let her go. Bernard thought of this, but he said nothing and
hoped for the best.

Michol also was quite anxious to know what had been done at Paris, for
the news would influence in a great degree the terms of his demands for
ransom money.

On the day after the attack of Comines had been repulsed, it was
considered that Count de Lannes and his party might be expected to be
nearing the end of their homeward journey, and it was determined to send
a page, accompanied by one of Michol's men, to intercept the travelers
and to convey a note to Raymond from his mother.

The main road from Paris through Burgundy ran within twelve or fifteen
miles of Viteau, and Count Hugo might therefore be met, while yet more
than half a day's journey from the castle.

The page's companion knew all the roads and by-ways of the surrounding
country, and they reached in good time the high road from Paris, but
after waiting there all day and making inquiries at various cottages
near by, they saw nothing and heard no news of the Count and his
company.

After dark they returned to Viteau, as they had been told to do, for it
was known that Count Hugo would not travel by night, and before daylight
the next morning they set out again.

The long watch of the previous day had wearied the restless soul of the
robber, and he declared to the page, as they rode along, that they would
have another day to wait upon the dusty highway, for he had been to
Paris and he knew how long it would take the Count's party to go and
return, and that they could not be reasonably expected that day.

"See you that cottage down there in the little glade below us?" he said
to the page, a little after sunrise. "There live an old woman and two
louts, her sons. They are poor creatures, but they make wine good enough
to sell; at least, a month or so ago, when I and a half-dozen of my
comrades stopped at their cottage to eat and rest, that is what they
told me they did with it. We found their wine good to drink,—which can
not be said of all wine that is good enough to sell,—and we drank many a
full horn of it, and what we did not drink we poured over her floor, so
that her house should smell of good cheer."

"That was a wasteful thing to do," said the page, "and must have cost
you a goodly sum."

"Cost us!" laughed the robber. "How could it cost us anything when we
had no money? And now, look you, we have more time than we shall know
what to do with, and I am going down there for some wine to cheer us
through the day. Ride you slowly on, and I will overtake you before you
have gone half a mile."

So saying, the robber turned from the road, and dashed down into the
glade. Reaching the cottage, he tied his horse by the door, and,
entering, demanded of the old woman, who was cooking something over a
little fire, that she should bring him some of her good wine, and plenty
of it, too, for he wanted some to drink and some to carry away.

The old woman looked at him for a moment, and then went out and brought
a jug of wine and a drinking-horn.

When the robber had sat down on a rough stool, and had begun to drink,
she went out for some wood for her fire. But instead of picking up dry
sticks, she ran to a small field where her sons were working.

"Come quickly!" she said. "One of the cowardly thieves who drank and
wasted our wine, a while ago, and struck me in the face when I asked for
pay, is in the cottage now, drinking and robbing us again. There were
many of them then, and you could do nothing. Now there is only one. Come
quickly!"

[Illustration: THE ROBBER IN THE OLD WOMAN'S COTTAGE.]

Without a word, the young men, still carrying the heavy hoes they had
been using, ran to the house, and rushing into the room where the robber
was still seated on his stool, engaged in drinking his second horn of
wine, they attacked him with their hoes.

The _coterel_ sprang from his seat, and drew the heavy sword which hung
at his belt, but, in an instant, it was knocked from his hand, and he
was belabored over the head and shoulders by the hoes of the angry young
peasants. If he had not worn an iron cap, which was his only piece of
armor, he probably would have been killed. As it was, he was glad to
plunge out of the door and run for the woods. The two young men pursued
him, but he was a faster runner than they, and his legs were not
injured. So, wounded and bruised, and very sorry that he had thought
about the old woman's wine, he left them behind, and disappeared among
the thick undergrowth of the neighboring forest. His pursuers returned
to the cottage and set loose the robber's horse.

"The wicked thief shall not creep back," they said, "to do us further
injury, and then jump on his horse and fly."

And they threw stones at the horse until he had galloped up to the road
and out of sight.

The page, who had been urged by his mistress to lose no time in reaching
the high road, for fear that her sons might pass before he got there,
rode on and on, looking back continually for his companion, but never
stopping. Reaching a place where they had made a short cut, the day
before, he tried to find it, got into the woods and lost his way. A
wood-cutter set him straight, but when he reached the Paris road, it was
long past noon, and he was dreadfully afraid that Count de Lannes's
party had gone by.

