Authors: Linda Lee Chaikin
Tags: #Fiction, #Christian, #Historical, #book, #ebook
Rachelle stood in silence, and it seemed the moment was frozen in time. The blowing wind, the smell of charred wood, the restless whinny of horses, the creak of leather saddles. Then, as if awakening, there was movement, voices, rage.
Marquis Fabien swung down from his mount; there came the crunch of boots, a pause, an intake of breath, and then an uttered exclamation. Rachelle’s bruised emotions found solace in the possessive but tender enfolding of his fingers around her arm. He drew her closer. “You are not hurt,
? You escaped injury?”
“Oh, Fabien, I thank our God you have come back — ”
He embraced her so tightly that she could hardly breathe. “If anything had happened to you — ” he whispered.
He drew her head against his chest, stroking her hair. She heard his soothing voice, yet rage was just beneath his veneer, struggling to break forth over the scene of carnage before him.
“Come, I will have Gallaudet take you to the château, while I search for any yet alive. Where are your sisters?”
She clutched his arms and turned her head toward Idelette seated near Avril’s body. She felt his muscles harden like granite beneath her palms as he recognized them.
Rachelle’s gaze rushed to his eyes filled with outrage as they took in Avril’s disfigured face, and the blood that had smeared onto Rachelle’s silk dress.
” he demanded in a gritted whisper. “
Rachelle trembled, hating the Duc de Guise so much that she wished to spit out his name as though it were venom; and yet loving Fabien as she did, she remained mute. What if he rode after the duc and his men?If she revealed her utter loathing, would she not encourage such revenge that he would seek the duc’s life?
Her emotions made her ill and weary. She must not think of this, she must not —
The death of the Duc de Guise by Fabien’s sword would bring the wrath of the whole House of Guise and their powerful alliance upon his head.
Rachelle dropped her forehead against his chest and held on to him tightly.
“Do not ride after them. Do not go. Stay with me! Please, Fabien!”
He cupped her chin, his eyes warmly searching hers, and placed a brief, solacing kiss on her forehead.
“Who led these murders against the Huguenots, Rachelle?” he asked again, quietly.
She shook her head. She was well aware that Fabien believed his own father was assassinated upon secret order of Duc de Guise at the battle of Calais.
Several others knew that Guise led this attack: Idelette, Hudson, Bertrand, Jolon the gardener, and the boy Philippe — his mother was dead. Even Madame Clair would have heard his name spoken by Philippe when he ran to warn her. Thank God Guise had not turned his men loose on the Château de Silk! He would know, of course, that the château belonged to the Macquinets. Was that why he had not done so?
Was it possible he had not known they were in the barn, thinking that all Huguenots were simple peasants, heretics?
It was not possible to keep the name of Guise from the marquis for very long.
But if — if I can delay him even for a few hours — then he may not ride
to overtake him
. . .
Rachelle closed her eyes and shook her head again, keeping silent her hatred for Guise.
In an act of helpless fury, Gallaudet, who stood nearby, slashed his blade into the ground. “Such murderous acts can no longer be borne,
. The time has come for war in France! Your Bourbon kinsman, the Prince de Condé, speaks well. The Guise faction and the Queen Mother know only the show of force.”
“They that take the sword will perish with the sword,” came a weak voice from behind them.
They all turned and saw Bertrand standing with his shoulders hunched forward, one limp and bloodied arm hanging uselessly at his side. He had managed to drag himself here from behind the bushes and took several more staggering steps.
Rachelle rushed and knelt beside him. “Cousin Bertrand, you should not have moved. You are bleeding again.”
Marquis Fabien threw an arm around him, gesturing to Gallaudet for a skin of water.
“And what of these helpless sheep, Pasteur Bertrand? They have perished and they did not take up the sword,” the marquis said with a composed voice.
“Christ has not called us to fight but to stand firm and endure . . . these deeds will not go unpunished . . . the Lord has His own sword. One of righteousness and justice.”
Fabien took the water from Gallaudet and held it to Bertrand’s lips as Rachelle held his head to drink.
“You speak well, Pasteur Bertrand.” The marquis turned to Gallaudet. “Go at once to the château and send a coach for the pasteur and the mademoiselles. Say nothing yet to Madame Macquinet.”
“At once, Monseigneur.”
“There are others more injured than I,” Bertrand objected in a hoarse voice.
Rachelle turned her head sharply toward her sister. They did not yet know what had happened to Idelette, nor did Rachelle believe her sister wanted them to know, though Idelette was in such shock that perhaps she did not care. As Bertrand finished drinking, Rachelle took the skin and hurried to where her sister sat, like Job before the pile of shards.
“I will soon have you home,” Rachelle whispered in her ear. “You are my chère, brave sister; it will soon be over, I promise you.”
Idelette tried to sip from the skin but her bruised mouth was too swollen. Rachelle clamped her jaw to keep her emotions from running over again into a river of tears. She carefully dribbled the water into her sister’s mouth.
