Authors: Linda Lee Chaikin
Tags: #Fiction, #Christian, #Historical, #book, #ebook
“Merci, Mademoiselle,” he rasped as tears ran down his creased, tanned cheeks. He took his child, his hands trembling, and she watched him walk away. Rachelle’s prayer followed them.
Soon the dead were retrieved from the field for burial. Nothing remained of the barn church except blackened ruins against a bright spring sky.
Cousin Bertrand and Sir James Hudson were helped to the coach, and Marquis Fabien walked toward Rachelle, leading his horse. He paused in front of her, muscled and virile, with hair the color of sun-ripened wheat.
His eyes softened as they took her in. “You are exhausted,
. Permit me to ride you to the château — the coach has departed with the injured.”
He brought her beside his horse, but she paused and walked over to the small blue wildflower and plucked it carefully.
This will go in my
Bible to be pressed between the pages and kept in memory of Avril
The marquis waited. She came up beside him, and he lifted her to the saddle, then mounted.
The wind blew across Lemoine’s hay fields. The mingled voices of prayer and rage had ceased. Soon, a bird returned to chirp in the branches of a tree and carry on as spring demanded.
One day, time would eliminate every vestige of what had occurred here. Many succeeding generations would pass. The grass would grow green again, the flowers would bloom, and who would remember but God?
They rode together toward the road, Rachelle looking at the flower.
They rode toward the Château de Silk, and to what awaited them all in the days and months ahead.
REMAINED TENSE AND UNCERTAIN AFTER RETURNING TO THE
château with Marquis Fabien. What would be the outcome of the events which their good God had allowed to invade their lives? Why was the Lord allowing such painful trials as these? What had they done wrong? Were they being chastened? Was it satanic? Many questions ran through her mind, questions with no simple answers, leaving her downcast.
Rachelle was waiting near the rose garden when Marquis Fabien walked up. He stood looking down at her, the wide sleeves of his linen tunic and his plumed hat stirring in the wind.
“The roses still bloom; the leaves are yet green,” she murmured, looking toward the bushes. “Somehow I would have expected everything to have withered after such pain and sorrow, but life goes on, does it not?”
“You need not think of it now. It is an unfair weight upon your heart to attempt to come to terms with such loss and tragedy too quickly. Grief is a necessary part of healing. All things take time.”
He stepped toward her and took her face between his warm, strong hands and looked down at her tenderly. Her heart stirred to life again at his touch. As she gazed into his eyes, however, she saw that more was on his mind than having her so near. His gaze was serious and distant.
“What is it, Fabien?”
His smile was faint. “I must leave you for a while.”
“Oh, but — ”
“I shall return tonight. Le docteur is here now, and I think Pasteur Bertrand will recover. I have seen worse wounds. And the Englishman’s leg will also heal.”
He lifted her fingers to his lips, turned, and descended the veranda steps. Gallaudet came around from the side of the château leading two horses, and they rode away together. His other men-at-arms and lackeys must have remained at the stables. Where was he going?
Pierre Lancre, was grim faced and tight-lipped as he quickly scanned the worst of the injured, then turned back to treat them. Cousin Bertrand had a gunshot wound in his leg, burns, and multiple bruises, and the docteur spent the longest time with him. James had suffered burns and an injured leg, which meant his stay at the château would be longer than anyone had expected. Then, having already checked Idelette, who suffered from bruises and shock, he ordered a glass of wine brought to her and had her put to bed until he could fully attend her.
“I am afraid you have your hands full, Madame Macquinet,” he later told Clair. “Neither of the messieurs may be moved for some time.”
“Think not of that, Docteur Lancre; our home is always open in times of need. Indeed, Bertrand is part of our family. And Monsieur Hudson can stay for as long as needed.”
Pierre Lancre went down the hall to visit Idelette with Madame Clair and Rachelle following.
They waited beyond Idelette’s chamber door while Idelette was examined, and heard her answering questions in a low, dull voice. Rachelle watched her mère, seeing the worry in her eyes, the restrained sorrow on her pale, drawn face. Rachelle marveled that she was taking the loss of Avril with such spiritual fortitude. Perhaps it was because the crisis was still present and she could not allow herself to collapse under the devastation. There was Idelette and her recovery to think about.
While Madame Clair paced the floral rug, her lips moving as though in silent intercession, Rachelle, too, remained restless, thinking of Idelette, Cousin Bertrand, and then Marquis Fabien. He had shown himself most astute; indeed, he had been the epitome of sympathy and strength, assuring Clair of his support with anything she needed, including sending men to Geneva for Rachelle’s father, Arnaut. Madame Clair had assured him that a lettre would be sent to her husband promptly. Fabien had shown such concern, perhaps because her parents knew he was a Catholic. Madame Clair, at least, had been aware of Rachelle’s interest in him and disapproved. Her words were spoken more than once; her intent clearly understood: “You cannot be united to anyone other than a Huguenot; your père would never allow it, ma chère.”
She walked to the hall window and glanced below. Marquis Fabien had said he was riding toward the main village to meet someone at an inn. What it was about, he had not told her, as usual.
He retains his secrecy
, she thought wryly. He could not easily overtake Duc de Guise now, too much time had passed — unless, horrors! — unless the duc had made an early camp for the night!
Rachelle turned from the window as Docteur Lancre closed Idelette’s bedroom door behind him. A small man with a drooping mustache and shiny forehead, he looked not the slightest bit encouraged from his visit with her sister.
Madame Clair stood with outward repose. “
A breath rumbled through his lips. “Madame, it is as she said . . . and as we feared. But I hasten to add that she is an otherwise healthy mademoiselle who, I am confident, will come out of this shock with a sound mind and body.”