Inquiries of some peasants, who lived not far from the road, made him
almost sure that his fears were correct, for they had noticed two
companies of horsemen go by, and they thought that there were some young
people with one of them. Still, he waited and watched, and wondered why
the _coterel_ did not come, until nightfall, and then he set out to
return to Viteau. Without his robber companion,—whom, by the way, he
never saw again, for the fellow was afraid to return to his captain,
having lost his horse,—it was quite impossible for him to find his way
back in the dark, and in less than an hour he was hopelessly lost.
Finding no wood-cutter, or any one else, who could show him his way, he
wandered about until he and his horse were tired out, and then they
spent the rest of the night under a tree.

The page was quite right when he supposed that Count Hugo's party had
passed along the high road before he reached it. The travelers had
pressed on vigorously during their homeward journey, and meeting with no
hindrances,—of _brabancois_, or anything else,—they rode into the gates
of Barran's castle before nightfall of the day on which the page had
missed them.

As soon as they had entered the court-yard, the two boys sprang from
their horses and ran to the great door of the castle. But here they were
met by the Count de Barran, who, with outstretched arms, stopped them as
they were hurrying to their mother's apartments, and, as gently as he
could, told them,—with Agnes and her father, who had now come up,—the
story of the visit of the Inquisitors and the flight of the Countess.

The poor boys were almost overcome by this entirely unlooked-for and
dreadful news. They had hurried back, excited and happy with the good
tidings they were bringing their mother, only to find that she had
utterly disappeared, and no one could tell them whether she was safe, or
had fallen into the hands of her persecutors. Louis burst into tears,
and fell on the neck of his brother, who folded him in his arms, and,
without a word, the two boys stumbled up the stairs, and were seen no
more that night.

Early the next morning, Raymond and Louis, still with pale and
tear-stained faces, but unable to remain quiet any longer, came down to
the stables, and, ordering two horses to be saddled, mounted them, and
rode away to look for their mother.

If any of their elders had known of their intention, they would not have
been allowed to go. This they well knew, and so they hurried away before
any one but the servants of the castle was awake. They felt that they
hated the Count de Barran for having let their mother go away, without
knowing where she could be found or heard from, and they wished to have
nothing more to do with him. And they had come to the belief that no one
but themselves could do anything for their mother now, and that they
must ride the whole world over until they had found her.

Each was armed with sword and dagger, and they had some money with them
to buy food. As to plans, they had made only one, and that was to ride
so far that day that Barran would not be likely to find them and bring
them back; and then they would make inquiries, and come to some decision
as to which direction they should go in their mournful search.

The sun was about two hours' high, and they had ridden quite a long
distance, when they saw coming toward them on the road a boy upon a
horse. In a moment they recognized their mother's page, and he as soon
knew them. The three young fellows rushed together, and began
clamorously to ask questions. The page being only one against two was
soon obliged to surrender in this question conflict, and to give answers
to his eager young masters.

When Raymond and Louis heard that their mother was at Viteau, they asked
nothing more, but giving a shout of joy, turned their horses' heads
toward their old home, for they were on a road leading directly thereto,
which the page had at last found.

Onward and onward the three galloped, much to the weariness of their
poor horses, and some hours before nightfall they reached Viteau, where
they were readily admitted by Michol, who gave Raymond and Louis even a
more eager welcome than that with which he had opened the gates to their
mother.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER XVII.

NOW that he had not only the Countess of Viteau, but her two sons, under
his control and in his power, Michol became very anxious to settle the
matter of the ransom-money which he intended to demand for his
prisoners, as he considered them.

He set one of his new men, who happened to be a truer scribe than Jasto,
at work to write a carefully-worded paper, to be sent to Count de
Barran, and in it he stated the terms on which he would release the
Countess and her sons and retire, with his men, from Viteau.

The Countess, now happy in the possession of her sons, and having the
good news from the King, was very desirous to start immediately for the
castle of the Count de Barran, where she expected the priests from Paris
would soon arrive. She was greatly surprised and disappointed when she
found that Michol would not let her go until the ransoms had been paid;
and the two boys were very angry, and wanted to go down and demand that
Michol should instantly order the gates to be opened to them. But their
mother restrained them. They were now in the power of these robbers, and
they must be prudent.

Michol, having understood that the Countess was not herself prepared to
pay any money, had prudently determined to transact his business with
Barran alone. He was very glad, however, to have her write a letter
requesting the Count to pay the ransoms demanded, promising to return
the money when she again took charge of her estates and business
affairs, and urging him to use all possible haste in settling the matter
with the captain of the _cotereaux_.

