Huguenot Wars


21. Escape

"This is awful, Pierre," Philip said, as he hurriedly assumed the disguise the latter had prepared.

The clamour outside was indeed terrible. The bell of Saint Germain l'Auxerrois was still sounding its signal, but mingled with it were a thousand sounds of combat and massacre, the battering of hammers and axes upon doors, the discharges of arquebuses and pistols, the shouts of men and the loud screams of women.

Pierre glanced out of the window. With the soldiers were mingled a crowd from the slums of Paris; who, scenting carnage from the movements of the citizen troops, had waited in readiness to gather the spoil; and had arrived on the spot, as if by magic, as soon as the first signal of alarm told them that the work of slaughter had begun.

"Can we get out behind, think you, Pierre?" Philip asked, as he joined him.

"I will see, sir. One could scarce sally out, here, without being at once seized and questioned. Doubtless a watch was placed in the rear, at first; but the soldiers would be likely to make off, to join in the massacre and get their share of plunder, as soon as the affair began.

"You will do, sir, as far as the dress goes; but you must smear your face and arms. They are far too white, at present, and would be instantly noticed."

Philip rubbed his hands, blackened by his passage across the roofs, over his face and arms; and then joined Claire, who started, as he entered.

"I did not know you," she said. "Come; are we ready? It were surely better to die at once, than to listen to these dreadful sounds."

"One moment. Pierre will return directly. He has gone to see whether the lane behind the houses is clear. Once fairly away, and our course will be easier."

Pierre returned almost immediately.

"The way is clear."

"Let us go, then, mademoiselle."

"One moment, monsieur. Let us pray before we start. We may have no time, there."

And, standing with upturned face, she prayed earnestly for protection.

"Lead us, O God," she concluded, "through the strife and turmoil; as Thou didst the holy men of old, through the dangers of the lions and the furnace. But if it be Thy will that we should die, then do we commend our souls to Thee; in the sure faith that we are but passing through death into life.

"Now I am ready," she said, turning to Philip.

"You cannot go like this, Mademoiselle Claire," Pierre said reverently. "Of what good would that disguise be to you, when your face would betray you in the darkest street? You must ruffle your hair, and pull that hood over your face, so as to hide it as much as possible."

The girl walked across to a mirror.

Philip, Claire and Pierre disguise themselves.

"I would I could take my sword, Pierre," said Philip.

"Take it, sir. Strap it boldly round your waist. If anyone remarks on it, laugh, and say it was a Huguenot's half an hour ago. I will carry mine stuck under my arm.

"Use as few words as may be, if you have to speak; and speak them gruffly, or they will discover at once that you are no smith. I fear not for ourselves. We can play our parts--fight or run for it. It is that angel I fear for."

"God will protect her, Pierre. Ah! They are knocking at the door, and the women of the house may be coming down to open it."

"Not they, sir. You may be sure they are half mad with terror. Not one has shown herself, since the tumult began. The landlord and his two sons are, doubtless, with the city bands. Like enough they have led some of their fellows here, or why should they attack the door, as it is unmarked?"

Claire joined them again. They hurried downstairs, and then out by the back entrance into a narrow lane. Philip carried a heavy hammer on his shoulder. Pierre had a large butcher's knife stuck conspicuously in his girdle. He was bare headed and had dipped his head in water, so that his hair fell matted across his face, which was grimy and black.

Day was now breaking, but the light was as yet faint.

"Keep close to me, Claire," Philip said as they reached the street, which was ablaze with torches. "Above all things do not shrink, or seem as if you were afraid."

"I am not afraid," she said. "God saved me before from as great a peril, and will save me again, if it seems good to Him."

"Keep your eyes fixed on me. Pay no attention to what is going on around you."

"I will pray," she said simply.

Just as they entered the street the crowd separated, and the Duke of Guise, followed by several nobles of his party, rode along, shouting:

"Death to all Huguenots! It is the king's command."

"It is the command you and others have put into his mouth, villain!" Philip muttered to himself.

