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The Path of the King
by John Buchan
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The French court was in no humour for his tale, being much involved in its own wars. It may be that he was not believed; anyhow he got no help from his king. At his own cost and with the aid of friends he fitted out his ship for the return. After that the curtain falls. It would appear that the colony did not prosper, for it is on record that Philip in the year 1521 was living at his house at Eaucourt, a married man, occupied with books and the affairs of his little seigneury. A portrait of him still extant by an Italian artist shows a deeply furrowed face and stern brows, as of one who had endured much, but the eyes are happy. It is believed that in his last years he was one of the first of the gentlemen of Picardy to adhere to the Reformed faith.



CHAPTER 7. EAUCOURT BY THE WATERS

The horseman rode down the narrow vennel which led to the St. Denis gate of Paris, holding his nose like a fine lady. Behind him the city reeked in a close August twilight. From every entry came the smell of coarse cooking and unclean humanity, and the heaps of garbage in the gutters sent up a fog of malodorous dust when they were stirred by prowling dogs or hasty passengers.

"Another week of heat and they will have the plague here, he muttered. Oh for Eaucourt—Eaucourt by the waters! I have too delicate a stomach for this Paris."

His thoughts ran on to the country beyond the gates, the fields about St. Denis, the Clermont downs. Soon he would be stretching his bay on good turf.

But the gates were closed, though it was not yet the hour of curfew. The lieutenant of the watch stood squarely before him with a forbidding air, while a file of arquebusiers lounged in the archway.

"There's no going out to-night," was the answer to the impatient rider.

"Tut, man, I am the Sieur de Laval, riding north on urgent affairs. My servants left at noon. Be quick. Open!"

"Who ordered this folly?"

"The Marshal Tavannes. Go argue with him, if your mightiness has the courage."

The horseman was too old a campaigner to waste time in wrangling. He turned his horse's head and retraced his path up the vennel. "Now what in God's name is afoot to-night?" he asked himself, and the bay tossed his dainty head, as if in the same perplexity. He was a fine animal with the deep barrel and great shoulders of the Norman breed, and no more than his master did he love this place of alarums and stenches.

Gaspard de Laval was a figure conspicuous enough even in that city of motley. For one thing he was well over two yards high, and, though somewhat lean for perfect proportions, his long arms and deep chest told of no common strength. He looked more than his thirty years, for his face was burned the colour of teak by hot suns, and a scar just under the hair wrinkled a broad low forehead. His small pointed beard was bleached by weather to the hue of pale honey. He wore a steel back and front over a doublet of dark taffeta, and his riding cloak was blue velvet lined with cherry satin. The man's habit was sombre except for the shine of steel and the occasional flutter of the gay lining. In his velvet bonnet he wore a white plume. The rich clothing became him well, and had just a hint of foreignness, as if commonly he were more roughly garbed. Which was indeed the case, for he was new back from the Western Seas, and had celebrated his home-coming with a brave suit.

As a youth he had fought under Conde in the religious wars, but had followed Jean Ribaut to Florida, and had been one of the few survivors when the Spaniards sacked St. Caroline. With de Gourgues he had sailed west again for vengeance, and had got it. Thereafter he had been with the privateers of Brest and La Rochelle, a hornet to search out and sting the weak places of Spain on the Main and among the islands. But he was not born to live continually in outland parts, loving rather to intercalate fierce adventures between spells of home-keeping. The love of his green Picardy manor drew him back with gentle hands. He had now returned like a child to his playthings, and the chief thoughts in his head were his gardens and fishponds, the spinneys he had planted and the new German dogs he had got for boar-hunting in the forest. He looked forward to days of busy idleness in his modest kingdom.

But first he must see his kinsman the Admiral about certain affairs of the New World which lay near to that great man's heart. Coligny was his godfather, from whom he was named; he was also his kinsman, for the Admiral's wife, Charlotte de Laval, was a cousin once removed. So to Chatillon Gaspard journeyed, and thence to Paris, whither the Huguenot leader had gone for the marriage fetes of the King of Navarre. Reaching the city on the Friday evening, he was met by ill news. That morning the Admiral's life had been attempted on his way back from watching the King at tennis. Happily the wounds were slight, a broken right forefinger and a bullet through the left forearm, but the outrage had taken away men's breath. That the Admiral of France, brought to Paris for those nuptials which were to be a pledge of a new peace, should be the target of assassins shocked the decent and alarmed the timid. The commonwealth was built on the side of a volcano, and the infernal fires were muttering. Friend and foe alike set the thing down to the Guises' credit, and the door of Coligny's lodging in the Rue de Bethisy was thronged by angry Huguenot gentry, clamouring to be permitted to take order with the Italianate murderers.

On the Saturday morning Gaspard was admitted to audience with his kinsman, but found him so weak from Monsieur Ambrose Pare's drastic surgery that he was compelled to postpone his business. "Get you back to Eaucourt," said Coligny, "and cultivate your garden till I send for you. France is too crooked just now for a forthright fellow like you to do her service, and I do not think that the air of Paris is healthy for our house." Gaspard was fain to obey, judging that the Admiral spoke of some delicate state business for which he was aware he had no talent. A word with M. de Teligny reassured him as to the Admiral's safety, for according to him the King now leaned heavily against the Guises.

But lo and behold! the gates of Paris were locked to him, and he found himself interned in the sweltering city.

He did not like it. There was an ugly smack of intrigue in the air, puzzling to a plain soldier. Nor did he like the look of the streets now dim in the twilight. On his way to the gates they had been crammed like a barrel of salt fish, and in the throng there had been as many armed men as if an enemy made a leaguer beyond the walls. There had been, too, a great number of sallow southern faces, as if the Queen-mother had moved bodily thither a city of her countrymen. But now as the dark fell the streets were almost empty. The houses were packed to bursting—a blur of white faces could be seen at the windows, and every entry seemed to be alive with silent men. But in the streets there was scarcely a soul except priests, flitting from door to door, even stumbling against his horse in their preoccupation. Black, brown, and grey crows, they made Paris like Cartagena. The man's face took a very grim set as he watched these birds of ill omen. What in God's name had befallen his honest France?... He was used to danger, but this secret massing chilled even his stout heart. It was like a wood he remembered in Florida where every bush had held an Indian arrow, but without sight or sound of a bowman. There was hell brewing in this foul cauldron of a city.

He stabled his horse in the yard in the Rue du Coq, behind the glover's house where he had lain the night before. Then he set out to find supper. The first tavern served his purpose. Above the door was a wisp of red wool, which he knew for the Guise colours. Inside he looked to find a crowd, but there was but one other guest. Paris that night had business, it seemed, which did not lie in the taverns.

That other guest was a man as big as himself, clad wholly in black, save for a stiff cambric ruff worn rather fuller than the fashion. He was heavily booted, and sat sideways on a settle with his left hand tucked in his belt and a great right elbow on the board. Something in his pose, half rustic, half braggart, seemed familiar to Gaspard. The next second the two were in each other's arms.

"Gawain Champernoun!" cried Gaspard. "When I left you by the Isle of Pines I never hoped to meet you again in a Paris inn? What's your errand, man, in this den of thieves?"

"Business of state," the Englishman laughed. "I have been with Walsingham, her Majesty's Ambassador, and looked to start home to-night. But your city is marvellous unwilling to part with her guests. What's toward, Gaspard?"

"For me, supper," and he fell with zest to the broiled fowl he had ordered. The other sent for another flask of the wine of Anjou, observing that he had a plaguy thirst.

"I think," said Gaspard, at last raising his eyes from his food, "that Paris will be unwholesome to-night for decent folk."

"There's a murrain of friars about," said Champernoun, leisurely picking his teeth.

"The place hums like a bee-hive before swarming. Better get back to your Ambassador, Gawain. There's sanctuary for you under his cloak."

The Englishman made a pellet of bread and flicked it at the other's face. "I may have to box your ears, old friend. Since when have I taken to shirking a fracas? We were together at St. John d'Ulloa, and you should know me better."

"Are you armed?" was Gaspard's next question.

Champernoun patted his sword. "Also there are pistols in my holsters."

"You have a horse, then?"

"Stabled within twenty yards. My rascally groom carried a message to Sir Francis, and as he has been gone over an hour, I fear he may have come to an untimely end."

"Then it will be well this night for us two to hold together. I know our Paris mob and there is nothing crueller out of hell. The pistolling of the Admiral de Coligny has given them a taste of blood, and they may have a fancy for killing Luteranos. Two such as you and I, guarding each other's backs, may see sport before morning, and haply rid the world of a few miscreants. What say you, camerado?"

"Good. But what account shall we give of ourselves if someone questions us?"

"Why, we are Spanish esquires in the train of King Philip's Mission. Our clothes are dark enough for the dons' fashion, and we both speak their tongue freely. Behold in me the Senor Juan Gonzalez de Mendoza, a poor knight of Castile, most earnest in the cause of Holy Church."

"And I," said the Englishman with the gusto of a boy in a game, "am named Rodriguez de Bobadilla. I knew the man, who is dead, and his brother owes me ten crowns.... But if we fall in with the Spanish Ambassador's gentlemen?"

"We will outface them."

"But if they detect the imposture?"

"Why, wring their necks. You are getting as cautious as an apple-wife, Gawain."