This letter, with the one from Michol, was sent to the Count the day
after the arrival of Raymond and Louis at Viteau, and it gave the people
at the castle the first news of the whereabouts of the Countess, and
also relieved them from the new anxiety caused by the departure of the
boys, for whom search was at that time being made.

But while these news gladdened the hearts and relieved the minds of the
Count de Barran and his friends, the terms of Michol's letter vexed them
exceedingly, and threatened to embarrass them very much. The wily robber
knew that there were urgent reasons why the Countess should, as soon as
possible, be at liberty to attend to private affairs, and therefore he
greatly increased the demands he had before determined to make.

Not only did he require the payment of the amount originally fixed as
the ransom for Louis, but he asked a very large sum for the release of
the Countess; quite as much for Raymond's ransom; a smaller sum for
Bernard; and a good price for his so-called services in taking care of
the chateau, and protecting its inmates.

Beside all this, he demanded that Jasto, the man who had deserted him,
should be delivered to him for punishment.

Although Count de Barran was a rich nobleman, the total amount named in
this letter was far more money than he had in his possession at the
time; and far more, too, than the Countess could afford to repay him, if
he had had it to send to Michol. Still, although he was very much
annoyed and provoked by the impudent demands of the robber captain, he
said that there was nothing to be done but to accede to them; for the
Countess must be released, and that instantly. Not only was it
positively necessary for her to be at the castle when the priests from
Paris arrived (for it was not at all likely that they would be willing
to go to Viteau and trust themselves among a gang of thieves), but he
was afraid that, if the terms of Michol were resisted, or even disputed,
he might be provoked to do some injury to the Countess or her sons in
order to hasten the payment of the ransoms. Such conduct was not
uncommon among these thieves. For these reasons, he would endeavor to
raise the money and pay it, as soon as possible.

Sir Charles was very indignant at that portion of the letter relating to
Jasto. He had been very glad to regain his old servant, who had left him
on account of a quarrel with a squire, and who, according to his own
account, had been obliged to join the _cotereaux_ because he could find
nothing else to do; and he stoutly declared that he would not reward
Jasto's good action in bringing Louis to his mother by delivering him to
the vengeance of the scoundrel, Michol.

As this determination would make it useless to send the money to Viteau,
if Michol insisted on the surrender of Jasto, Barran sent a message, in
great haste, to the captain of the _cotereaux_, to inquire if he would
be willing to take a ransom for Jasto, and also to ask if he would
release the Countess and her company on the payment of half of the total
sum demanded, and be content to remain at Viteau until the rest should
be paid.

To this Michol sent a very short answer, in which he declared that he
would accept no terms for the release of his prisoners but the delivery
of Jasto and the payment of the entire sum named in his letter.

The messengers who brought this answer also brought the news of the
fight with the Inquisition people.

Such startling intelligence as this produced a great effect upon the
mind of Barran, as it showed him to what length the robber captain was
willing to go, in order to secure the possession of his prisoners and
the payment of their ransoms; and he set out that very day, accompanied
by his chief seneschal and other attendants, to visit some of his
estates, and also some small towns at no great distance, and there
endeavor to collect the money needed. The Jasto question, he thought,
must be settled as best it could be. His safety must not interfere with
that of the Countess.

As for Count Hugo, he would have nothing to do with this business. He
utterly disapproved of paying the exorbitant sums demanded by Michol, or
indeed any money at all, for the release of a noble lady and her sons,
whom the rascals had no right whatever to hold or to ask ransom for. If
this money should be paid, he said, it would show all the thieves and
outlaws of the country that the nobles of France were willing to pay
them enormous sums for any ladies and high-born children that they might
steal. Heretofore, they expected vengeance if they attempted anything of
the kind, but now they would expect such deeds to make them rich. To be
sure, this case was a peculiar one; but never, he declared, as a knight
of Christendom, would he submit to the vile exactions of a common robber
like Michol.

And little Agnes cried, and wandered about moaning, and wished she was a
man. What she would have done if she had been a man she did not know,
but certainly she could do nothing as a little girl, or even as a
grown-up woman.

Jasto, when he was told what his old master had said in regard to him,
retired into a remote part of the castle where he could not be easily
found, and diligently occupied his time with some writing materials
which he had brought from Paris.