A roar of ferocious assent rose from the crowd, which was composed of citizen soldiers and the scum of Paris. They danced and yelled, and uttered ferocious jests at the dead bodies lying in the road.

Here the work of slaughter was nearly complete. Few of the Huguenots had offered any resistance, although some had fought desperately to the last. Most of them, however, taken by surprise, and seeing resistance useless, had thrown down their arms; and either cried for quarter, or had submitted themselves calmly to slaughter. Neither age nor sex had availed to save them. Women and children, and even infants, had been slain without mercy.

The soldiers, provided with lists of the houses inhabited by Huguenots, were going round to see that none had escaped attack. Many in the crowd were attired in articles of dress that they had gained in the plunder. Ragged beggars wore cloaks of velvet, or plumed hats. Many had already been drinking heavily. Women mingled in the crowd, as ferocious and merciless as the men.

"Break me in this door, friend," an officer, with a list in his hand and several soldiers standing beside him, said to Philip.

The latter did not hesitate. To do so would have brought destruction on himself and those with him; without averting, for more than a minute or two, the fate of those within. Placing himself in front of the door, he swung his heavy hammer and brought it down upon the woodwork. A dozen blows, and the door began to splinter.

The crack of a pistol sounded above, and the officer standing close to him fell dead. Four or five shots were fired, by the soldiers, at the window above. Another two or three blows, and the door gave way.

Philip went aside as the soldiers, followed by a crowd, rushed in; and returned to Claire, who was standing by the side of Pierre, a few paces away.

"Let us go on," he said.

A few yards further they were at the entrance of a lane running north. As Philip turned into it, a man caught him by the arm.

"Where are you going, comrade?" he said. "There is plenty of work for your hammer, yet."

"I have a job elsewhere," Philip said.

"It is rare work, comrade. I have killed five of them with my own hand, and I have got their purses, too," he chuckled.

"Hallo! Who is this girl you have with you?"

And he roughly caught hold of Claire.

Philip's pent-up rage found a vent. He sprang upon the man, seized him by the throat, and hurled him with tremendous force against the wall; whence he fell, a senseless mass, on to the ground.

"What is it?" cried half a dozen men, rushing up.

"A Huguenot in disguise," Philip said. "You will find his pockets are full of gold."

They threw themselves upon the fallen man, fighting and cursing to be the first to ransack his pockets; while Philip, with his two companions, moved up the lane unnoticed.

Fifty yards farther Claire stumbled, and would have fallen had not Philip caught her. Her head had fallen forward, and he felt at once that she was insensible. He placed her on a doorstep, and supported her in a sitting position, Pierre standing by. A minute later a group of men came hurrying down the street.

"What is it?" one of the group asked, as he stopped for a moment.

"It is only a woman, squeamish," Pierre said in a rough voice. "She would come with us, thinking she could pick up a trinket or two; but, ma foi, it is hot down there, and she turned sick. So we are taking her home."

Satisfied with the explanation, the men hurried on.

"Shall I carry her, Pierre? Her weight would be nothing."

"Better wait a few minutes, Monsieur Philip, and see if she comes round. Our story is right enough, as long as we stop here; but people might want to know more, if they were to meet you carrying a woman."

Some minutes passed, and then, finding that Claire remained unconscious, Philip lifted her on to his shoulder.

"We will risk it, Pierre. As long as we only meet them coming along in twos or threes, we can go on safely; for if they are inquisitive, I can set her down and speedily silence their questioning. If we see a large body coming, we can either turn down a side street or, if there is no turning at hand, can set her down again and answer as before. Every step we get, farther away from the quarter we have left, the better."

He had carried Claire but a few hundred yards, when he felt her move. He at once set her down again, on a doorstep. In a few minutes she was able to stand and, assisted by Philip, she presently continued her course, at a slow pace. Gradually the movement restored her strength, and she said, speaking for the first time:

"I can walk alone."

An hour later they reached the hut that they had marked out as their place of refuge. Pierre went to a corner and drew out, from under a heap of rubbish, a large bundle.

"Here is your cloak and mine," he said, "and a change of clothes for each of us. We could not wander about the country, in this guise."