"When I set out on a business I like to weigh it, that I may know how much is to be charged to my own wits and how much I must leave to God. To-night it would appear that the Almighty must hold us very tight by the hand. Well, I am ready when I have I drunk another cup of wine." He drew his sword and lovingly fingered its edge, whistling all the while.

Gaspard went to the door and looked into the street. The city was still strangely quiet. No roysterers swaggered home along the pavements, no tramp of cuirassiers told of the passage of a great man. But again he had the sense that hot fires were glowing under these cold ashes. The mist had lifted and the stars were clear, and over the dark mass of the Louvre a great planet burned. The air was warm and stifling, and with a gesture of impatience he slammed the door. By now he ought to have been drinking the cool night on the downs beyond Oise.

The Englishman had called for another bottle, and it was served in the empty tavern by the landlord himself. As the wine was brought in the two fell to talking Spanish, at the sound of which the man visibly started. His furtive sulky face changed to a sly friendliness. "Your excellencies have come to town for the good work," he said, sidling and bowing.

With a more than Spanish gravity Gaspard inclined his head.

"When does it start?" he asked.

"Ah, that we common folk do not know. But there will be a signal. Father Antoine has promised us a signal. But messieurs have not badges. Perhaps they do not need them for their faces will be known. Nevertheless for better security it might be well...." He stopped with the air of a huckster crying his wares.

Gaspard spoke a word to Champernoun in Spanish. Then to the landlord: "We are strangers, so must bow to the custom of your city. Have you a man to send to the Hotel de Guise?"

"Why trouble the Duke, my lord?" was the answer. "See, I will make you badges."

He tore up a napkin, and bound two white strips crosswise on their left arms, and pinned a rag to their bonnets. "There, messieurs, you are now wearing honest colours for all to see. It is well, for presently blood will be hot and eyes blind."

Gaspard flung him a piece of gold, and he bowed himself out. "Bonne fortune, lordships," were his parting words. "'Twill be a great night for our Lord Christ and our Lord King."

"And his lord the Devil," said Champernoun. "What madness has taken your good France? These are Spanish manners, and they sicken me. Cockades and signals and such-like flummery!"

The other's face had grown sober. "For certain hell is afoot to-night. It is the Admiral they seek. The Guisards and their reiters and a pack of 'prentices maddened by sermons. I would to God he were in the Palace with the King of Navarre and the young Conde."

"But he is well guarded. I heard that a hundred Huguenots' swords keep watch by his house."

"Maybe. But we of the religion are too bold and too trustful. We are not match for the Guises and their Italian tricks. I think we will go to Coligny's lodgings. Mounted, for a man on a horse has an advantage if the mob are out!"

The two left the tavern, both sniffing the air as if they found it tainted. The streets were filling now, and men were running as if to a rendezvous, running hot-foot without speech and without lights. Most wore white crosses on their left sleeve. The horses waited, already saddled, in stables not a furlong apart, and it was the work of a minute to bridle and mount. The two as if by a common impulse halted their beasts at the mouth of the Rue du Coq, and listened. The city was quiet on the surface, but there was a low deep undercurrent of sound, like the soft purring of a lion before he roars. The sky was bright with stars. There was no moon, but over the Isle was a faint tremulous glow.

"It is long past midnight," said Gaspard; "in a little it will be dawn."

Suddenly a shot cracked out. It was so sharp a sound among the muffled noises that it stung the ear like a whip-lash. It came from the dark mass of the Louvre, from somewhere beyond the Grand Jardin. It was followed instantly by a hubbub far down the Rue St. Honore and a glare kindled where that street joined the Rue d'Arbre Sec.

"That way lies the Admiral," Gaspard cried. "I go to him," and he clapped spurs to his horse.

But as his beast leapt forward another sound broke out, coming apparently from above their heads. It was the clanging of a great bell.

There is no music so dominant as bells. Their voice occupies sky as well as earth, and they overwhelm the senses, so that a man's blood must keep pace with their beat. They can suit every part, jangling in wild joy, or copying the slow pace of sorrow, or pealing in ordered rhythm, blithe but with a warning of mortality in their cadence. But this bell played dance music. It summoned to an infernal jig. Blood and fever were in its broken fall, hate and madness and death.

Gaspard checked his plunging horse. "By God, it is from St. Germains l'Auxerrois! The Palace church. The King is in it. It is a plot against our faith. They have got the pick of us in their trap and would make an end of us."

From every house and entry men and women and priests were pouring to swell the army that pressed roaring eastwards. No one heeded the two as they sat their horses like rocks in the middle of a torrent.

"The Admiral is gone," said Gaspard with a sob in his voice. "Our few hundred spears cannot stand against the King's army. It remains for us to die with him."

Champernoun was cursing steadily in a mixture of English and Spanish, good mouth-filling oaths delivered without heat. "Die we doubtless shall, but not before we have trounced this bloody rabble."

Still Gaspard did not move. "After to-night there will be no gentlemen left in France, for we of the religion had all the breeding." Then he laughed bitterly. "I mind Ribaut's last words, when Menendez slew him. 'We are of earth,' says he, 'and to earth we must return, and twenty years more or less can matter little!' That is our case to-night, old friend."

"Maybe," said the Englishman. "But why talk of dying? You and I are Spanish caballeros. Walsingham told me that the King hated that nation, and that the Queen-mother loved it not, but it would appear that now we are very popular in Paris."

"Nay, nay, this is no time to play the Nicodemite. It is the hour for public confession. I'm off to the dead Admiral to avenge him on his assassins."

"Softly, Gaspard. You and I are old companions in war, and we do not ride against a stone wall if there be a gate. It was not thus that Gourgues avenged Ribaut at St. John's. Let us thank God that we hold a master card in this game. We are two foxes in a flock of angry roosters, and by the Lord's grace we will take our toll of them. Cunning, my friend. A stratagem of war! We stand outside this welter and, having only the cold passion of revenge, can think coolly. God's truth, man, have we fought the Indian and the Spaniard for nothing? Wily is the word. Are we two gentlemen, who fear God, to be worsted by a rabble of Papegots and Marannes?"

It was the word "Marannes," or, as we say, "halfcastes," which brought conviction to Gaspard. Suddenly he saw his enemies as less formidable, as something contemptible—things of a lower breed, dupers who might themselves be duped.

"Faith, Gawain, you are the true campaigner. Let us forward, and trust to Heaven to show us a road."

They galloped down the Rue St. Honore, finding an open space in the cobbles of the centre, but at the turning into the Rue d'Arbre Sec they met a block. A great throng with torches was coming in on the right from the direction of the Bourbon and d'Alencon hotels. Yet by pressing their horses with whip and spur, and by that awe which the two tall dark cavaliers inspired even in a mob which had lost its wits, they managed to make their way to the entrance of the Rue de Bethisy. There they came suddenly upon quiet.

The crowd was held back by mounted men who made a ring around the gate of a high dark building. Inside its courtyard there were cries and the rumour of fighting, but out in the street there was silence. Every eye was turned to the archway, which was bright as day with the glare of fifty lanterns.

The two rode straight to the ring of soldiers.

"Make way," Gaspard commanded, speaking with a foreign accent.

"For whom, monsieur?" one asked who seemed to be of a higher standing than the rest.

"For the Ambassador of the King of Spain."

The man touched his bonnet and opened up a road by striking the adjacent horses with the flat of his sword, and the two rode into the ring so that they faced the archway. They could see a little way inside the courtyard, where the light gleamed on armour. The men there were no rabble, but Guise's Swiss.

A priest came out, wearing the Jacobin habit, one of those preaching friars who had been fevering the blood of Paris. The crowd behind the men-at-arms knew him, for even in its absorption it sent up shouts of greeting. He flitted like a bat towards Gaspard and Champernoun and peered up at them. His face was lean and wolfish, with cruel arrogant eyes.

"Hail, father!" said Gaspard in Spanish. "How goes the good work?"

He replied in the same tongue. "Bravely, my children. But this is but the beginning. Are you girt and ready for the harvesting?"

"We are ready," said Gaspard. His voice shook with fury, but the Jacobin took it for enthusiasm. He held up his hand in blessing and fluttered back to the archway.

From inside the courtyard came the sound of something falling, and then a great shout. The mob had jumped to a conclusion. "That is the end of old Toothpick," a voice cried, using the Admiral's nickname There was a wild surge round the horsemen, but the ring held. A body of soldiers poured out of the gate, with blood on their bare swords. Among them was one tall fellow all in armour, with a broken plume on his bonnet. His face was torn and disfigured and he was laughing horribly. The Jacobin rushed to embrace him, and the man dropped on his knees to receive a blessing.

"Behold our hero," the friar cried. "His good blade has rid us of the arch-heretic," and the mob took up the shout.

Gaspard was cool now. His fury had become a cold thing like a glacier.

"I know him!" he whispered to Champernoun. "He is the Italian Petrucci. He is our first quarry."

"The second will be that damned friar," was the Englishman's answer.

Suddenly the ring of men-at-arms drew inward as a horseman rode out of the gate followed by half a dozen attendants. He was a tall young man, very noble to look upon, with a flushed face like a boy warm from the game of paume. His long satin coat was richly embroidered, and round his neck hung the thick gold collar of some Order. He was wiping a stain from his sleeve with a fine lawn handkerchief.

"What is that thing gilt like a chalice?" whispered Champernoun.

"Henry of Guise," said Gaspard.

The Duke caught sight of the two men in the centre of the ring. The lanterns made the whole place bright and he could see every detail of their dress and bearing. He saluted them courteously.