"I must e'en make haste and learn to be a true scribe," he said to
himself, "for if my master finds me out, he may be only too willing to
toss me into the jaws of the _cotereaux_. So, hard will I work at this
alphabet and this little book of words, and keep a sharp eye and ear
open for any change in Sir Charles's mind about his good man Jasto. It
will be a doughty man-at-arms and a vigilant who delivers me to Michol."

Not long after the Count de Barran had started on his money-raising
errand, Count Hugo set out on a little journey to the monastery, a few
miles from Viteau, where the wounded Comines and other disabled members
of the Inquisitorial force were said to be still lying. He wished to
find out whether orders had been received to cease attempts to arrest
the Countess, and also to discover the exact truth, as far as possible,
about the fight with the _cotereaux_ and the strength of Michol's
forces.

As he was going into what might prove a dangerous neighborhood, he took
with him a body of about thirty-five horsemen, all completely clad in
armor, of which there were many suits in the castle, and all well armed.
Some of these men were his own retainers, and others belonged to the
retinue of Sir Charles, who did not accompany his friend, as Count Hugo
thought it well that some knight should remain at the castle, from which
nearly all the visitors had now departed.

When Count Hugo de Lannes reached the monastery, he found that Comines
was too much injured to speak or think about the affair in which he had
been engaged, but he learned from the monks that no recent message had
arrived for Comines, and he also heard how the _cotereaux_ had robbed
him of his clothes and armor, and had even taken, it was supposed, all
his papers of authority from the Inquisition.

From this information, Count Hugo felt sure that the Countess need be
under no fear of trouble from the Inquisitors before the message to
desist from further action should reach them. Comines, although he had
excellent surgical and medical attention from the monks, would not
recover for some time; and none of the other members of his party would
be likely to attempt to carry off a noble lady through a great part of
France, without being able to show any warrant for their proceedings.

It had been late in the day when Count Hugo arrived at the monastery,
and it was quite dark when, after his party had been furnished with a
good supper by the monks, he took leave of his entertainers.

He did not take the straight road back to the castle, but struck off
toward Viteau. His men traveled slowly by the light of the stars. Some
time before they reached the chateau, a halt was ordered by a small
wood; and there Count Hugo had a ladder made.

Two straight young saplings, which were easily selected by the men,
whose eyes were now accustomed to the dim light, were hewn down for the
uprights of the ladder, and slight notches were cut into them at
suitable distances for the rounds. These were made of short, strong
pieces of other saplings, quickly cut into proper lengths, and were
fastened to the uprights by strong leathern thongs, of which one of the
men had brought a number tied to his saddle.

When this rude ladder was finished, one horseman took it by one end,
another took it by the other, and the cavalcade proceeded.

Reaching Viteau,—which they did not approach by the front, but on the
southern side,—the horses were tied at some distance from the
court-yard, and left in charge of several of the soldiers, while the
other men, carrying the ladder, quietly made their way to the side-wall
of the court. There had been a moat on the outside of this wall, but
after the wars were over, and the Count de Viteau had died, this moat
had been allowed to go dry, and so Count Hugo and his men were able to
walk up to the wall and set their ladder against it. The Count, with
three or four followers, then got over the wall, and when they were in
the court-yard they cautiously moved toward the great gate. They
encountered no one, for, although the _cotereaux_ preserved moderately
good discipline, they did not keep a very strict guard at night,
expecting no attack from any quarter.

Arriving at the gate, the Count found there one sentry fast asleep. This
fellow was quickly seized and bound, with a scarf over his mouth; and
the gate being opened, the remainder of the Count's force, which had
been ordered around to the front, was noiselessly admitted.

The whole body then proceeded to the chateau, where a dim light could be
seen shining through a wide crack at the door of the principal entrance.
This crack, which was between the edge of the door and its casement,
showed that one bolt was the only fastening which the robbers had
thought it necessary to use in securing this entrance; and when the
Count had made himself certain of this fact, he signaled to a tall man
who carried a great battle-ax, apparently brought for use in a case like
this, and motioned to him to use his weapon on the fastening of the
door.

Two tremendous blows, which resounded through the house, shattered the
bolt, and the door was immediately dashed open.

Count Hugo, who had carefully made all his plans, rushed in, with four
men at his heels, and hurried up the stair-way which led to the
apartments of the Countess and her sons. There were hanging-lamps in the
halls, and he knew the house quite well.