Philip laid the cloaks down to form a sort of couch; and placed the bundle, with the rest of the things in, as a pillow.

"Now, mademoiselle," he said, "you will be safe here until nightfall. First you must drink a glass of wine, and try and eat something. Pierre brought some up here, two days ago. Then I hope you will lie down. I will watch outside the door. Pierre will go down into the town, to gather news."

"I will take something presently," she said. "I could eat nothing, now."

But Pierre had already uncorked a bottle, and Philip advised her to drink a little wine.

"You will need all your strength," he said, "for we have a long journey before us."

She drank a few drops.

"Do not go yet," she said. "I must speak to you."

Philip nodded to Pierre, who left the hut. Claire sat on the cloaks for some minutes, in silence.

"I have been thinking, Monsieur Philip," she said at last, "and it seems to me that it would not be right for me to go with you. I am the promised wife of the Sieur de Pascal, and that promise is all the more sacred, since he to whom I gave it,"--and she paused--"is gone. It would not be right for me to go with you. You shall take me to the Louvre, where I will crave the protection of the King and Queen of Navarre.

"Do not think me ungrateful for what you have done for me. Twice now you have saved my life, and, and--you understand me, Philip?"

"I do," he said, "and honour your scruples. One of my objects, in sending Pierre down into the town again, is to learn what has taken place at the Louvre. It may be that this fiendish massacre has extended there, and that even the King of Navarre, and the Huguenot gentlemen with him, have shared the fate of the others. Should it not be so, it would be best in every way that what you suggest should be carried out.

"As for the Sieur de Pascal, it may be that the blow, that has bereft you of your good father, may well have fallen upon him, also."

"But many will surely escape, as we have done. It cannot be that all our friends--all those who rode in with the princes--can have been murdered."

"Some have doubtless escaped; but I fear that the massacre will be almost universal, for it has evidently been carefully planned and, once begun, will extend not only to the followers of Navarre, but to all the Protestants within the walls of Paris."

"Do you know aught concerning the Sieur de Pascal?" Claire asked, looking up.

Something in the tone of his voice struck her.

"I saw him fall, mademoiselle. He had made for the door of your house, doubtless with the intention of joining your father in defending it to the last; but the murderers were already there. He was attacked on the doorstep, and was surrounded, and well-nigh spent, when I saw him. I tried to reach him through the crowd but, before I could do so, he fell.

"Then, seeing that it would be but throwing away my life, and destroying all chance of saving yours, I hurried away to carry out the plan I had before formed of making my way along the roofs, and so entering your house.

"Monsieur de Pascal fell, mademoiselle, as a brave soldier, fighting against a host of foes, and in defence of yourself and your father. It was an unfortunate, though noble impulse, that led him there; for I had rubbed out the mark upon your door that served as a guide for the soldiers, and you and the count might have escaped over the roof, before any attack was made, had not his presence aroused their suspicions."

Claire had hidden her face in her hands, as he began to speak; and he had kept on talking, in order to give her time to collect her feelings; but as she was now crying unrestrainedly, he went quietly out of the hut and left her to herself; glad that tears had come to her relief, for the first time.

An hour later the door opened behind him, and Claire called him in.

"I am better now," she said, "I have been able to cry. It seemed that my heart was frozen, and I was like one in a terrible nightmare. Now I know that it is all true, and that my dear father is dead.

"As for Monsieur de Pascal, I am sorry that a brave soldier has been killed; but that is all. You know that I received him, as my affianced husband, simply in obedience to my father's commands; and that my heart had no part in it. God has broken the tie, and for that, even in this time of sorrow, I cannot but feel relief."

At this moment there was a knock at the door. Then the latch was lifted, and Pierre entered.

"What is the news, Pierre?"

"It is bad, sir. The king has, in truth, put himself at the head of the massacre; and even in the Louvre, itself, several Huguenot gentlemen have been slain, though I could not learn their names. It is said that some of them were slain in the presence of the young Queen of Navarre, in spite of her entreaties and cries. The young king and his cousin Conde are close prisoners; and it is said that they, too, will be slain, unless they embrace the Catholic faith.