"We make your Grace our compliments," said Gaspard. "We are of the household of the Ambassador of Spain, and could not rest indoors when great deeds were being done in the city."

The young man smiled pleasantly. There was a boyish grace in his gesture.

"You are welcome, gentlemen. I would have every good Catholic in Europe see with his own eyes the good work of this Bartholomew's day. I would ask you to ride with me, but I leave the city in pursuit of the Count of Montgomery, who is rumoured to have escaped. There will be much for you to see on this happy Sunday. But stay! You are not attended, and our streets are none too safe for strangers. Presently the Huguenots will counterfeit our white cross, and blunders may be made by the overzealous."

He unclasped the jewel which hung at the end of his chain. It was a little Agnus of gold and enamel, surmounting a lozenge-shaped shield charged with an eagle.

"Take this," he said, "and return it to me when the work is over. Show it if any man dares to question you. It is a passport from Henry of Guise.... And now forward," he cried to his followers. "Forward for Montgomery and the Vidame."

The two looked after the splendid figure. "That bird is in fine feather," said Champernoun.

Gaspard's jaw was very grim. "Some day he will lie huddled under the assassin's knife. He will die as he has made my chief die, and his body will be cast to the dog's.... But he has given me a plan," and he spoke in his companion's ear.

The Englishman laughed. His stolidity had been slow to quicken, but his eyes were now hot and he had altogether ceased to swear.

"First let me get back to Walsingham's lodging. I have a young kinsman there, they call him Walter Raleigh, who would dearly love this venture."

"Tut, man, be serious. We play a desperate game, and there is no place for boys in it. We have Guise's jewel, and by the living God we will use it. My mark is Petrucci."

"And the priest," said Champernoun.

The crowd in the Rue de Bethisy was thinning, as bands of soldiers, each with its tail of rabble, moved off to draw other coverts. There was fighting still in many houses, and on the roof-tops as the pale dawn spread could be seen the hunt for fugitives. Torches and lanterns still flickered obscenely, and the blood in the gutters shone sometimes golden in their glare and sometimes spread drab and horrid in the waxing daylight.

The Jacobin stood at their elbow. "Follow me, my lords of Spain," he cried. "No friends of God and the Duke dare be idle this happy morn. Follow, and I will show you wonders."

He led them east to where a broader street ran to the river.

"Somewhere here lies Teligny," he croaked. "Once he is dead the second head is lopped from the dragon of Babylon. Oh that God would show us where Conde and Navarre are hid, for without them our task is incomplete."

There was a great crowd about the door of one house, and into it the Jacobin fought his way with prayers and threats. Some Huguenot—Teligny it might be—was cornered there, but in the narrow place only a few could join in the hunt, and the hunters, not to be impeded by the multitude, presently set a guard at the street door. The mob below was already drunk with blood, and found waiting intolerable; but it had no leader and foamed aimlessly about the causeway. There were women in it with flying hair like Maenads, who shrilled obscenities, and drunken butchers and watermen and grooms who had started out for loot and ended in sheer lust of slaying, and dozens of broken desperadoes and led-captains who looked on the day as their carnival. But to the mob had come one of those moments of indecision when it halted and eddied like a whirlpool.

Suddenly in its midst appeared two tall horsemen.

"Men of Paris," cried Gaspard with that masterful voice which is born of the deep seas. "You see this jewel. It was given me an hour back by Henry of Guise."

A ruffian examined it. "Ay," he murmured with reverence, "it is our Duke's. I saw it on his breast before Coligny's house."

The mob was all ears. "I have the Duke's command," Gaspard went on. "He pursues Montgomery and the Vidame of Chartres. Coligny is dead. Teliguy in there is about to die. But where are all the others? Where is La Rochefoucault? Where is Rosny? Where is Grammont? Where, above all, are the young Conde and the King of Navarre?"

The names set the rabble howling. Every eye was on the speaker.

Gaspard commanded silence. "I will tell you. The Huguenots are cunning as foxes. They planned this very day to seize the King and make themselves masters of France. They have copied your badge," and he glanced towards his left arm. "Thousands of them are waiting for revenge, and before it is full day they will be on you. You will not know them, you will take them for your friends, and you will have your throats cut before you find out your error."

A crowd may be wolves one moment and chickens the next, for cruelty and fear are cousins. A shiver of apprehension went through the soberer part. One drunkard who shouted was clubbed on the head by his neighbour. Gaspard saw his chance.

"My word to you—the Duke's word—is to forestall this devilry. Follow me, and strike down every band of white-badged Huguenots. For among them be sure is the cub of Navarre."

It was the leadership which the masterless men wanted. Fifty swords were raised, and a shout went up which shook the windows of that lodging where even now Teliguy was being done to death. With the two horsemen at their head the rabble poured westwards towards the Rue d'Arbre Sec and the Louvre, for there in the vicinity of the Palace were the likeliest coverts.

"Now Heaven send us Petrucci," said Gaspard. "Would that the Little Man had been alive and with us! This would have been a ruse after his own heart."

"I think the great Conde would have specially misliked yon monk," said the Englishman.

"Patience, Gawain. One foe at a time. My heart tells me that you will get your priest."

The streets, still dim in the dawn, were thickly carpeted with dead. The mob kicked and befouled the bodies, and the bravos in sheer wantonness spiked them with their swords. There were women there, and children, lying twisted on the causeway. Once a fugitive darted out of an entry, to be brought down by a butcher's axe.

"I have never seen worse in the Indies," and Champernoun shivered. "My stomach turns. For heaven's sake let us ride down this rabble!"

"Patience," said Gaspard, his eyes hard as stones. "Cursed be he that putteth his hand to the plough and then turns back."

They passed several small bodies of Catholic horse, which they greeted with cheers. That was in the Rue des Poulies; and at the corner where it abutted on the quay before the Hotel de Bourbon, a ferret-faced man ran blindly into them. Gaspard caught him and drew him to his horse's side, for he recognised the landlord of the tavern where he had supped.

"What news, friend?" he asked.

The man was in an anguish of terror, but he recognised his former guest.

"There is a band on the quay," he stammered. "They are mad and do not know a Catholic when they see him. They would have killed me, had not the good Father Antoine held them till I made off."

"Who leads them?" Gaspard asked, having a premonition.

"A tall man in crimson with a broken plume."

"How many?"

"Maybe a hundred, and at least half are men-at-arms."

Gaspard turned to Champernoun.

"We have found our quarry," he said.

Then he spoke to his following, and noted with comfort that it was now some hundred strong, and numbered many swords. "There is a Huguenot band before us," he cried. "They wear our crosses, and this honest fellow has barely escaped from them. They are less than three score. On them, my gallant lads, before they increase their strength, and mark specially the long man in red, for he is the Devil. It may be Navarre is with them."

The mob needed no second bidding. Their chance had come, and they swept along with a hoarse mutter more fearful than any shouting.

"Knee to knee, Gawain," said Gaspard, "as at St. John d'Ulloa. Remember, Petrucci is for me."

The Italian's band, crazy with drink and easy slaying, straggled across the wide quay and had no thought of danger till the two horsemen were upon them. The songs died on their lips as they saw bearing down on them an avenging army. The scared cries of "The Huguenots!" "Montgomery!" were to Gaspard's following a confirmation of their treachery. The swords of the bravos and the axes and knives of the Parisian mob made havoc with the civilian rabble, but the men-at-arms recovered themselves and in knots fought a stout battle. But the band was broken at the start by the two grim horsemen who rode through it as through meadow grass, their blades falling terribly, and then turned and cut their way back. Yet a third time they turned, and in that last mowing they found their desire. A tall man in crimson appeared before them. Gaspard flung his reins to Champernoun and in a second was on the ground, fighting with a fury that these long hours had been stifled. Before his blade the Italian gave ground till he was pinned against the wall of the Bourbon hotel. His eyes were staring with amazement and dawning fear. "I am a friend," he stammered in broken French and was answered in curt Spanish. Presently his guard weakened and Gaspard gave him the point in his heart. As he drooped to the ground, his conqueror bent over him. "The Admiral is avenged," he said. "Tell your master in hell that you died at the hands of Coligny's kinsman."

Gaspard remounted, and, since the fight had now gone eastward, they rode on to the main gate of the Louvre, where they met a company of the royal Guards coming out to discover the cause of an uproar so close to the Palace. He told his tale of the Spanish Embassy and showed Guise's jewel. "The streets are full of Huguenots badged as Catholics. His Majesty will be well advised to quiet the rabble or he will lose some trusty servants."

In the Rue du Coq, now almost empty, the two, horsemen halted.

"We had better be journeying, Gawain. Guise's jewel will open the gates. In an hour's time all Paris will be on our trail."

"There is still that priest," said Champernoun doggedly. He was breathing heavily, and his eyes were light and daring. Like all his countrymen, he was slow to kindle but slower to cool.

"In an hour, if we linger here, we shall be at his mercy. Let us head for the St. Antoine gate."

The jewel made their way easy, for through that gate Henry of Guise himself had passed in the small hours. "Half an hour ago," the lieutenant of the watch told them, "I opened to another party which bore the Duke's credentials. They were for Amiens to spread the good news."

"Had they a priest with them?"

"Ay, a Jacobin monk, who cried on them to hasten and not spare their horses. He said there was much to do in the north."