At the top of the stairs he encountered Bernard, who slept outside of
the door of his mistress's apartments, and who, aroused by the noise and
seeing five armed men coming up the stairs, had sprung to his feet and
seized his sword, prepared to do his best for the defense of the
Countess and her boys. But when Count Hugo raised his visor and spoke to
him, the brave but frightened squire immediately recognized him as a
friend.

"Stay here!" cried the Count, "with these four men. Guard the stair-way.
Let no one go up or down!" And, with these words, he dashed alone down
into the great hallway, where the sounds of fighting and of calls to
arms were heard, and threw himself into the combat that was going on
between his men and a dozen or so of the robbers who had rushed to the
door-way when they heard the noise of the ax.

But there was not much fighting inside the chateau. Most of the
_cotereaux_ lodged in the lower part of the house approached from the
outside by various doors, or in the outhouses and stables, and the
court-yard was now filled with these, hastily armed to repel the
intruders.

The robbers in the hallway were soon forced into this court-yard, and
into the midst of the _cotereaux_ Count Hugo, with the whole body of his
followers, now boldly plunged. Such attacks as these, made by one or two
knights with a few attendants against a much greater force, were very
popular in those days of chivalry. For, whether the rash onslaught were
successful or not, the glory was the same. And if the safety or honor of
a lady happened to be concerned, the unequal combat was the more
attractive to the knights. For a lady in those days was often the cause
of a knight's fiercest battles and the subject of nearly all his songs.
These combats, however, were not always quite so unequal as they seemed,
for a knight clad from head to foot in armor was more than equal to
three or four soldiers not so well guarded by steel plates and rings.

The Count's men, as has been said before, each wore a complete suit of
armor, while the _cotereaux_, although much better protected in this way
than most men of their class, were none of them completely dressed in
mail. This, with the darkness of the night and the suddenness of the
combat, gave the attacking party great advantage.

As they had been instructed, the Count's men scattered themselves among
their opponents, shouting the battle-cry of De Lannes, and striking
furiously right and left. This gave the _cotereaux_ the idea that their
enemies were in much greater number than they really were,—and half a
dozen of these mailed warriors sometimes banding together and rushing
through the throng gave the idea of re-enforcements,—while the horses
outside, hearing the noises of clattering steel and the cries of the
combatants, neighed and snorted, and their attendants shouted, making
the robbers suppose there were other forces beyond the walls.

The Countess and her sons were, of course, quickly aroused by the din
and turmoil below, and Raymond and Louis rushed to the door, where they
were met by Bernard, who told them all he knew, and that was that Count
Hugo de Lannes had come to the chateau with a lot of soldiers and was
fighting the _cotereaux_.

The Countess knew not what to think of this most unexpected occurrence,
and hastily dressed herself to be ready for whatever might happen, while
the two boys, throwing on their clothes and seizing their swords,
endeavored to rush down-stairs and join in the conflict. But this
Bernard and the men on the stair-way prevented, and the boys were
obliged to be contented with listening to the sounds of battle and with
seeing what little they could discern from the upper windows.

Meanwhile, the struggle raged fiercely below, the crowd of combatants
surging from one side to the other of the court. It was not long,
however, before the _cotereaux_ began to be demoralized by the fierce
and wild attacks of their mailed antagonists. Michol had been killed,
and there was no one to command and rally them. Some of them, being hard
pressed and finding the great gate open, rushed wildly through and were
lost in the outer darkness; and before long the main body of the
_cotereaux_, finding that many of their companions were retreating
through the gate, were seized with a panic and a desire to fly while
they had the opportunity.

[Illustration: THE ROBBERS IN THE HALLWAY WERE SOON FORCED INTO THE
COURT-YARD.]

A great rush was therefore soon made for the gate, out of which the
_cotereaux_ pushed and crowded—even carrying with them in their rush
some of the Count's men who were fighting in their midst.

This flight was precisely what Count Hugo had wished to bring about. It
would have been impossible for him to conquer and subdue so many men
with his small number of followers. But he had purposely left the great
gate open, and hoped by this sudden and determined onslaught in the dark
to throw the _cotereaux_ into disorder, and thus be able to drive them
from the chateau.

Accordingly, he massed his men as quickly as he could, and, making a
circuit of the court, drove before him every straggling _coterel_, and
then, following the retreating robbers through the gates, pursued their
straggling forces through bushes and fields as far as they could be
seen. Then calling his men together, and ordering the horses to be
brought into the court-yard, Count Hugo hastened back to the chateau,
and the great gate was shut and bolted behind them. With torch and
lantern every part of the chateau was now searched, and none of the
_cotereaux_, excepting the killed and wounded, having been found
therein, the Count pronounced his victory complete, and proceeded up the
stairs to the apartments of the Countess.