"The massacre has spread to all parts of the town, and the Huguenots are everywhere being dragged from their homes and killed, together with their wives and children. It is said that the bodies of Coligny, and other Huguenot leaders, have been taken to the Louvre; and that the king and the queen mother and the ladies, as well as the gentlemen of the court, have been down to view them and make a jest of them.

"Truly, sir, Paris seems to have gone mad. It is said that orders have been sent, to all parts of France, to exterminate the Huguenots."

Philip made a sign to Pierre to leave the hut.

"This is terrible news," he said to Claire, "and it is now clear that the Louvre will afford you no protection. In these days, no more mercy is shown to women than to men; and at best, or at worst, you could but save your life by renouncing your faith."

"I had already decided," she said quietly, "that I would not go to the Louvre. The death of Monsieur de Pascal has altered everything. As his affianced wife, with the consent of my father, the king would hardly have interfered to have forced me into another marriage; but, being now free, he would treat me as a ward of the crown, and would hand me and my estates to one of his favourites. Anything would be better than that.

"Now, of course, it is out of the question. Estates I have none; for, with the extermination of our people, their estates will be granted to others."

"As to that, mademoiselle, they have been trying to massacre the Huguenots for years; and though, doubtless, in the towns many may fall, they will not be taken so readily in the country; and may, even yet, rally and make head again.

"Still, that does not alter the present circumstances; and I see no other plan but that I had first formed, for you to accompany me and my servant, in disguise."

The girl stood hesitating, twining her fingers over each other, restlessly.

"It is so strange, so unmaidenly," she murmured.

"Then, Claire," Philip said, taking her hands in his, "you must give me the right to protect you. It is strange to speak of love, at such a time as this; but you know that I love you. As a rich heiress, and altogether above my station, even had you been free I might never have spoken; but now, standing as we do surrounded by dangers, such distinctions are levelled. I love you with all my heart, and it seems to me that God, himself, has brought us together."

"It is surely so, Philip," she said, looking up into his face. "Has not God sent you twice to save me? Some day I will tell you of my heart, but not now, dear--not now. I am alone in the world, save you. I am sure that my father, if he now sees us, must approve. Therefore, Philip, henceforth I am your affianced wife, and am ready to follow you to the end of the world." Philip stooped down, and kissed her gently. Then he dropped her hands, and she stood back a little apart from him.

"It were best that I called Pierre in," he said. "Even in this lonely quarter some one might pass and, seeing him standing at the door, wonder who he might be."

So saying, he opened the door and called Pierre in.

"Pierre," he said gravely, "Mademoiselle de Valecourt is now my affianced wife."

"That is as it should be, master," Pierre said; and then, stepping up to Claire, who held out her hand to him, he reverently pressed it with his lips.

"Mademoiselle," he said, "my life will henceforth be at your disposal, as at that of my master. We may have dangers to face, but if anyone can get you through them, he can."

"Thank you, Pierre," the girl said. "It is well, indeed, that we should have with us one so faithful and attached as yourself."

In the hours that passed before nightfall, Philip related to Claire how Pierre's warnings had excited his uneasiness; and how the discovery of the chalk marks, on the doors, had confirmed him in his conviction that some evil was intended; and explained the steps they had taken for providing for an escape from the city.

"I have been wondering vaguely, Philip," she said, when he had told the story, "how it was that you should have appeared so suddenly, and should have a disguise in readiness for me. But how could you have guessed that I should be ready to go with you?"

And for the first time, a slight tinge of colour came into her cheeks.

"It was scarcely a guess, Claire. It was rather a despairing hope. It seemed to me that, amid all this terror and confusion, I might in some way be able to rescue you; and I made the only preparation that seemed possible.

"I knew that you were aware that I loved you. When you told me of your engagement, I felt that you were saying farewell to me. When I thought of saving you, it was for him and not for myself; for I knew that you would never oppose your father's wishes. I did not dream of such a general calamity as it has been. I thought only of a rising of the mob of Paris, and that perhaps an hour or two in disguise might be sufficient, until the king's troops restored order."