"I think the holy man spoke truth," said Gaspard, and they rode into open country.

They broke their fast on black bread and a cup of wine at the first inn, where a crowd of frightened countrymen were looking in the direction of Paris. It was now about seven o'clock, and a faint haze, which promised heat, cloaked the ground. From it rose the towers and high-peaked roofs of the city, insubstantial as a dream.

"Eaucourt by the waters!" sighed Gaspard. "That the same land should hold that treasure and this foul city!"

Their horses, rested and fed, carried them well on the north road, but by ten o'clock they had overtaken no travellers, save a couple of servants, on sorry nags, who wore the Vidame of Amiens' livery. They were well beyond Oise ere they saw in the bottom of a grassy vale a little knot of men.

"I make out six," said Champernoun, who had a falcon's eye. "Two priests and four men-at-arms. Reasonable odds, such as I love. Faith, that monk travels fast!"

"I do not think there will be much fighting," said Gaspard.

Twenty minutes later they rode abreast of the party, which at first had wheeled round on guard, and then had resumed its course at the sight of the white armlets. It was as Champernoun had said. Four lusty arquebusiers escorted the Jacobin. But the sixth man was no priest. He was a Huguenot minister whom Gaspard remembered with Conde's army, an elderly frail man bound with cruel thongs to a horse's back and his legs tethered beneath its belly.

Recognition awoke in the Jacobin's eye. "Ah, my lords of Spain! What brings you northward?"

Gaspard was by his side, while Champernoun a pace behind was abreast the minister.

"To see the completion of the good work begun this morning."

"You have come the right road. I go to kindle the north to a holy emulation. That heretic dog behind is a Picard, and I bring him to Amiens that he may perish there as a warning to his countrymen."

"So?" said Gaspard, and at the word the Huguenot's horse, pricked stealthily by Champernoun's sword, leaped forward and dashed in fright up the hill, its rider sitting stiff as a doll in his bonds. The Jacobin cried out and the soldiers made as if to follow, but Gaspard's voice checked them. "Let be. The beast will not go far. I have matters of importance to discuss with this reverend father."

The priest's face sharpened with a sudden suspicion. "Your manners are somewhat peremptory, sir Spaniard. But speak and let us get on."

"I have only the one word. I told you we had come north to see the fruition of the good work, and you approved. We do not mean the same. By good work I mean that about sunrise I slew with this sword the man Petrucci, who slew the Admiral. By its fruition I mean that I have come to settle with you."

"You...?" the other stammered.

"I am Gaspard de Laval, a kinsman and humble follower of Goligny."

The Jacobin was no coward. "Treason!" he cried. "A Huguenot! Cut them down, my men," and he drew a knife from beneath his robe.

But Gaspard's eye and voice checked the troopers. He held in his hand the gold trinket. "I have no quarrel with you. This is the passport of your leader, the Duke. I show it to you, and if you are questioned about this day's work you can reply that you took your orders from him who carried Guise's jewel. Go your ways back to Paris if you would avoid trouble."

Two of the men seemed to waver, but the maddened cry of the priest detained them. "They seek to murder me," he screamed. "Would you desert God's Church and burn in torment for ever?" He hurled himself on Gaspard, who caught his wrist so that the knife tinkled on the high road while the man overbalanced himself and fell. The next second the mellay had begun.

It did not last long. The troopers were heavy fellows, cumbrously armed, who, even with numbers on their side, stood little chance against two swift swordsmen, who had been trained to fight together against odds. One Gaspard pulled from the saddle so that he lay senseless on the ground. One Champernoun felled with a sword cut of which no morion could break the force. The two others turned tail and fled, and the last seen of them was a dust cloud on the road to Paris.

Gaspard had not drawn his sword. They stood by the bridge of a little river, and he flung Guise's jewel far into its lilied waters.

"A useful bauble," he smiled, "but its purpose is served."

The priest stood in the dust, with furious eyes burning in an ashen face.

"What will you do with me?"

"This has been your day of triumph, father. I would round it off worthily by helping you to a martyr's crown. Gawain," and he turned to his companion, "go up the road and fetch me the rope which binds the minister."

The runaway was feeding peaceably by the highway. Champernoun cut the old man's bonds, and laid him fainting on the grass. He brought back with him a length of stout cord.

"Let the brute live," he said. "Duck him and truss him up, but don't dirty your hands with him. I'd as lief kill a woman as a monk."

But Gaspard's smiling face was a rock. "This is no Englishman's concern. To-day's shame is France's and a Frenchman alone can judge it. Innocent blood is on this man's hands, and it is for me to pay the first instalment of justice. The rest I leave to God."

So when an hour later the stunned troopers recovered their senses they found a sight which sent them to their knees to patter prayers. For over the arch of the bridge dangled the corpse of the Jacobin. And on its breast it bore a paper setting forth that this deed had been done by Gaspard de Laval, and the Latin words "O si sic omnes!"

Meantime far up in the folds of the Santerre a little party was moving through the hot afternoon. The old Huguenot, shaken still by his rough handling, rode as if in a trance. Once he roused himself and asked about the monk.

"I hanged him like a mad dog," said Gaspard.

The minister shook his head. "Violence will not cure violence."

"Nay, but justice may follow crime. I am no Nicodemite. This day I have made public confession of my faith, and abide the consequences. From this day I am an exile from France so long as it pleases God to make His Church an anvil for the blows of His enemies."

"I, too, am an exile," said the old man. "If I come safe to Calais I shall take ship for Holland and find shelter with the brethren there. You have preserved my life for a few more years in my master's vineyard. You say truly, young sir, that God's Church is now an anvil, but remember for your consolation that it is an anvil which has worn out many hammers."

Late in the evening they came over a ridge and looked down on a shallow valley all green and gold in the last light. A slender river twined by alder and willow through the meadows. Gaspard reined in his horse and gazed on the place with a hand shading his eyes.

"I have slain a man to my hurt," he said. "See, there are my new fishponds half made, and the herb garden, and the terrace that gets the morning sun. There is the lawn which I called my quarter-deck, the place to walk of an evening. Farewell, my little grey dwelling."

Champernoun laid a kindly hand on his shoulder.

"We will find you the mate of it in Devon, old friend," he said.

But Gaspard was not listening. "Eaucourt by the waters," he repeated like the refrain of a song, and his eyes were full of tears.



CHAPTER 8. THE HIDDEN CITY

The two ports of the cabin were discs of scarlet, that pure translucent colour which comes from the reflection of sunset in leagues of still water. The ship lay at anchor under the high green scarp of an island, but on the side of the ports no land was visible—only a circle in which sea and sky melted into the quintessence of light. The air was very hot and very quiet. Inside a lamp had been lit, for in those latitudes night descends like a thunderclap. Its yellow glow joined with the red evening to cast orange shadows. On the wall opposite the ports was a small stand of arms, and beside it a picture of the Magdalen, one of two presented to the ship by Lord Huntingdon; the other had been given to the wife of the Governor of Gomera in the Canaries when she sent fruit and sugar to the voyagers. Underneath on a couch heaped with deerskins lay the Admiral.

The fantastic light revealed every line of the man as cruelly as spring sunshine. It showed a long lean face cast in a high mould of pride. The jaw and cheekbones were delicate and hard; the straight nose and the strong arch of the brows had the authority of one who all his days had been used to command. But age had descended on this pride, age and sickness. The peaked beard was snowy white, and the crisp hair had thinned from the forehead. The forehead itself was high and broad, crossed with an infinity of small furrows. The cheeks were sallow, with a patch of faint colour showing as if from a fever. The heavy eyelids were grey like a parrot's. It was the face of a man ailing both in mind and body. But in two features youth still lingered. The lips under their thatch of white moustache were full and red, and the eyes, of some colour between blue and grey, had for all their sadness a perpetual flicker of quick fire.

He shivered, for he was recovering from the fifth fever he had had since he left Plymouth. The ailment was influenza, and he called it a calenture. He was richly dressed, as was his custom even in outlandish places, and the furred robe which he drew closer round his shoulders hid a doublet of fine maroon velvet. For comfort he wore a loose collar and band instead of his usual cut ruff. He stretched out his hand to the table at his elbow where lay the Latin version of his Discovery of Guiana, of which he had been turning the pages, and beside it a glass of whisky, almost the last of the thirty-two gallon cask which Lord Boyle had given him in Cork on his way out. He replenished his glass with water from a silver carafe, and sipped it, for it checked his cold rigours. As he set it down he looked up to greet a man who had just entered.

The new-comer was not more than forty years old, like the Admiral, but he was lame of his left leg, and held himself with a stoop. His left arm, too hung limp and withered by his side. The skin of his face was gnarled like the bark of a tree, and seamed with a white scar which drooped over the corner of one eye and so narrowed it to half the size of the other. He was the captain of Raleigh's flagship, the Destiny, an old seafarer, who in twenty years had lived a century of adventure.

"I wish you good evening, Sir Walter," he said in his deep voice. "They tell me the fever is abating."

The Admiral smiled wanly, and in his smile there was still a trace of the golden charm which had once won all men's hearts.

"My fever will never abate this side the grave," he said. "Jasper, old friend, I would have you sit with me tonight. I am like King Saul, the sport of devils. Be you my David to exorcise them. I have evil news. Tom Keymis is dead."

The other nodded. Tom Keymis had been dead for ten days, since before they left Trinidad. He was aware of the obsession of the Admiral, which made the tragedy seem fresh news daily.

