Huguenot Wars

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2. An Important Decision



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

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

Gaspard Vaillant makes a proposal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What do you think?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"We should ask nothing better, madame."

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

"This is my daughter Jean, madame.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"And the men. Are they trustworthy fellows?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The men saluted and went out.

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

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

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

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