"It is very wonderful," Claire said earnestly. "It seems, beyond all doubt, that it is God Himself who has thus given me to you; and I will not doubt that, great as the dangers may seem to be before us, He will lead us safely through them.

"You will make for La Rochelle?"

"Yes. Once there we shall be safe. You may be sure that there, at least, the cruel orders of the king will be wholly disregarded; as we may hope they will be, in many other towns in which the Huguenots are numerous; but at La Rochelle, certainly, were all the rest of France in flames, the people would remain steadfast.

"But I do not believe that the power of the Huguenots will be broken. It may be that, in the northern towns, the orders of the king will be carried out; but from thence we have obtained no aid in our former struggles. Our strength in the south will still remain and, though the loss of so many leaders and nobles, here in Paris, will be a heavy blow, I hope that the cause of the faith will speedily rally from it and make head again; just as it did when all seemed lost, after the battle of Moncontour."

So they talked until night fell, with Pierre sitting discreetly in the corner, as far away as possible, apparently sleeping most of the time. As soon as it became perfectly dark, the bundle of clothes was taken from the hiding place and, going outside the hut, Philip and Pierre put on their ordinary attire. Claire had simply slipped on the dress prepared for her over her own, and had but to lay it aside.

After partaking of a meal, they made their way to the nearest steps leading to the top of the wall. One end of the rope was fastened to the parapet, the other was tied round Claire, and she was carefully lowered to the ground. Philip and Pierre slid down the rope after her, and they at once started across the country.

After three hours' walking, they reached the farm where Pierre had left the horses. They left Claire a short distance away. As Pierre had seen the horses put into the stables, he knew exactly where they were. He had, on leaving them there, paid for a week's keep; saying that he might come for them in haste, and perhaps at night, and if so he would saddle and take them off without waking the farmer.

The horses whinnied with pleasure, when Philip spoke to them. The saddles and bridles were found, hanging on a beam where Pierre had placed them; and in two or three minutes the horses were led out, ready to start. Philip had arranged his cloak behind his saddle, for Claire to sit upon; and led the horse to the place where she was awaiting them.

"All has passed off well," he said. "No one in the farmhouse seems to have heard a sound."

He leapt into the saddle. Claire placed her foot on his, and he swung her up behind him; and they then started at a brisk trot.

Avoiding all large towns, and stopping only at village inns, they made their way south; making long journeys each day. In the villages there was little of the religious rancour that animated the people in the towns and, after the first two days, Philip found that the news of what had occurred at Paris had not, as yet, spread. Eager questions were asked Pierre as to the grand wedding festivities at Paris; and there was, everywhere, a feeling of satisfaction at a union that seemed to promise to give peace to France.

Claire was generally supposed to be Philip's sister; and the hostesses always did their best to make the girl, with her pale sad face, as comfortable as possible.

Fearing that a watch might have been set at the bridges, they avoided these, crossing either by ferry boats or at fords. The Loire was passed above Orleans, and as that city, Blois, and Tours all lay on the northern bank, they met with no large towns on their way, until they approached Chatellerault. They bore to the south to avoid that city and Poitiers and, on the eighth day after leaving Paris, they reached the chateau of Laville, having travelled upwards of two hundred miles.

As they crossed the drawbridge, Philip's four retainers met them at the gate, and greeted him most warmly.

"Is the countess in?" he asked, as he alighted.

"She is, Monsieur Philip. She has been for some days at La Rochelle, and returned yesterday. There are rumours, sir, that at Poitiers and Niort the Catholics have again, in spite of the edicts, fallen upon the Huguenots; and though the countess believes not the tale, we had a guard posted at the gate last night."

"I am afraid it is true, Eustace," Philip said. "Take the horses round to the stables, and see to them well. They have travelled fast."

Taking Claire's hand, he led her up the steps; and just as he entered the hall the countess, to whom the news of his approach had been carried, met him.

"Aunt," he said, "I confide this lady to your loving care. It is Mademoiselle de Valecourt, now my affianced wife. I have bad news to tell you; but I pray you lead her first to a chamber, for she is sore wearied and in much grief."