"Dead," said Raleigh. "I slew him by my harshness. I see him stumbling off to his cabin, an old bent man, though younger than me. But he failed me. He betrayed his trust.... Trust, what does that matter? We are all dying. Old Tom has only gone on a little way before the rest. And many went before him."

The voice had become shrill and hard. He was speaking to himself.

"The best—the very best. My brave young Walter, and Cosmor and Piggot and John Talbot and Ned Coffyn.... Ned was your kinsman, Jasper?"

"My cousin—the son of my mother's brother." The man spoke, like Raleigh, in a Devon accent, with the creamy slur in the voice and the sing-song fall of West England.

"Ah, I remember. Your mother was Cecily Coffyn, from Combas on the Moor at the back of Lustleigh. A pretty girl—I mind her long ago. I would I were on the Moor now, where it is always fresh and blowing.... And your father—the big Frenchman who settled on one of Gawain Champernoun's manors. I loved his jolly laugh. But Cecily sobered him, for the Coffyns were always a grave and pious race. Gawain is dead these many years. Where is your father?

"He died in '82 with Sir Humfrey Gilbert."

Raleigh bowed his head. "He went to God with brother Humfrey! Happy fate! Happy company! But he left a brave son behind him, and I have lost mine. Have you a boy, Jasper?"

"But the one. My wife died ten years ago come Martinmas. The child is with his grandmother on the Moor."

"A promising child?"

"A good lad, so far as I have observed him, and that is not once a twelvemonth."

"You are a hungry old sea-dog. That was not the Coffyn fashion. Ned was for ever homesick out of sight of Devon. They worshipped their bleak acres and their fireside pieties. Ah, but I forget. You are de Laval on one side, and that is strong blood. There is not much in England to vie with it. You were great nobles when our Cecils were husbandmen."

He turned on a new tack. "You know that Whitney and Wollaston have deserted me. They would have had me turn pirate, and when I refused they sailed off and left me. This morning I saw the last of their topsails. Did I right?" he asked fiercely.

"In my judgment you did right."

"But why—why?" Raleigh demanded. "I have the commission of the King of France. What hindered me to use my remnant like hounds to cut off the stragglers of the Plate Fleet? That way lies much gold, and gold will buy pardon for all offences. What hindered me, I say?"

"Yourself, Sir Walter."

Raleigh let his head fall back on the couch and smiled bitterly.

"You say truly—myself. 'Tis not a question of morals, mark ye. A better man than I might turn pirate with a clear conscience. But for Walter Raleigh it would be black sin. He has walked too brazenly in all weathers to seek common ports in a storm.... It becomes not the fortune in which he once lived to go journeys of picory.... And there is another reason. I have suddenly grown desperate old. I think I can still endure, but I cannot institute. My action is by and over and my passion has come."

"You are a sick man," said the captain with pity in his voice.

"Sick! Why, yes. But the disease goes very deep. The virtue has gone out of me, old comrade. I no longer hate or love, and once I loved and hated extremely. I am become like a frail woman for tolerance. Spain has worsted me, but I bear her no ill will, though she has slain my son. Yet once I held all Spaniards the devil's spawn."

"You spoke kindly of them in your History," said the other, "when you praised their patient virtue."

"Did I? I have forgot. Nay, I remember. When I wrote that sentence I was thinking of Berreo. I loved him, though I took his city. He was a valiant and liberal gentleman, and of a great heart. I mind how I combated his melancholy, for he was most melancholic. But now I have grown like him. Perhaps Sir Edward Coke was right and I have a Spanish heat. I think a man cannot strive whole-heartedly with an enemy unless he have much in common with him, and as the strife goes on he gets liker.... Ah, Jasper, once I had such ambitions that they made a fire all around me. Once I was like Kit Marlowe's Tamburlaine:

'Threatening the world with high astounding terms, And scourging kingdoms with his conquering sword.'

But now the flame has died and the ashes are cold. And I would not revive them if I could. There is nothing under heaven that I desire."

The seaman's face was grave and kindly.

"I think you have flown too high, Sir Walter. You have aimed at the moon and forgotten the merits of our earthly hills."

"True, true!" Raleigh's mien was for a moment more lively. "That is a shrewd comment. After three-score years I know my own heart. I have been cursed with a devil of pride, Jasper.... Man, I have never had a friend. Followers and allies and companions, if you please, but no friend. Others—simple folk—would be set singing by a May morning, or a warm tavern fire, or a woman's face. I have known fellows to whom the earth was so full of little pleasures that after the worst clouts they rose like larks from a furrow. A wise philosophy—but I had none of it. I saw always the little pageant of man's life like a child's peep-show beside the dark wastes of eternity. Ah, I know well I struggled like the rest for gauds and honours, but they were only tools for my ambition. For themselves I never valued them. I aimed at a master-fabric, and since I have failed I have now no terrestrial cover."

The night had fallen black, but the cabin windows were marvellously patined by stars. Raleigh's voice had sunk to the hoarse whisper of a man still fevered. He let his head recline again on the skins and closed his eyelids. Instantly it became the face of an old and very weary man.

The sailor Jasper Lauval—for so he now spelled his name on the rare occasions when he wrote it—thought he was about to sleep and was rising to withdraw, when Raleigh's eyes opened.

"Stay with me," he commanded. "Your silence cheers me. If you leave me I have thoughts that might set me following Tom Keymis. Kit Marlowe again! I cannot get rid of his accursed jingles. How do they go?

"'Hell hath no limite, nor is circumscribed In one self-place, for where we are is hell And where hell is there must we ever be.'"

Lauval stretched out a cool hand and laid it on the Admiral's hot forehead. He had a curiously steadfast gaze for all his drooping left eye. Raleigh caught sight of the withered arm.

"Tell me of your life, Jasper. How came you by such a mauling? Let the tale of it be like David's harping and scatter my demons."

The seaman sat himself in a chair. "That was my purpose, Sir Walter. For the tale is in some manner a commentary on your late words."

"Nay, I want no moral. Let me do the moralising. The tale's the thing. See, fill a glass of this Irish cordial. Twill keep off the chill from the night air. When and where did you get so woefully battered?"

"'Twas six years back when I was with Bovill."

Raleigh whistled. "You were with Robert Bovill' What in Heaven's name did one of Coffyn blood with Robert? If ever man had a devil, 'twas he. I mind his sullen black face and his beard in two prongs. I have heard he is dead—on a Panama gibbet?"

"He is dead; but not as he lived. I was present when he died. He went to God a good Christian, praying and praising. Next day I was to follow him, but I broke prison in the night with the help of an Indian, and went down the coast in a stolen patache to a place where thick forests lined the sea. There I lay hid till my wounds healed, and by and by I was picked up by a Bristol ship that had put in to water."

"But your wounds—how got you them?"

"At the hands of the priests. They would have made a martyr of me, and used their engines to bend my mind. Being obstinate by nature I mocked them till they wearied of the play. But they left their marks on this arm and leg. The scar I had got some months before in a clean battle."

"Tell me all. What did Robert Bovill seek? And where?"

"We sought the Mountain of God," said the seaman reverently.

"I never heard o't. My own Manoa, maybe, where gold is quarried like stone."

"Nay, not Manoa. The road to it is from the shore of the Mexican gulf. There was much gold."

"You found it?"

"I found it and handled it. Enough, could we have brought it off, to freight a dozen ships. Likewise jewels beyond the imagining of kings."

Raleigh had raised himself on his elbow, his face sharp and eager.

"I cannot doubt you, for you could not lie were it to win salvation. But, heavens! man, what a tale! Why did I not know of this before I broke my fortune on Tom Keymis' mine?"

"I alone know of it, the others being dead."

"Who first told you of it?"

"Captain Bovill had the rumour from a dying Frenchman who was landed in his last hours at Falmouth. The man mentioned no names, but the tale set the captain inquiring and he picked up the clue in Bristol. But 'twas in north Ireland that he had the whole truth and a chart of the road."

"These charts!" sighed Raleigh. "I think the fairies have the making of them, for they bewitch sober men. A scrap of discoloured paper and a rag of canvas; some quaint lines drawn often in a man's blood, and a cross in a corner marking 'much gold.' We mortals are eternally babes, and our heads are turned by toys."

"This chart was no toy, and he who owned it bought it with his life. Nay, Sir Walter, I am of your mind. Most charts are playthings from the devil. But this was in manner of speaking sent from God. Only we did not read it right. We were blind men that thought only of treasure."

"It is the common story," said Raleigh. "Go on, Jasper."

"We landed in the Gulf, at the point marked. It was at the mouth of a wide river so split up by sand bars that no ship could enter. But by portage and hard rowing we got our boats beyond the shoals and found deep water. We had learned beforehand that there were no Spanish posts within fifty miles, for the land was barren and empty even of Indians. So for ten days we rowed and poled through a flat plain, sweating mightily, till we came in sight of mountains. At that we looked for more comfort, for the road on our chart now led away from the river up a side valley. There we hoped for fruits, since it was their season, and for deer; and 'twas time, for our blood was thick with rotten victuals."

The man shivered, as if the recollection had still terrors for him.