“James Hudson, where is he?” Bertrand was heard asking. “God used that young
to save me from the flames. He too was injured.”
Rachelle had forgotten about Hudson. She looked over and saw him still sprawled where she had left him.
He must have heard Bertrand, for he called weakly, “I am over here, my dear man.” He groaned as he tried to raise himself to an elbow. “’Tis nothing. Methinks I’ve hurt my leg. I’ll survive, to be sure, think not of me, sir. Lady Rachelle has been very kind indeed. But over there — ” he gestured with his hand — “Lady Idelette needs a physician.”
Marquis Fabien gave James Hudson a measuring appraisal that took him in thoughtfully; he then looked directly at Rachelle. She had already sensed what he may be thinking, and she turned her gaze away, feeling embarrassed.
Fabien walked up, took one look at Idelette, then removed his sur-coat and placed it around her shoulders. “I have sent for a coach, Mademoiselle,” he told her gently, “and
is on his way.”
Idelette gave a nod of her head but did not speak, nor did she look at him, keeping her bruised face averted. But Rachelle could see that the marquis was aware, and that anger burned in his eyes.
Fabien caught Rachelle’s gaze and searched for the ugly answer. Her eyes spilled over with tears.
His jaw tightened, showing he understood. He scanned Idelette again. “I am sorry, Mademoiselle. I will find this beast, I promise you. I do not know when, or how, but when I do, I shall make him pay fourfold, I swear it!”
He turned to go, then saw Avril nearby and stopped. He gestured to one of his men to bring his cloak from his horse. Fabien wrapped the small demoiselle inside his magnificent cloak and had one of the men carry her to the side of the road to await the family coach.
Rachelle rose to her feet, feeling the wind ruffle her hair. Her mind rode the wind back through the mulberry orchard and over the garden wall, past the roses, and through the open window into the salle where they had breakfasted that morning. The words spoken by Cousin Bertrand before he had left for the barn church came back to her, bringing a lump to her throat.
“Remember those who have gone before us, who have endured great
afflictions for His name’s sake.”
How could any of them have known that he was speaking of their immediate future with such painful clarity? What began with such optimism on this Sunday morning, the most pleasant day of the week, had ended with a lament. Even Marquis Fabien’s unexpected return had brought him into the circle of change, with far-reaching results for him and his followers.
In such a short time, each of their lives was affected, and nothing would ever be the same again.
The baby began to cry, and Rachelle went to it gently and reached down and lifted the bundle into her arms. She cradled the infant safely against her breast and whispered soothing sounds.
Perhaps there is hope
your père is alive, little one.
THE COACH ARRIVED FROM
the château and came to a shuddering halt beside the wall of mulberry trees. Madame Clair stepped down and looked across the wide field, the breeze blowing her dark skirts and high ruffled white lace collar.
Rachelle’s heart beat painfully.
Oh, ma mère, this will be far more
painful for you than for us
Was it Providence that had brought Madame Clair home just when her family, and especially Idelette, would need her? If it had not been for the delay in printing the Dutch Bibles in Geneva, and the arrival there of Bertrand, Mère would have remained with Père Arnaut and waited to return with him.
Rachelle whispered to Idelette that Mère had arrived with the coach. For the first time, Idelette stirred, showing that she was attentive to what was going on around her. To Rachelle’s surprise, Idelette managed to stand and began walking across the field.
Marquis Fabien intercepted Madame Clair and spoke to her, his hand holding her arm as though he feared his words would cause her to collapse. But Madame Clair stood as queenly as any royal Valois, showing herself not only a strong woman, but one who believed deeply in the faith she so heartily promoted. She began walking with dignity across the wide field toward Idelette, who drew closer.
Rachelle watched with quiet pride. She could see from the marquis’ expression that he too admired Madame Clair. Her dignity at such a time made Rachelle lift her head a little higher. This fiery trial will not destroy us. Nothing can defeat those secure in Christ.
HAD THOUGHT TO
join their meeting, but now she paused, watching.
The two women, so much alike in fair appearance and serious demeanor, neared one another, with the waving grasses around their feet. Madame Clair stopped and opened her arms wide. Idelette took her last weakened steps and fell into her loving, protective embrace.
Rachelle looked on with wet cheeks. The two women stood entwined, like a Michelangelo statue, a tribute to Huguenot women.
Strengthen them both, Father God, for hard days and late nights are
Rachelle became aware of others moving about what had now become a sanctified field. Voices were heard, like the ebb and tide of the sea. Voices of lament mixed with anger. A voice praying, and yet another quoting a verse in a tone that spoke its preciousness at such a time.
One by one the living and the dead quietly reunited with family and friends. Rachelle, still holding the baby in her arms, felt a refreshing sense of thankful relief when she saw Monsieur Scully alive and coming for his child. The child would have one loving parent, at least.
“Monsieur,” she said gently, “my mother and I will be at your disposal should you need us.”