"Francois is not dead?" the countess exclaimed in a low voice, paling to the lips.

"I trust not, aunt. I have no reason for believing that he is."

"I will wait here, Philip, with the countess's permission," Claire said. "It is better that you should not keep her in suspense, even for a moment, on my account."

"I thank you, mademoiselle," the countess said, as she led the girl to a couch. "This is but a poor welcome that I am giving you; but I will make amends for it, when I have heard what Philip has to tell me.

"Now, Philip, tell me the worst, and let there be no concealment."

Philip related the whole story of the massacre, his tale being interrupted by frequent exclamations of horror, by the countess.

"It seems incredible," she cried, "that a king of France should thus dishonour himself, alike by breaking his vows, disregarding his own safe conduct, and massacring those who had accepted his hospitality.

"And Francois, you say, was at the Louvre with the King of Navarre and Conde; and even there, within the walls of the royal palace, some of the king's guests were murdered; but more than this you know not?"

"That is the report that Pierre gathered in the street, aunt. It may have been exaggerated. Everyone eagerly seized and retailed the reports that were current. But even if true, it may well be that Francois is not among those who fell. To a certain extent he was warned, for I told him the suspicions and fears that I entertained; and when he heard the tumult outside, he may have effected his escape."

"I do not think so," the countess said, drawing herself up to her full height. "My son was one of the prince's gentlemen of the chamber, and he would have been unworthy of his name, had he thought first of his personal safety and not of that of the young king."

Philip knew that this was so; and the knowledge had, from the first, prevented his entertaining any great hopes of his cousin's safety. However, he said:

"As long as there was a hope of his being of service to the prince, I am sure that Francois would not have left him. But from the first, aunt, resistance was in vain, and would only have excited the assailants. Pierre heard that in few cases was there any resistance, whatever, to the murderers. The horror of the thing was so great that even the bravest, awakened thus from their sleep, either fell without drawing sword, or fled."

"What a day for France!" the countess exclaimed. "The Admiral, our bravest soldier, our greatest leader, a Christian hero, slaughtered as he lay wounded! And how many others of our noblest and best! And you say orders have been sent, over all France, to repeat this horrible massacre?

"But enough, for the present. I am forgetting my duties as hostess. Mademoiselle de Valecourt, we are alike mourners--you for your noble father, I for my son, both of us for France and for our religion. Yet I welcome you to Laville. For you, brighter days may be in store. My nephew is a gallant gentleman, and with him you may find a home far away from this unhappy country. To me, if Francois has gone, Philip will stand almost in the light of a son. Francois loved him as a brother, and he has grown very dear to me, and gladly shall I welcome you as his wife.

"Now, come with me.

"Philip, I leave it to you to send round the news to the tenants, and to see that all preparations are made to leave the chateau, once again, to the mercy of our foes; and to retire to La Rochelle, where alone we can talk with safety. See that the bell is rung at once. The tenants know the summons and, though little expecting danger, will quickly rally here."

Philip at once went out into the courtyard, and in a minute the sharp clanging of the bell told the country round that danger threatened. The retainers of the chateau ran hastily out, arming themselves as they went; and exclamations of horror and fury broke from them, as Philip told them that the order for the massacre of the Huguenots, throughout France, had gone forth; and that already, most of those who rode to Paris with the King of Navarre had fallen.

Then he repeated the countess's order that, upon the following morning, the chateau should be abandoned and all should ride to La Rochelle; and he despatched half a dozen mounted men, to warn all the Huguenot gentry in the district.

In a few minutes the tenants began to flock in. Although the tale that they heard involved the destruction of their newly-built houses, and the loss of most of their property, this affected them but slightly in comparison with the news of the murder of Coligny, and of so many Huguenot leaders; and of the terrible fate that would befall the Huguenots, in every town in France. Some wept, others clenched their weapons in impotent rage. Some called down the curses of Heaven upon the faithless king, while some stood as if completely dazed at the terrible news.

Philip spoke a few cheering words to them.