"If ever the Almighty permitted hell on earth 'twas that valley. There was no stream in it and no verdure. Oathsome fleshy shrubs, the colour of mouldy copper, dotted the slopes, and a wilderness of rocks through which we could scarce find a road. There was no living thing in it but carrion birds. And serpents. They dwelt in every cranny of stone, and the noise of them was like bees humming. We lost two stout fellows from their poison. The sky was brass above us and our tongues were dry sticks, and by the foul vapours of the place our scanty food was corrupted. Never have men been nearer death. I think we would have retreated but for our captain; who had a honest heart. He would point out to us the track in the chart running through that accursed valley, and at the end the place lettered 'Mountain of God.' I mind how his hand shook as he pointed, for he was as sick as any. He was very gentle too, though for usual a choleric man."

"Choleric, verily," said Raleigh. "It must have been no common sufferings that tamed Robert Bovill. How long were you in the valley?"

"The better part of three days. 'Twas like sword-cut in a great mountain plain, and on the third day we came to a wall of rock which was the head of it. This we scaled, how I do not know, by cracks and fissures, the stronger dragging up the weaker by means of the tow-rope which by the mercy of God we carried with us. There we lost Francis Derrick, who fell a great way and crushed his skull on a boulder. You knew the man?"

"He sailed with me in '95. So that was the end of Francis?"

"We were now eleven, and two of them dying. Above the rocks on the plain we looked for ease, but found none. 'Twas like the bottom of a dry sea, all sand and great clefts, and in every hollow monstrous crabs that scattered the sand like spindrift as they fled from us. Some of the beasts we slew, and the blood of them was green as ooze, and their stench like a charnel house. Likewise there were everywhere fat vultures that dropped so close they fanned us with their wings. And in some parts there were cracks in the ground through which rose the fumes of sulphur that set a man's head reeling."

Raleigh shivered. "Madre de Dios, you portray the very floor of hell."

"Beyond doubt the floor of hell. There was but one thing that could get us across that devil's land, for our bones were molten with fear. At the end rose further hills, and we could see with our eyes they were green.... Captain Bovill was like one transfigured. 'See,' he cried, 'the Mountain of God! Paradise is before you, and the way to Paradise, as is well known, lies through the devil's country. A little longer, brave hearts, and we shall be in port.' And so fierce was the spirit of that man that it lifted our weary shanks and fevered bodies through another two days of torment. I have no clear memory of those hours. Assuredly we were all mad and spoke with strange voices. My eyes were so gummed together that I had often to tear the lids apart to see. But hourly that green hill came nearer, and towards dusk of the second day it hung above us. Also we found sweet water, and a multitude of creeping vines bearing a wholesome berry. Then as we lay down to sleep, the priest came to us."

Raleigh exclaimed. "What did a priest in those outlands? A Spaniard?"

"Ay. But not such as you and I have ever known elsewhere. Papegot or no, he was a priest of the Most High. He was white and dry as a bone, and his eyes burned glassily. Captain Bovill, who liked not the dark brothers, would have made him prisoner, for he thought him a forerunner of a Spanish force, but he held up a ghostly hand and all of us were struck with a palsy of silence. For the man was on the very edge of death.

"'Moriturus te saluto,' he says, and then he fell to babbling in Spanish, which we understood the better. Food, such as we had, he would not touch, nor the sweet well-water. 'I will drink no cup,' he said, 'till I drink the new wine with Christ in His Father's Kingdom. For I have seen what mortal eyes have not seen, and I have spoken with God's ministers, and am anointed into a new priesthood.'

"I mind how he sat on the grass, his voice drifting faint and small like a babe's crying. He told us nothing of what he was or whence he came, for his soul was possessed of a revelation. 'These be the hills of God,' he cried. 'In a little you will come to a city of the old kings where gold is as plentiful as sand of the sea. There they sit frozen in metal waiting the judgment. Yet they are already judged, and, I take it, justified, for the dead men sit as warders of a greater treasurehouse.

"I think that we eleven—and two of us near death—were already half out of the body, for weariness and longing shift the mind from its moorings. I can hear yet Captain Bovill asking very gently of this greater treasure-house, and I can hear the priest, like one in a trance, speaking high and strange. 'It is the Mountain of God, he said, 'which lies a little way further. There may be seen the heavenly angels ascending and descending.'"

Raleigh shook his head. "Madness, Jasper—the madness begot of too much toil... I know it... And yet I do not know. 'Tis not for me to set limits to the marvels that are hid in that western land. What next, man?"

"In the small hours of the morning the priest died. Likewise our two sick. We dug graves for them, and the Captain bade me say prayers over them. The nine of us left were shaking with a great awe. We felt lifted up in bodily strength, as if for a holy labour. Captain Bovill's stout countenance wore an air of humility. 'We be dedicate,' he said, 'to some high fortune. Let us go humbly and praise God.' The first steps we took that morning we walked like men going into church. Up a green valley we journeyed, where every fruit grew and choirs of birds sang—up a crystal river to a cup in the hills. And I think there was no one of us but had his mind more on the angels whom the priest had told of than on the golden kings."

Raleigh had raised himself from the couch, and sat with both elbows on the table, staring hard at the speaker. "You found them? The gold kings?"

"We found them. Before noon we came into a city of tombs. Grass grew in the streets and courts, and the bronze doors hung broken on their hinges. But no wild things had laired there. The place was clean and swept and silent. In each dwelling the roof was of beaten gold, and the square pillars were covered with gold plates, and where the dead sat was a wilderness of jewels.... I tell you, all the riches that Spain has drawn from all her Indies since the first conquistador set foot in them would not vie with the preciousness of a single one among those dead kings' houses."

"And the kings?" Raleigh interjected.

"They sat stiff in gold on their thrones, their bodies fashioned in the likeness of men. But they had no faces only golden plates set with gems."

"What fortune! What fortune! And what did you then?"

"We went mad." The seaman's voice was slow and melancholy. "We, who an hour before had been filled with high contemplations, went mad like common bravos at the sight of plunder. No man thought of the greater treasure which these gold things warded. We laughed and cried like children, and tore at the plated dead.... I mind how I wrenched off one jewelled face with the haft of my dagger, and a thin trickle of bones fell inside.... And yet, as we ravened and plundered we would fall into fits of shivering, for the thing was not of this world. Often a man would stop and fall to weeping. But the lust of gold consumed us, and presently we only sorrowed because we had no sumpter mules to aid its transit, and had a terror of the infernal plain and valley we had travelled...."

"Captain Bovill made camp in a mead outside the city, and one of us shot a deer, so that we supped full. He unfolded his purpose, which was that we should pack about our persons such jewels as were the smallest and most precious, and some gold likewise as an earnest, and by striking northward through the mountains seek to reach at a higher point in its course the river by which we had entered from the sea. I mistrusted the plan, for the chart had shown but the one way, but the terror of the road we had come was strong on me and I made no protest. So we packed our treasure, so that each man staggered under it, and before noon left the place of the kings."

"And then? Was the road desperate?" Raleigh's pale eyes had the ardour of a boy's.

"Desperate beyond all telling. An escalade of sheer mountains and a battling through vales choked with unbelievable thorns. Yet there was water and food, and the hardships were not beyond mortal endurance. 'Twas not a haunted hell like the way up. Wherefore I knew it would lead us to disaster, for 'twas not ordained as the path in the chart had been."

Raleigh laughed. "Faith, you show your mother's race. All Coffyns have in their souls the sour milk of Jean Calvin."

"Judge if I speak not the truth. Bit by bit we had to cast our burdens till only the jewels remained. And on the seventh day, when we were in sight of the river, we met a Spanish party, a convoy from their northern mines. We marched loosely and blindly, and they came on us unawares. We had all but reached the river's brink, so had the stream for a defence on one side, but before we knew they had taken us on flank and rear."

"Many?"

"A matter of three score, fresh and well armed, against nine weary men mortally short of powder. That marked the end of our madness and we became again sober Christians. Most notable was Captain Bovill. 'We have seen what we have seen,' he told us, as we cast up our defences under Spanish bullets, 'and none shall wrest the secret from us. If God wills that we perish, 'twill perish too. The odds are something heavier than I like, and if the worst befall I trust every man to fling into the river what jewels he carries sooner than let them become spoil of war. For if they see such preciousness they will be fired to inquiry and may haply stumble on our city. Such of us as live will some day return there....' I have said we had little powder, but for half a day we withstood the assault, and time and again when the enemy leapt inside our lines we beat him back. At the end, when hope was gone, you would hear little splashes in the waters as this man or that put his treasures into eternal hiding. A Spanish sword was like to have cleft my skull, but before I lost my senses I noted Captain Bovill tearing the chart in shreds and using them to hold down the last charges for his matchlock. He was crying, too, in English that some day we would return the road we had come."

"And you returned?"

The seaman shook his head. "Not with earthly feet. Two of us they slew outright, and two more died on the way coastwards. For long I was between death and life, and knew little till I woke in the Almirante's cell at Panama.... The rest you have heard. Captain Bovill died praising God, and with him three stout lads out of Somerset. I escaped and tell you the tale."

Raleigh meditation. With a sudden motion he rose to his feet and stared through the port, which was now tremulous with the foreglow of the tropic dawn. He put his head out and sniffed the sweet cold air. Then he turned to his companion.

"You know the road back to the city?"

The other nodded. "I alone of men."

"What hinders, Jasper?" Raleigh's face was sharp and eager, and his eyes had the hunger of an old hound on a trail. "They are all deserting me and look but to save their throats. Most are scum and have no stomach for great enterprises. I can send Herbert home with three shiploads of faint hearts, while you and I take the Destiny and steer for fortune. Ned King will come—ay, and Pommerol. What hinders, old friend?"

