Authors: Linda Lee Chaikin
Tags: #Fiction, #Christian, #Historical, #book, #ebook
They prayed together as was their family custom. Afterward, Madame Clair went upstairs to write Père Arnaut the dreaded correspondence of what had visited them in his absence. It was given to Rachelle to write to Grandmère and Madeleine, but she too went off to the task while eternal hope sprang up within.
“Make me an encourager, Father,” she asked. “Let me light a candle in the darkness of fear and doubt.”
Rachelle adjusted the lamp on her father’s writing desk, took out stationery, and dipped her pen into the inkwell. After several attempts, she settled on the words to her grandmère and Madeleine.
HE LIGHT WAS FADING RAPIDLY
with the setting sun and the long day edging toward its close. Billowy clouds, the color of eggshells, with tints of lavender, hung over the mureraies.
Rachelle had finished her lettre, and the envelope sat on the burnished mahogany table by the door, ready for delivery to Paris.
The darkness settled in. Where was Marquis Fabien?
She reached to close the burgundy draperies and blinked, startled by what must have been a handful of gravel flung against the windowpane.
She was in the salle on the first floor and had a clear view of the tall hedgerow and the front courtyard. There were no horses or men-at-arms, but a movement under the hedge caught her eye. A man crouched out of sight. Their gazes caught. She tensed; he reached inside his cloak and brought out a dark book and held it to his lips. Then he made the sign of the cross and signaled that he would go around to the back of the château. He slipped away, keeping out of sight.
Was the book a Bible? Surely so. Who was he and what did he want? She drew the draperies closed, then making up her mind, she sped across the chamber, out the door, and toward the back entrances.
Rachelle stepped out onto the rear balcony, feeling the night wind chilling her. There was a landing here, railed, with steps leading down to the culinary herb garden. She held to the rail and looked below into the twilight. Footsteps rushed along the path, now and then hesitating. She waited. Then the man came out of the shadows and rushed toward her.
Rachelle stepped back cautiously.
“A thousand pardons, Mademoiselle,” he gasped, “the grace of our Lord be with you! Forgive me for coming to you in this way, but two men were following me back at the inn. I was able to slip away unseen, but wish to take no chances.” He gave a swift bow. “I am Mathieu, a student from Geneva, where I attend Monsieur Calvin’s school of theology.”
The student’s sober garb was familiar to her. Many Huguenot students from Geneva on their way to hold secret meetings throughout France had visited the château as a safe house through the years.
Rachelle glanced about the darkness and saw no one else. She stepped back. “Come inside quickly, Monsieur.”
He scrambled up the steps and ducked inside the antechamber, out of breath.
Rachelle quietly shut the door and bolted it. She lit an oil lamp. Now that she had a clearer view of him, she could see he had been running and hiding, for his clothes were dusty.
“You have come at a dangerous time, Monsieur Mathieu. The château may be watched by Duc de Guise’s men-at-arms. They attacked the Huguenot assembly early this morning.”
“I had small choice, Mademoiselle. I was at the inn outside the village, prepared to stay the night, and thinking of my supper, when two men entered and sat down across the room. Soon they began to talk. They began to boast to one another of how they had attacked a group of “heretics” who met to worship the Devil, as they said. When they mentioned the Château de Silk and the Macquinet name, I was so dismayed, I almost gave myself away. I was sent here from Geneva by Monsieur Arnaut Macquinet with a lettre for his cousin, Bertrand Macquinet.”
From her père!
“Only by God’s good providence was I able to flee the inn unnoticed by these two soldiers. A stranger entered and boldly confronted them, demanding to know where the duc was camped. While they were occupied I slipped away.”
Suspicion sharpened her voice. “This stranger who entered, did you hear his name?”
“No, but there was another man with him who called him marquis.”
Fabien! He must have been there with Gallaudet. Would he dare confront the duc? Her concerns grew.
Mathieu removed a small sealed parchment from inside his cloak. In the light of the lamp she recognized her father’s handwriting.
“Mademoiselle, I must deliver this to Pasteur Bertrand.”
, but he was injured this morning. He was behind the teaching pulpit when a surprise attack came. I cannot promise that he will be strong enough to read my father’s message this night, as le docteur has given him a sleeping potion for suffering.”
Mathieu’s young face fell with disappointment.
“Is Pasteur Bertrand badly injured?”
“We believe he will recover in time.”
“Then God be thanked. Pasteur Bertrand has my prayers this night. Since you are Monsieur Macquinet’s daughter, I do not hesitate to tell you that the message from your father bears most important content.” He glanced around him cautiously as though from habit. “The Bibles Pasteur Bertrand wishes to smuggle out of France are even now awaiting his arrival. It is crucial that he act at once.”
In his condition? What would have been bonne news before the events of the morning, now presented a dilemma. Bertrand was unable to leave his bed.
She was also surprised to hear that the Bibles were already printed. On that very morning Bertrand had said that her father might need to remain in Geneva for another month.
“Mathieu, are you certain? Bertrand does not yet expect the Bibles.”
“Monsieur Macquinet was able to find another printer in Geneva to do the work posthaste. The Bibles are now stored in a private warehouse at Calais, guarded by Monsieur Macquinet — ”
“Calais? But he was to bring them here to Lyon.”