"All is not lost yet, my friends. Heaven will raise up fresh leaders for us. Many may fall, but the indignation and rage that you feel will likewise animate all who, dwelling in the country, may escape; so that, ere long, we shall have fresh armies in the field. Doubtless the first blow will be struck at La Rochelle, and there we will meet these murderers face to face; and will have the opportunity of proving, to them, that the men of the Reformed religion are yet a force capable of resisting oppression, and revenging treachery. There is one thing: never again shall we make the mistake of laying down our arms, confiding in the promises and vows of this perjured king; never again shall we be cozened into throwing away the results of our victories.

"Gather your horses and cattle, as you did before. Take your household goods in carts and, at daybreak, send in here the waggons that you have to provide, in case of necessity."

At noon the next day, the whole of the occupants of the chateau started for La Rochelle. The tenants, with their cattle and horses and all their portable property, had left at daybreak; and at nightfall the countess and her party came up with them. The encampment was a large one. The women and children slept under the waggons. The men lay down by fires they had kindled, while a portion were told off to keep watch over the animals.

The train had swollen considerably since they had started. Most of the inhabitants of the villages were Huguenots and, as soon as these heard of the massacres in Paris and elsewhere, they collected their animals, loaded up their carts, and took the road to the city of refuge.

After four days' travelling, they entered La Rochelle. The news had arrived before them, being brought by some of those who had escaped the massacre, by being lodged without the walls of Paris. The countess and Claire were received at the house of Monsieur Bertram. Philip found lodgings near them, and the whole of the inhabitants vied with each other, in their hospitable reception of the mass of fugitives.

Claire was completely prostrated by the events through which she had passed, and Monsieur Bertram's daughter devoted herself to her, tending her with unwearied care until, after a week in bed, she began again to gather strength.

The time of the countess was entirely occupied in filling the part that had, before, been played by Jeanne of Navarre: holding consultations with the town councillors, going down to the walls and encouraging the men who were labouring there, and urging on the people to make every sacrifice in defence of their religion and homes. She herself set the example, by pawning her jewels and selling her horses, and devoting the proceeds to the funds raised for the defence.

She worked with feverish activity, as if to give herself no time for thought. She was still without news of Francois. Henry of Navarre and the Prince of Conde had, as was soon known, been compelled to abjure their religion as the price of their lives. She was convinced that her son would have refused to buy his life, upon such conditions. Philip, who had come to regard Francois as a brother, was equally anxious and, two days after his arrival at the city, he took Pierre aside.

"Pierre," he said, "I cannot rest here in ignorance of the fate of my cousin."

"That I can see, master. You have eaten no food the last two days. You walk about at night, instead of sleeping; and I have been expecting, every hour, that you would say to me, 'Pierre, we must go to Paris.'"

"Will you go with me, Pierre?"

"How can you ask such a question?" Pierre said, indignantly. "Of course, if you go I go, too. There is not much danger in the affair; and if there were, what then? We have gone through plenty of it, together. It will not be, now, as when we made our escape. Then they were hunting down the Huguenots like mad dogs. Now they think they have exterminated them in Paris, and will no longer be on the lookout for them. It will be easy enough to come and go, without being observed; and if we find Monsieur Francois, we will bring him out with us.

"The young count is not like you, monsieur. He is brave, and a gallant gentleman, but he is not one to invent plans of escape; and he will not get away, unless we go for him."

"That is what I think, Pierre. We will start at once, but we must not let the countess know what we are going for. I will get the chief of the council, openly, to charge me with a mission to the south; while telling them, privately, where I am really going, and with what object. I am known to most of them, and I doubt not they will fall in with my plans.

"We will ride my two best horses, and lead a spare one. We will leave them a few miles outside Paris, and then go in disguised as countrymen. At any rate, we shall soon be able to learn if my cousin is among those who fell. If not, he must be in hiding somewhere. It will not be easy to discover him, but I trust to you to find him."

Accordingly, the next day, the countess heard that Philip had been requested by the council to proceed on a mission to the south, where the Huguenots were everywhere in arms.