The seaman shook his head. "Not for me, Sir Walter."

"Why, man, will you let that great marvel lie hid till the hills crumble and bury it?"

"I will return—but not yet. When I have seen my son a man, I go back, but I go alone."

"To the city of the gold kings?"

"Nay, to the Mount of the Angels, of which the priest told."

There was silence for a minute. The light dawn wind sent a surge of little waves against the ship's side, so that it seemed as if the now flaming sky was making its song of morning. Raleigh blew out the flickering lamp, and the cabin was filled with a clear green dusk like palest emerald. The air from the sea flapped the pages of the book upon the table. He flung off his furred gown, and stretched his long arms to the ceiling.

"I think the fever has left me.... You said your tale was a commentary on my confessions. Wherefore, O Ulysses?"

"We had the chance of immortal joys, but we forsook them for lesser things. For that we were thoroughly punished and failed even in our baseness. You, too, Sir Walter, have glanced aside after gauds."

"For certain I have," and Raleigh laughed.

"Yet not for long. You have cherished most resolutely an elect purpose and in that you cannot fail."

"I know not. I know not. I have had great dreams and I have striven to walk in the light of them. But most men call them will o' the wisps, Jasper. What have they brought me? I am an old sick man, penniless and disgraced. His slobbering Majesty will give me a harsh welcome. For me the Mount of the Angels is like to be a scaflold."

"Even so. A man does not return from those heights. When I find my celestial hill I will lay my bones there. But what matters the fate of these twisted limbs or even of your comely head: All's one in the end, Sir Walter. We shall not die. You have lit a fire among Englishmen which will kindle a hundred thousand hearths in a cleaner world."

Raleigh smiled, sadly yet with a kind of wistful pride.

"God send it! And you?"

"I have a son of my body. That which I have sowed he may reap. He or his son, or his son's son."

The morning had grown bright in the little room. Of the two the Admiral now looked the younger. The fresh light showed the other like a wrinkled piece of driftwood. He rose stiffly and moved towards the door.

"You have proved my David in good truth," said Raleigh. "This night has gone far to heal me in soul and body. Faith, I have a mind to breakfast.. .. What a miracle is our ancient England! French sire or no, Jasper, you have that slow English patience that is like the patience of God."



CHAPTER 9. THE REGICIDE

There was a sharp grue of ice in the air, as Mr. Nicholas Lovel climbed the rickety wooden stairs to his lodgings in Chancery Lane hard by Lincoln's Inn. That morning he had ridden in from his manor in the Chilterns, and still wore his heavy horseman's cloak and the long boots splashed with the mud of the Colne fords. He had been busy all day with legal matters—conveyances on which his opinion was sought, for, though it was the Christmas vacation, his fame among the City merchants kept him busy in term and out of it. Rarely, he thought, had he known London in so strange a temper. Men scarcely dared to speak above their breath of public things, and eyed him fearfully—even the attorneys who licked his boots—as if a careless word spoken in his presence might be their ruin. For it was known that this careful lawyer stood very near Cromwell, had indeed been his comrade at bed and board from Marston to Dunbar, and, though no Commons man, had more weight than any ten in Parliament. Mr. Lovel could not but be conscious of the tension among his acquaintances, and had he missed to note it there he would have found it in the streets. Pride's troopers were everywhere, riding in grim posses or off duty and sombrely puffing tobacco, vast, silent men, lean from the wars. The citizens on the causeway hurried on their errand, eager to find sanctuary from the biting air and the menace of unknown perils. Never had London seen such a Christmastide. Every man was moody and careworn, and the bell of Paul's as it tolled the hours seemed a sullen prophet of woe.

His servant met him on the stair.

"He is here," he said. "I waited for him in the Bell Yard and brought him in secretly."

Lovel nodded, and stripped off his cloak, giving it to the man. "Watch the door like a dragon, Matthew," he told him. "For an hour we must be alone. Forbid anyone, though it were Sir Harry himself."

The little chamber was bright with the glow of a coal fire. The red curtains had been drawn and one lamp lit. The single occupant sprawled in a winged leather chair, his stretched-out legs in the firelight, but his head and shoulders in shadow. A man entering could not see the face, and Lovel, whose eyes had been weakened by study, peered a second before he closed the door behind him.

"I have come to you, Nick, as always when my mind is in tribulation."

The speaker had a harsh voice, like a bellman's which has been ruined by shouting against crowds. He had got to his feet and seemed an elderly man, heavy in body, with legs too short for the proportions of his trunk. He wore a soldier's coat and belt, but no sword. His age might have been fifty, but his face was so reddened by weather that it was hard to judge. The thick straight black locks had little silver in them, but the hair that sprouted from a mole on the chin was grey. His cheeks were full and the heavy mouth was pursed like that of a man in constant painful meditation. He looked at first sight a grazier from the shires or some new-made squire of a moderate estate. But the eyes forbade that conclusion. There was something that brooded and commanded in those eyes, something that might lock the jaw like iron and make their possessor a hammer to break or bend the world.

Mr. Lovel stirred the fire very deliberately and sat himself in the second of the two winged chairs.

"The King?" he queried. "You were in two minds when we last spoke on the matter. I hoped I had persuaded you. Has some new perplexity arisen?"

The other shook his big head, so that for a moment he had the look of a great bull that paws the ground before charging.

"I have no clearness," he said, and the words had such passion behind them that they were almost a groan.

Lovel lay back in his chair with his finger tips joined, like a jurisconsult in the presence of a client. "Clearness in such matters is not for us mortals," he said. "You are walking dark corridors which the lamp of the law does not light. You are not summoned to do justice, being no judge, but to consider the well-being of the State. Policy, Oliver. Policy, first and last."

The other nodded. "But policy is two-faced, and I know not which to choose."

"Is it still the business of the trial?" Lovel asked sharply. "We argued that a fortnight since, and I thought I had convinced you. The case has not changed. Let me recapitulate. Imprimis, the law of England knows no court which can bring the King of England before it."

"Tchut, man. Do not repeat that. Vane has been clacking it in my ear. I tell you, as I told young Sidney, that we are beyond courts and lawyer's quibbles, and that if England requires it I will cut off the King's head with the crown on it."

Lovel smiled. "That is my argument. You speak of a trial, but in justice there can be no trial where there is neither constituted court nor valid law. If you judge the King, 'tis on grounds of policy. Can you defend that policy, Oliver? You yourself have no clearness. Who has; Not Vane. Not Fairfax. Not Whitelocke, or Widdrington, or Lenthall. Certes, not your old comrade Nick Lovel."

"The Army desires it—notably those in it who are most earnest in God's cause."

"Since when have you found a politic judgment in raw soldiers? Consider, my friend. If you set the King on his trial it can have but the one end. You have no written law by which to judge him, so your canon will be your view of the public weal, against which he has most grievously offended. It is conceded your verdict must be guilty and your sentence death. Once put him on trial and you unloose a great stone in a hill-side which will gather speed with every yard it journeys. You will put your King to death, and in whose name?"

Cromwell raised his head which he had sunk between his hands. "In the name of the Commons of Parliament and all the good people of England."

"Folly, man. Your Commons are a disconsidered rump of which already you have made a laughingstock. As for your good people of England, you know well that ten out of any dozen are against you. The deed will be done in your own name and that of the hoteads of the Army. 'Twill be an act of war. Think you that by making an end of the King you will end the Kings party? Nay, you will give it a martyr. You will create for every woman in England a new saint. You will outrage all sober folk that love order and at the very moment when you seek to lay down the sword you make it the sole arbitrament. Whatsay you to that?"

"There is no need to speak of his death. What if the Court depose him only?"

"You deceive yourself. Once put him on trial and you must go through with it to the end. A deposed king will be like a keg of gunpowder set by your hearth. You cannot hide him so that he ceases to be a peril. You cannot bind him to terms."

"That is naked truth," said Cromwell grimly. "The man is filled with a devil of pride. When Denbigh and the other lords went to him he shut the door in their face. I will have no more of ruining hypocritical agreements. If God's poor people are to be secure we must draw his fangs and destroy his power for ill. But how to do it?" And he made a gesture of despair.

"A way must be found. And let it not be that easy way which will most utterly defeat your honest purpose. The knots of the State are to be unravelled, not cut with the sword."

Cromwell smiled sadly, and his long face had for the moment a curious look of a puzzled child.

"I believe you to be a godly man, friend Nicholas. But I fear your soul is much overlaid with worldlythings, and you lean too much on frail understanding. I, too, am without clearness. I assent to your wisdom, but I cannot think it concludes the matter. In truth, we have come in this dark hour to the end of fleshly reasonings. It cannot be that the great marvels which the Lord has shown us can end in barrenness. His glorious dispensations must have an honest fruition, for His arm is not shortened."

He rose to his feet and tightened the belt which he had unbuckled. "I await a sign," he said. "Pray for me, friend, for I am a man in sore perplexity. I lie o' nights at Whitehall in one of the King's rich beds, but my eyes do not close. From you I have got the ripeness of human wisdom, but my heart is not satisfied. I am a seeker, with my ear intent to hear God's command, and I doubt not that by some providence He will yet show me His blessed way."