“That was the intention, Mademoiselle, until it was learned le duc may have knowledge of the Macquinet work in Geneva. It was then decreed too dangerous for the Château de Silk. Alas, le duc has struck here anyway.”
“Then — you mean my père may have expected an attack here?”
“He may have worried. Then the plan with Pasteur Bertrand was altered to bring the Bibles to Châtillon, then on to Calais, where a friendly ship awaits to bring both the pasteur and the Bibles to England.”
“Are you certain my père is now at Calais?”
“He is, and that is why it is most urgent that Pasteur Bertrand go there at once to join him. The Bibles must be moved from their place of concealment and brought to England before they are discovered.”
Rachelle put a hand to her forehead. Her father was doubtless taking a grave risk at Calais. A warehouse was never safe for long with so many people coming and going on the wharves, and this one stacked with crates of French Bibles, with her father as their keeper.
“But it is impossible for Cousin Bertrand to travel now. Why — it may be several weeks, perhaps even longer.”
“Mademoiselle, I share your very concerns after what has happened here. If there is anything I can do — well, I am at your ser vice, and Pasteur Bertrand’s. Perhaps, Mademoiselle, it would be wise for you to read the lettre from your père, since Pasteur Bertrand is not yet able.”
He handed her the envelope.
Rachelle hesitated, then sent her reticence fleeing. After all, if her father was asking Bertrand to come with all speed, then she dare not delay learning of his plight.
Mathieu looked weary and worn, and her sympathy went out to him. He had journeyed far bringing her father’s lettre. If anyone had discovered it upon him and read its contents, he would have been arrested. It was fortunate that Marquis Fabien had entered the inn when he did, lest the two soldiers recognize the student’s Geneva dress.
“Come, we shall talk again in the morning. I will take you to your chamber for the night.”
“The Lord bless you, Mademoiselle. The students at the university have heard of the Macquinet generosity toward us. The fine linen shirts sent to us are desired alike by student and docteur.”
“The shirts are by oversight of my sister Mademoiselle Idelette,”she said, with a smile, followed by an onrush of uninvited sadness over Idelette’s condition.
Rachelle brought Mathieu past the cook’s room into a hall with an alcove having steps going up to a second floor chamber that was affectionately called the Prophet’s Nook. The family had it built in the early 1500s when persecution against the first Reformers in France broke with fury. Presently it was kept ready for traveling pasteurs and Bible students out of Geneva. There was a wardrobe stocked with shirts, coats, and leggings in many sizes, and upon departure, travel currency was given.
Rachelle told him that hot water, fresh towels, and dinner would soon be brought.
“Have dinner, Monsieur, and get your well-deserved sleep. You have done your part in delivering the message. I will see to its contents.” Yet, even as Rachelle spoke, she wondered what could possibly be done.
She left Mathieu and started down the steps, frowning and considering her alternatives. Reaching the alcove, she set the candleholder on the ledge and opened the lettre. Holding it near the candlelight, she read her father’s brief message:
I am now in Calais with the cargo, awaiting your arrival.
We confront several difficulties. Monsieur B informs me he is
under suspicion. It is perilous for him to haul the cargo aboard his
vessel as first planned. We must find other means. Also, Monsieur
D’s warehouse can only be used for a brief time due to random
inspections. Come in haste. Say nothing of my situation to Clair.
Rachelle’s fingers closed about the lettre, and she gazed off thoughtfully. Now what? Bertrand could not make the journey to Calais. If she sent Mathieu back to her father with the dark tidings here in Lyon, it would compound his dilemma.
As she stood, considering, she heard the servant’s voice, followed by footsteps, then Fabien’s question as he entered the grande salle. She hurried across the polished floor, her dark blue skirts swishing, and paused before the archway done in tiles of pale blue with a yellow floral pattern.
The grande salle was the largest room in the château, with a vaulted ceiling and chandeliers that now were only partially lit. Large Florentine tapestries lined the cream wall facing the archway.
Fabien was waiting for her. He cut a striking figure, garbed in a rugged outfit of leather and woolen cloth. His boots were buckled, his scabbard jeweled, the hat he carried was wide brimmed and sweeping.
Was he dressed for travel?
As Rachelle set the candleholder on a table, her reaction was one of relief. He had returned safely! She attempted to deny her suspicions, but as he turned and his eyes met hers, alarm began to creep into her heart.
It grew as she came to meet him, for she sensed his deliberation.
She paused, curbing her intent to flee to the strength and safety of his strong embrace. She had known since Vendôme, and even before, that he intended to take to sea, and waited for a covert message to arrive from the French buccaneers. He had never told her just who these “buccaneers” were, but she knew he had gone to meet one of them two weeks ago, and she believed his present behavior was related to that meeting.
She lifted her chin and hurried to him, smiling, determined she would not lose him, not now; not after the struggle to win his heart. She reminded herself that no other woman had done so. She was the first, and she was not going to release him now.
“Fabien.” She hurried to him and clutched his rough tunic as though she would never let him go again. “Thank goodness you are not hurt. Why did you go to the inn? I was so worried.”
“Have you not had enough to worry you this day?” he asked gently.
“But you and Gallaudet — do you think you should have gone there? Word is bound to find its way to Duc de Guise. When he learns of it — ”
“When he learns of it and wishes to answer for his evil deeds, he will know the man to seek.”
She stared at him, her frustration growing.
If anything happened to
him . . .