Day had now dawned, and the victorious Count Hugo was received by the
boys and their mother with the greatest thankfulness and delight.
Bernard had already told them of the rout of the _cotereaux_, but they
could not understand why the attack had been made, when they had
expected a peaceful settlement of the affair by the payment of the
ransoms.

But when the Count explained the matter to them, and told the Countess
what an enormous sum the robber captain had demanded for their release,
and told Louis that the surrender and probable execution of Jasto was
included in the terms, they did not wonder when he went on to say that
his mind could not endure the idea of submitting to such outrageous and
unjustifiable demands from a common thief of the roads, and that he had
therefore resolved to strike a bold stroke to give them their liberty
without payment or cowardly submission. It is true that if this attack
had failed the safety of the Countess and her boys would have been
endangered; but as it did not fail, nothing was said upon this point.

But the Count gave them little time for thanks or wonderment. As soon as
the necessary preparations could be made and the signs of conflict
removed from the court-yard, he sent the Countess and her party
rejoicing on their way to the castle of Barran. Although the _cotereaux_
had not actually pillaged the chateau, it was impossible for such rude
and disorderly men to live there for any length of time without causing
a good deal of injury to the house and surroundings, making Viteau an
unfit place for a lady to reside in.

Accordingly, with a few of the Count's men-at-arms as an escort,—for no
danger was now apprehended on the road,—the Countess went to the castle,
not, as before, flying wildly from her pursuers, but journeying
pleasantly along in company with her sons and attendants. Bernard, who
now no longer feared to leave his mistress, remained behind to attend to
the renovation and repairs of the chateau, and to make it fit for the
return of its mistress. None of Count Hugo's men had been killed and but
few injured in the fight, for they had protected themselves in the
darkness from attack from each other by continually shouting the
battle-cry of De Lannes, and the _cotereaux_ had not been able to make
much impression upon their heavy armor.

The Count now determined, with the main body of his soldiers, to follow
up the attack upon the _cotereaux_—to penetrate, if possible, to their
camp, and to destroy it entirely, and to drive the remnant of this band
of thieves from the forests about Viteau.

Therefore he also remained at the chateau, which he intended making his
basis of operations in the projected campaign of extermination against
the remaining _cotereaux_.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER XVIII.

BARRAN was much delayed in his endeavors to obtain the money necessary
for the ransoms, and he found a great deal of difficulty in collecting
it at all at such short notice. And wearied with his unpleasant and
annoying task, and with his mind full of doubts and anxieties regarding
the obstacles and complications that might yet arise from the probable
refusal of Sir Charles to surrender Jasto, he rode into his castle the
day after the arrival of the Countess.

His astonishment and delight upon finding the Countess and her family
safe within his walls, and on hearing that Viteau was free from every
robber and in the possession of its rightful owner, and that for all
this no ransom or price of any kind was to be paid, can well be
imagined. And when he and the Countess talked the matter over, it became
evident to the lady that to repay the Count the sums he intended to
advance—which payment she most certainly would have made—would have
impoverished her for years.

All was now happiness and satisfaction at the castle, but no one was
happier or better satisfied than the ex-robber, Jasto. Now that his
enemy, Michol, was dead, he felt that his own life was safe; for it
would be no longer necessary to sacrifice him for the good of others. He
sat down in a corner of the court-yard, and thought the matter over.

"As to that ransom," he said to himself, "which was due me for returning
the boy Louis to his sorrowing mother, I must make some proper
settlement about it. Half of it I remitted when the boy saved me from
the hands of the bloody-minded _brabancois_, and one-half of what was
left I took off when these good people gave back to me again my brave
and noble master, Sir Charles. And now that that great knight, Sir Hugo
de Lannes, has killed Michol and saved my life, I do remit what is left,
which is only a quarter of the whole sum—after all, hardly equal to the
benefit received; for when a man's life is in danger as much from his
friends as his enemies, it is a very great benefit, indeed, to have it
saved. But, as I have no money with which to make up the balance, I will
e'en call the account settled, and so it is."

As Jasto took so much credit to himself for this generous determination,
it was not to be expected he should keep the matter secret, and he
therefore communicated it to Louis the first time he saw the boy, giving
him in careful detail his reasons for what he had intended to do, and
what he had done.