Lovel stood as if in a muse while the heavy feet tramped down the staircase. He heard a whispering below and then the soft closing of a door. For maybe five minutes he was motionless: then he spoke to himself after the habit he had. "The danger is not over," he said, "but I think policy will prevail. If only Vane will cease his juridical chatter.... Oliver is still at the cross-roads, but he inclines to the right one.... I must see to it that Hugh Peters and his crew manufacture no false providences. Thank God, if our great man is one-third dreamer, he is two-thirds doer, and can weigh his counsellors."

Whereupon, feeling sharp-set with the cold and the day's labour, he replenished the fire with a beech faggot, resumed the riding cloak he had undone and, after giving his servant some instructions, went forth to sup in a tavern. He went unattended, as was his custom. The city was too sunk in depression to be unruly.

He crossed Chancery Lane and struck through the narrow courts which lay between Fleet Street and Holborn. His goal was Gilpin's in Fetter Lane, a quiet place much in favour with those of the long robe. The streets seemed curiously quiet. It was freezing hard and threatening snow, so he flung a fold of his cloak round his neck, muffling his ears. This deadened his hearing, and his mind also was busy with its own thoughts, so that he did not observe that soft steps dogged him. At the corner of an alley he was tripped up, and a heavy garment flung over his head. He struggled to regain his feet, but an old lameness, got at Naseby, impeded him. The cobbles, too, were like glass, and he fell again, this time backward. His head struck the ground, and though he did not lose consciousness, his senses were dazed. He felt his legs and arms being deftly tied, and yards of some soft stuff enveloping his head. He ceased to struggle as soon as he felt the odds against him, and waited on fortune. Voices came to his ears, and it seemed that one of them was a woman's.

The crack on the causeway must have been harder than it appeared, for Mr. Lovel fell into a doze. When he woke he had some trouble in collecting his wits. He felt no bodily discomfort except a little soreness at the back of his scalp. His captors had trussed him tenderly, for his bonds did not hurt, though a few experiments convinced him that they were sufficiently secure. His chief grievance was a sharp recollection that he had not supped; but, being a philosopher, he reflected that, though hungry, he was warm. He was in a glass coach driven rapidly on a rough road, and outside the weather seemed to be wild, for the snow was crusted on the window. There were riders in attendance; he could hear the click-clack of ridden horses. Sometimes a lantern flashed on the pane, and a face peered dimly through the frost. It seemed a face that he had seen before.

Presently Mr. Lovel began to consider his position. Clearly he had been kidnapped, but by whom and to what intent? He reflected with pain that it might be his son's doing, for that gentleman had long been forbidden his door. A rakehell of the Temple and married to a cast-off mistress of Goring's, his son was certainly capable of any evil, but he reminded himself that Jasper was not a fool and would scarcely see his profit in such an escapade. Besides, he had not the funds to compass an enterprise which must have cost money. He thought of the King's party, and dismissed the thought. His opponents had a certain regard for him, and he had the name of moderate. No, if politics touched the business, it was Ireton's doing. Ireton feared his influence with Cromwell. But that sober man of God was no bravo. He confessed himself at a loss.

Mr. Lovel had reached this point in his meditations when the coach suddenly stopped. The door opened, and as he peered into the semicircle of wavering lamp light he observed a tall young lady in a riding coat white with snowflakes. She had dismounted from her horse, and the beast's smoking nostrils were thawing the ice on her sleeve. She wore a mask, but she did not deceive her father.

"Cecily," he cried, astounded out of his calm. "What madcap trick is this?"

The girl for answer flung her bridle to a servant and climbed into the coach beside him. Once more the wheels moved.

"Oh, father, dearest father, pray forgive me. I have been so anxious. When you fell I begged Tony to give up the plan, but he assured me you had taken no hurt. Tell me you are none the worse."

Mr. Lovel began to laugh, and there was relief in his laugh, for he had been more disquieted than he would have confessed.

"I am very greatly the worse!" He nodded to his bonds. "I do not like your endearments, Cis."

"Promise me not to try to escape, and I will cut them." The girl was very grave as she drew from a reticule beneath her cloak a pair of housewife's scissors.

Mr. Lovel laughed louder. "I promise to bide where I am in this foul weather."

Neatly and swiftly she cut the cords and he stretched arms and legs in growing comfort.

"Also I have not supped."

"My poor father. But in two hours' time you will have supper. We sleep at—but that I must not say."

"Where does this journey end? Am I to have no news at all, my dear?"

"You promised, remember, so I will tell you. Tony and I are taking you to Chastlecote."

Mr. Lovel whistled. "A long road and an ill. The wind blows bitter on Cotswold in December. I would be happier in my own house."

"But not safe." The girl's voice was very earnest. "Believe me, dearest father, we have thought only of you. Tony says that London streets will soon be running blood. He has it from secret and sure sources. There is a King's faction in the Army and already it is in league with the Scots and our own party to compass the fall of Cromwell. He says it will be rough work and the innocent will die with the guilty.... When he told me that, I feared for your life—and Tony, too, for he loves you. So we carry you to Chastlecote till January is past, for by then Tony says there will be peace in England."

"I thank you, Cis,—and Tony also, who loves me. But if your news be right, I have a duty to do. I am of Cromwell's party, as you and Tony are of the King's. You would not have me run from danger."

She primmed her pretty mouth. "You do not run, you are carried off. Remember your promise."

"But a promise given under duress is not valid in law."

"You are a gentleman, sir, before you are a lawyer. Besides, there are six of Tony's men with us—and all armed."

Mr. Lovel subsided with a chuckle. This daughter of his should have been a man. Would that Heaven had seen fit to grant him such a son!

"Two hours to supper," was what he said. "By the slow pace of our cattle I judge we are on Denham hill. Permit me to doze, my dear. 'Tis the best antidote to hunger. Whew, but it is cold! If you catch a quinsy, blame that foolish Tony of yours."

But, though he closed his eyes, he did not sleep. All his life he had been something of a fatalist, and this temper had endeared him to Cromwell, who held that no man travelled so far as he who did not know the road he was going. But while in Oliver's case the belief came from an ever-present sense of a directing God, in him it was more of a pagan philosophy. Mr. Lovel was devout after his fashion, but he had a critical mind and stood a little apart from enthusiasm. He saw man's life as a thing foreordained, yet to be conducted under a pretence of freedom, and while a defender of liberty his admiration inclined more naturally to the rigour of law. He would oppose all mundane tyrannies, but bow to the celestial bondage.

Now it seemed that fate had taken charge of him through the medium of two green lovers. He was to be spared the toil of decision and dwell in an enforced seclusion. He was not averse to it. He was not Cromwell with Cromwell's heavy burden; he was not even a Parliment man; only a private citizen who wished greatly for peace. He had laboured for peace both in field and council, and that very evening he had striven to guide the ruler of England. Assuredly he had done a citizen's duty and might now rest.

His thoughts turned to his family—the brave girl and the worthless boy. He believed he had expunged Jasper from his mind, but the recollection had still power to pain him. That was the stuff of which the King's faction was made, half-witted rakes who were arrogant without pride and volcanic without courage.... Not all, perhaps. The good Tony was a welcome enough son-in-law, though Cecily would always be the better man. The young Oxfordshire squire was true to his own royalties, and a mortal could be no more. He liked the flaxen poll of him, which contrasted well with Cecily's dark beauty—and his jolly laugh and the noble carriage of his head. Yet what wisdom did that head contain which could benefit the realm of England?

This story of a new plot! Mr. Lovel did not reject it. It was of a piece with a dozen crazy devices of the King. The man was no Englishman, but an Italian priest who loved dark ways. A little good sense, a little honesty, and long ago there would have been a settlement. But to treat with Charles was to lay foundations on rotten peat.

Oddly enough, now that he was perforce quit of any share in the business, he found his wrath rising against the King. A few hours back he had spoken for him. Had he after all been wrong? He wondered. Oliver's puzzled face rose before him. He had learned to revere that strange man's perplexities. No brain was keener to grasp an argument, for the general was as quick at a legal point as any lawyer. When, therefore, he still hesitated before what seemed a final case, it was well to search for hidden flaws. Above all when he gave no reason it was wise to hasten to him, for often his mind flew ahead of logic, and at such times he was inspired. Lovel himself and Vane and Fairfax had put the politic plea which seemed unanswerable, and yet Oliver halted and asked for a sign. Was it possible that the other course, the wild course, Ireton's course, was the right one?

Mr. Lovel had bowed to fate and his captors, and conscious that no action could follow on any conclusion he might reach, felt free to indulge his thoughts. He discovered these growing sterner. He revieived is argument against the King's trial. Its gravamen lay in the certainty that trial meant death. The plea against death was that it would antagonise three-fourths of England, and make a martyr out of a fool. Would it do no more? Were there no gains to set against that loss? To his surprise he found himself confessing a gain.

He had suddenly become impatient with folly. It was Cromwell's mood, as one who, living under the eye of God, scorned the vapourings of pedestalled mortals. Mr. Lovel by a different road reached the same goal. An abiding sense of fate ordering the universe made him intolerant of trivial claims of prerogative and blood. Kingship for him had no sanctity save in so far as it was truly kingly. Were honest folk to be harried because of the whims of a man whose remote ancestor had been a fortunate bandit? Carles had time and again broke faith with his people and soaked the land in blood. In law he could do no wrong, but, unless God slept, punishment should follow the crime, and if the law gave no aid the law must be dispensed with. Man was not made for it, but it for man.

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