Huguenot Wars

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4. An Experiment



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What sort of a fellow is he?"

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

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

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

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

"Why did he leave you?"

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

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

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

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

The merchant shook his head.

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

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

Philip gets his first look at Pierre.

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

"Pierre!" Philip said sharply.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The young fellow's face lit up with pleasure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What have you done about that vagabond Pierre?"

"I have hired him," Philip said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pierre bowed low at the compliment.

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

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

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

"Has your horse arrived, Pierre?"

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

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

Pierre bowed and withdrew.

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

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

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

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

Philip laughed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Philip looked sharply at him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pierre nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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