All this Louis very soon told to his mother; and the Countess,
remembering that she had promised Jasto a reward, and feeling a little
ashamed that it had passed out of her mind, took the hint which Jasto
had undoubtedly intended to throw out, and sent him a sum of money
which, if used with ordinary economy, would make it unnecessary for him
ever again to wear a suit of clothes resembling a map of a country with
the counties and departments marked out with borderlines of red silk.

A week afterward, when Jasto left the castle with Sir Charles, his
education had progressed sufficiently to enable him, with the assistance
of his alphabet and his little manuscript book, to write a short and
simple message so that it could be read. But he intended to persevere in
his studies until he had become as good a scribe as his master formerly
supposed him to be.

By the aid of some deserters from the band of _cotereaux_, who came over
to him when they found out his object, Count Hugo soon discovered the
encampment of the robbers, which he utterly destroyed, and then,
following them to their several retreats, succeeded in breaking up their
organization and in driving them from that part of the country.

He then returned to the castle of Barran, where he was most warmly
welcomed by everybody, and where his little daughter Agnes was prouder
of her brave father than she had ever been before.

In a few weeks, the Count de Lannes found himself obliged to return to
his own castle, which lay several days' journey to the west; and he and
Agnes took a regretful leave of all their dear friends, the little girl
shedding tears of heartfelt sorrow as she shook her handkerchief for the
last time to the boys and their mother, who stood watching her departure
from the battlements.

"I wonder," said Louis, "if we shall ever see them again."

Nothing was said for a moment, and then his mother remarked: "I
think—that is, I have reason to believe—that we shall soon see the Count
and his daughter again."

"Why do you think so, mother?" asked Raymond.

The Countess did not answer him immediately, and just then they were
joined by the Count de Barran, and no more was said on the subject.

The Countess did not remain much longer at the castle. As soon as the
squire Bernard had restored her chateau to its former orderly condition,
she bade good-bye to her kind entertainer and friend, and departed with
her boys for her own home.

Nothing had been heard of the priests who were to be sent from Paris,
but there might be many good reasons for their delay; and arrangements
were made for a courier to be sent to Viteau as soon as they should
arrive at the castle. The Countess would have been happy to have had her
suspense in regard to this unfortunate affair set permanently at rest,
but she knew the Inquisitorial party had gone back to Toulouse as soon
as their leader was able to accomplish the journey; and having been
assured of the protection of her King, she felt safe from unjust
prosecution.

On the morning after their arrival at Viteau, Louis, who was gladly
wandering all about the house and grounds, went into a little room on
the lower floor which was opposite the sleeping apartment of the squire
Bernard. Here, by the light of a small window near the ceiling, he saw,
upon a perch in one corner of the room, a falcon, secured by a string
which was tied to its leg. Louis threw the door wide open in order to
get a better light, and narrowly examined the bird.

"Why, Bernard!" he cried to the squire, who just then entered the room,
"this looks exactly like the falcon I took from this very perch the
morning of the day I first went to De Barran's castle."

"Of course it looks like it," said the squire, "for it is the same
falcon."

"The same falcon!" exclaimed Louis. "And on the same perch! Why, that is
a miracle!"

"It is no miracle at all," answered Bernard; "it is a very simple thing
when you come to know all about it. After the rascally _cotereaux_ had
been driven out of this place, I found the falcon fastened to this
perch, and, by marks I had filed upon his beak, I knew him for the same
bird I had trained for your brother Raymond. Of course, I was
astonished; but, on thinking the matter over, I supposed that this must
be the bird which the robbers had stolen from you, and that, bringing it
with them when they came here to live,—the rascally scoundrels!—they
naturally put it in this room, which they could see had been planned and
fitted for the keeping of falcons. Looking into the matter still
further, I asked Orion, the chief falconer of Count Hugo, who was one of
the men he had brought here with him, what kind of bird it was he had
given to you when the Count desired that you should have one. Orion then
told me it was a falcon which had come to him only the day before. He
had been out hawking with his master, and was bringing down to him by
means of a lure a falcon that had made an unsuccessful flight, when a
strange hawk made its appearance and also answered his call, and came
down to the lure. Knowing it to be a falcon which had been lost by some
hunter, and to be a well-trained bird, he seized and hooded it and took
it home with him. The next day, when he was ordered to give a bird to a
boy, he much preferred to part with this one, which he had just found,
to giving away any of the falcons he had reared and trained himself. And
this is the whole of the matter."