Rachelle noticed her mother’s shoulders sag a little. Rachelle understood that she had hoped Idelette may have been “mistaken.” Rachelle had never thought so, but their mère often saw both of them as very young.
“I see,” she murmured, her saddened eyes turning downward.
Rachelle felt a desire to go to her mother but refrained, keeping her face blank as she had taught her daughters while growing up. Intimate or embarrassing situations were always to be dealt with stoically.
“Madame Macquinet,” he said, “I am a loyal Catholic as you know. As such, I am horrified at what has befallen my friends and neighbors ‘of the religion.’ ”
Madame Clair nodded that she understood and accepted his condolences.
“Such behavior as this, Madame,” he spread a hand, “is barbarism. No religious cloak shall ever give respectability to the behavior of Duc de Guise. His fervency has turned to fanaticism. And I shall not defend it! Even though a man be a heretic, I cannot believe the God of heaven would ever approve of such cruel deeds by his servants. And the petite Avril — ” Then the stoic Docteur Lancre was unable to finish.
He shook his head, and begging pardon, paused and recovered. He went on to discuss his remedy for shock. Idelette was to rest and stay bedridden for the next several days, then he would see her again. He spoke of something to keep her quiet and sleepy.
“And you as well, Madame,” he said soberly, looking at her over the bridge of his nose, “must be given a sleeping potion.”
“I cannot, Docteur Lancre, I must keep all my wits at hand. There are correspondences to write, and I must arrange for my husband to come home as soon as he feels he can — ” she stopped short.
Rachelle glanced at her. Madame Clair had almost mentioned the work Arnaut was doing in Geneva, which could easily have brought his arrest, and even the fiery stake if he did not recant. Rachelle looked at the docteur, seeing he had not suspected anything, but was writing his instructions for Idelette and for herself — though Rachelle wasn’t sure she was willing to comply.
Rachelle knew there was little else she could learn, and she slipped away.
The wall sconces shimmered with lamplight even during the day, for the corridor would otherwise be dim. The château, though most belle, was usually chilly in winter and spring. Even now she felt a draft about her ankles as she walked wearily across the carpet, faded from generations of wear in some places. The wear on the carpets and furniture seemed to make the château more cherished to Rachelle. It connected her emotionally to family who had been here before her with dedication to the silk enterprise.
She passed Cousin Bertrand’s chamber but did not wish to disturb him now. She would see him when she visited at
. As for Sir James Hudson, it was not respectable for a young woman to venture into the bedchamber of a young man alone, even though Hudson had proven himself a Christian and a gallant gentleman.
Rachelle’s mind jumped back to the duc. Everyone claims they are Chris tian. A prayer uttered, a ritual performed, a confession of belief, but what did it all mean when a heart remained the same, even justifying murder?
After Docteur Lancre departed and Idelette slept, Rachelle waited in the main salle for Madame Clair. Clair descended the stairs appearing tense and pale and sat in the red velvet chair below magnificent tapestries that showed a garden scene from the Fontainebleau
Rachelle knelt beside Clair and laid her forehead against her shoulder, taking solace in her mother’s consolation.
“I should be helping you instead of taking comfort . . . you have only so much strength to expend . . .”
“Hush, not so. Your presence consoles me. There is no shame in our tears, nor to our need for comfort. We all need an encourager when the way grows so long. There is a time to weep and a time to laugh. Now is our time for tears. How can we not? My youngest, your petite sister, is lying in the antechamber covered over with white linen; and Idelette, my lily, so serious, so dedicated, and now — ”
“Oh, ma mère . . . Idelette, it is she who worries me the most.”
“Yes. She may carry this burden for a long journey before seeing green pastures.” She looked off across the salle, thoughtfully.
Silence descended. Rachelle had expected her mother to allay her fears, but she now accepted them as her own. On the tables, the candles burned and flickered. Now and then, one of the servants lost control of their feelings and a sob was heard from the kitchen area or another part of the house. They had been with the family so long, they also were sorrowing.
“We are as Job this night,” Madame Clair said after a long silence. “The Lord has given, and the Lord has permitted the ruthless and the blind of spirit to take away what we cherished.”
“It is as le docteur said, ma mère. It was senseless and brutal.”
hate the Duc de Guise
, she thought, but could not bring herself to say so before her mother.
“Senseless, I say, from our human reasoning, Rachelle, but not senseless to our great and wise God. You understand that, do you not?”
She did, and yet she could not come to terms with it as her mother had, and she did not wish to add to her concerns.
“Yes, ma mère.”
“Understand, this could not have happened to us unless, like Job, the hedge of safety was lowered for the spiritual enemy to get through to us.”
“Yes, but why?”
“If we knew the answer, ma petite, we would no longer need to trust and walk by faith. We are tested, and like Job, we will, with God’s help, come forth as gold. We can choose to say, ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord.’ Remember that Faithful and True are two of His names.”
Rachelle sat dry-eyed and silent. She did not think she could possibly muster another tear if her heart were torn from her. There would never be enough tears to mourn Avril, or to sympathize with Idelette.
“Knowing where Avril is — helps to sustain us,” Clair said, squeezing her hand.
“Yes, but our loss remains.”
“In our earthly sojourn it cannot be fully mended. That is why heaven is now made dearer to us, Rachelle. And God wishes it so.”
heaven is now made dearer
, unexpectedly lit a flame in Rachelle’s heart. She looked up quickly. She saw the sadness in her mother’s eyes, yet it was softened, mingled with hope, even certainty. Rachelle sensed that hope of God’s promise growing brighter within her own heart. Yes, heaven
dearer to me!
Madame Clair searched her face and must have seen something not visible before. A little smile turned her lips.
In a gesture of gratitude to her mère, Rachelle placed her arms around her neck.