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   Chapter 5 No.5

A Ladder of Swords By Gilbert Parker Characters: 5808

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


THE Seigneur of Rozel found De la Forêt at the house of M. Aubert. His face was flushed with hard riding, and perhaps the loving attitude of Michel and Angèle deepened it, for at the garden gate the lovers were saying adieu.

"You have come for Monsieur de la Forêt?" asked Angèle, anxiously. Her quick look at the seigneur's face had told her there were things amiss.

"There's commands from the Queen. They're for the ears of De la Forêt," said the seigneur.

"I will hear them, too," said Angèle, her color going, her bearing determined.

The seigneur looked down at her with boyish appreciation, then said to De la Forêt: "Two queens make claim for you. The wolfish Catherine writes to England for her lost Camisard, with much fool's talk about 'dark figures,' and 'conspirators,' 'churls,' and foes of 'soft peace,' and England takes the bait and sends to Sir Hugh Pawlett yonder. And, in brief, monsieur, the governor is to have you under arrest and send you to England. God knows why two queens make such a pother over a fellow with naught but a sword and a lass to love him-though, come to think, 'a man's a man if he have but a hose on his head,' as the proverb runs."

De la Forêt smiled, then looked grave as he caught sight of Angèle's face. "'Tis arrest, then?" he asked.

"'Tis come willy-nilly," answered the seigneur. "And once they've forced you from my doors, I'm for England to speak my mind to the Queen. I can make interest for her presence-I hold court office!" he added, with puffing confidence.

Angèle looked up at him with quick tears, yet with a smile on her lips.

"You are going to England for Michel's sake?" she said, in a low voice.

"For Michel, or for you, or for mine honor,-what matter, so that I go?" he answered, then added, "There must be haste to Rozel, friend, lest the governor take Lemprière's guest like a potato-digger in the fields."

Putting spurs to his horse, he cantered heavily away, not forgetting to wave a pompous farewell to Angèle.

De la Forêt was smiling as he turned to Angèle. She looked wonderingly at him, for she had felt that she must comfort him, and she looked not for this sudden change in his manner.

"Is prison-going so blithe, then?" she asked, with a little uneasy laugh which was half a sob.

"It will bring things to a head," he answered. "After danger and busy days, to be merely safe, it is scarce the life for Michel de la Forêt. I have my duty to the comtesse; I have my love for you; but I seem of little use by contrast with my past. And yet, and yet," he added, half sadly, "how futile has been all our fighting, so far as human eye can see!"

"Nothing is futile that is right, Michel," the girl replied. "Thou hast done as thy soul answered to God's messages: thou hast fought when thou couldst, and thou hast sheathed thy blade when there was naught else to do. Are not both right?"

He clas

ped her to his breast, then, holding her from him a little, looked into her eyes steadily a moment.

"God hath given thee a true heart, and the true heart hath wisdom," he answered.

"You will not seek escape? Nor resist the governor?" she asked, eagerly.

"Whither should I go? My place is here by you, by the Comtesse de Montgomery. One day it may be I shall return to France and to our cause-"

"If it be God's will."

"If it be God's will."

"Whatever comes, you will love me, Michel?"

"I will love you whatever comes."

"Listen." She drew his head down. "I am no drag-weight to thy life? Thou wouldst not do otherwise if there were no foolish Angèle?"

He did not hesitate. "What is best is. I might do otherwise if there were no Angèle in my life to pilot my heart, but that were worse for me."

"Thou art the best lover in all the world."

"I hope to make a better husband. To-morrow is carmine-lettered in my calendar, if thou sayest thou wilt still have me under the sword of the Medici."

Her hand pressed her heart suddenly. "Under the sword, if it be God's will," she answered. Then, with a faint smile, "But no, I will not believe the Queen of England will send thee, one of her own Protestant faith, to the Medici."

"And thou wilt marry me?"

"When the Queen of England approves thee," she answered, and buried her face in the hollow of his arm.

* * *

An hour later Sir Hugh Pawlett came to the manor-house of Rozel with twoscore men-at-arms. The seigneur himself answered the governor's knocking, and showed himself in the doorway with a dozen halberdiers behind him.

"I have come seeking Michel de la Forêt," said the governor.

"He is my guest."

"I have the Queen's command to take him."

"He is my cherished guest."

"Must I force my way?"

"Is it the Queen's will that blood be shed?"

"The Queen's commands must be obeyed."

"The Queen is a miracle of the world, God save her! What is the charge against him?"

"Summon Michel de la Forêt, 'gainst whom it lies."

"He is my guest; ye shall have him only by force."

The governor turned to his men. "Force the passage and search the house," he commanded.

The company advanced with levelled pikes, but at a motion from the seigneur his men fell back before them, and, making a lane, disclosed Michel de la Forêt at the end of it. Michel had not approved of Lemprière's mummery of defence, but he understood from what good spirit it sprang, and how it flattered the seigneur's vanity to make show of resistance.

The governor greeted De la Forêt with a sour smile, read to him the Queen's writ, and politely begged his company towards Mont Orgueil Castle.

"I'll fetch other commands from her Majesty, or write me down a peddler of St. Ouen's follies," the seigneur said from his doorway, as the governor and De la Forêt bade him good-bye and took the road to the castle.

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