"You may think it a very simple story," said Louis, "but I think it is
wonderful. I am ever so glad to have the falcon back again; and just
think, Bernard, if it had not been for my losing that bird, ever so many
troubles would not have happened, and those wicked thieves would never
have come to this chateau!"

The squire agreed that this was true, but he thought more than he said.
He thought that if Louis's kind heart had not been anxious to repair the
injury done his brother, he would not have been captured by the
_cotereaux_; and that, if he had not been captured by the _cotereaux_,
no ransom would have been demanded for him; and if no ransom had been
demanded, the robbers never would have seized upon Viteau to enforce
their claims; and if they had not been at Viteau, there would have been
no place of refuge for the Countess when flying from the Inquisitors;
and that, instead of the happiness which was now so general at the
chateau, all might have been misery. But he said nothing of this to
Louis, for he thought it not right that boys should take to themselves
too much credit for what they might do.

But although contentment seemed to reign at Viteau, this was not really
the case. True, the chateau had been completely renovated, and all
traces of its occupation by the _cotereaux_ had been removed; but the
Countess could not forget that it had been the abode of thieves, and
that bloody and violent deeds had so lately taken place before its gates
and within its very court-yard. Then, too, she felt that she must soon
be separated from her boys. Raymond must go to school at Paris, and
Louis must return to his duties as the page of the Count de Barran. And
this separation seemed a very different thing to her now from what it
did before these troubles came upon her.

Louis was particularly discontented. "I do not want to go back to
Barran," he said to his brother. "I do not believe he is a true knight."

"What!" cried Raymond, in surprise. "You should not speak thus, Louis.
No man has ever said such a thing of the Count de Barran."

"I suppose not," said Louis, "but I am a boy, and I can say it. He stood
still and did nothing when our mother had to fly for her life from his
castle; and he wanted to buy us away from the thieves, instead of coming
and taking us boldly, as a true knight should. Count Hugo is a different
kind of a knight."

"But you should not forget," said Raymond, "how kind and generous the
Count de Barran has always been to us. He worked in his own way for our
mother's good."

"Oh, yes," said Louis, "I shall not forget that; but I do not want to go
back to him."

Matters were in this condition when, one beautiful day in autumn, Count
Hugo came again to Viteau. This time he did not clamber over the wall,
but rode in bravely at the front gate. He was not followed by a body of
steel-clad soldiers, but he brought his daughter Agnes, with her
attendants, and a company of followers in gay and bright array. He did
not come to conquer, but he came because he had been conquered. He came
to ask the lovely Countess of Viteau to be his wife.

A few weeks after this, when the days were becoming clear and frosty,
there was a wedding at Viteau. There were many guests; there was
feasting, and music, and great joy. Little Agnes had now a mother, and
Raymond and Louis a brave and noble father.

And when the wedding was over, the Countess rode away with her husband
to his castle of De Lannes, and her two boys went with her—Raymond,
because it was on his road to Paris, and Louis, because he was to be
taught to be a knight by Count Hugo, who had admired and loved the boy
almost from the first time he had seen him.

The priests from Paris never came to catechise the Countess. The truth
was, that the young King was not so much of a king as he had supposed
himself to be; for his mother, Queen Blanche, was not willing that the
crown should interfere in any way with the operations of the
Inquisition, and had not consented that the priests should be sent to
the castle of Barran. But as it became known that the King had taken an
interest in the matter, and as it was probably considered unwise to
bring a religious prosecution against the wife of the Count de
Lannes,—who was not only a powerful nobleman, but a warm supporter of
both Church and state, and who was also known to have punished and
exterminated the band of _cotereaux_ who had attacked the Inquisitorial
party,—the matter was suffered to drop, and nothing more was ever heard
of it.

Viteau was left in charge of Bernard, who would faithfully administer
its affairs until Raymond should be of age to come and take possession
of the establishment and the estates.

And now, as our friends have left the chateau, with whose varying
fortunes we have, for a time, been interested, we will leave it also;
and the story of Viteau is told.



                                THE END.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

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                 Charles Scribner's Sons      New York

------------------------------------------------------------------------



 ● Transcriber's Notes:
    ○ Missing or obscured punctuation was corrected.
    ○ Typographical errors were silently corrected.
    ○ Inconsistant hyphenation was corrected (courtyard/court-yard,
      bright-red/bright red, out-door/outdoor, high road/high-road,
      ransom money/ransom-money, hall-way/hallway, robber-captain/robber
      captain)





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