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   Chapter 6 THE WOOD OF LIFE

The Path of the King By John Buchan Characters: 32835

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


The Lady Catherine de Laval, in her own right Countess of Beaumanoir, and mistress of fiefs and manors, rights of chase and warren, mills and hospices, the like of which were not in Picardy, was happy in all things but her family. Her one son had fallen in his youth in an obscure fray in Guienne, leaving two motherless boys who, after her husband's death, were the chief business of life to the Countess Catherine. The elder, Aimery, grew to manhood after the fashion of the men of her own house, a somewhat heavy country gentleman, much set upon rustic sports, slow at learning, and averse alike from camps and cities. The ambition of the grandmother found nothing to feed upon in the young lord of Beaumanoir. He was kind, virtuous and honest, but dull as a pool on a winter's highway.

Catherine would fain have had the one youth a soldier and the other a saint, and of the two ambitions she most cherished the latter. The first made shipwreck on the rustic Aimery, and therefore the second burned more fiercely. She had the promise from the saints that her line had a great destiny, and the form of it she took to be sanctitude. For, all her married days she had ruled her life according to the canons of God, fasting and praying, cherishing the poor, tending the afflicted, giving of her great wealth bountifully to the Church. She had a name for holiness as far as the coasts of Italy. Surely from the blood of Beaumanoir one would arise to be in dark times a defender of the Faith, a champion of Christ whom after death the Church should accept among the beatified. Such a fate she desired for her seed more hungrily than any Emperor's crown.

In the younger, Philip, there was hope. He had been an odd child, slim and pale while Aimery was large and ruddy, shy where his brother was bold and bold where he was shy. He was backward in games and unready in a quarrel, but it was observed that he had no fear of the dark, or of the Green Lady that haunted the river avenue. Father Ambrose, his tutor, reported him of quick and excellent parts, but marred by a dreaminess which might grow into desidia that deadly sin. He had a peculiar grace of body and a silken courtesy of manner which won hearts. His grey eyes, even as a small boy, were serious and wise. But he seemed to dwell aloof, and while his brother's moods were plain for all to read, he had from early days a self-control which presented a mask to his little world. With this stoicism went independence. Philip walked his own way with a gentle obstinacy. "A saint, maybe," Father Ambrose told his grandmother. "But the kind of saint that the Church will ban before it blesses."

To the old dame of Beaumanoir the child was the apple of her eye; and her affection drew from him a tenderness denied to others. But it brought no confidences. The dreaming boy made his own world, which was not, like his grandmother's, one of a dark road visited rarely by angels, with heaven as a shining city at the end of it; or, like his brother's, a green place of earthy jollity. It was as if the Breton blood of the Lavals and Rohans had brought to the solid stock of Beaumanoir the fairy whimsies of their dim ancestors. While the moors and woodlands were to Aimery only places to fly a hawk or follow a stag, to Philip they were a wizard land where dreams grew. And the mysteries of the Church were also food for his gold fancy, which by reshaping them stripped them of all terrors. He was extraordinarily happy, for he had the power to make again each fresh experience in a select inner world in which he walked as king, since he was its creator.

He was a child of many fancies, but one especially stayed with him. When still very small, he slept in a cot in his grandmother's room, the walls of which were hung with tapestry from the Arras looms. One picture caught his eye, for the morning sun struck it, and when he woke early it glowed invitingly before him. It represented a little river twining about a coppice. There was no figure in the piece, which was bounded on one side by a great armoire, and on the other by the jamb of the chimney; but from extreme corner projected the plume of a helmet and the tip of a lance. There was someone there; someone riding towards the trees. It grew upon Philip that that little wood was a happy place, most happy and desirable. He fancied himself the knight, and he longed to be moving up the links of the stream. He followed every step of the way, across the shallow ford, past the sedges of a backwater, between two clumps of willows, and then over smooth green grass to the edge of the wood. But he never tried to picture what lay inside. That was sacred-even from his thoughts.

When he grew older and was allowed to prowl about in the scriptorium of the Abbey of Montmirail which lay by the Canche side, he found his wood again. It was in a Psaltery on which a hundred years before some Flemish monk had lavished his gold and vermilion. Opposite the verse of Psalm xxiii., "In loco pascuae," was a picture almost the same as that in the bedroom arras. There were the river, the meadows, and the little wood, painted in colours far brighter than the tapestry. Never was such bloom of green or such depth of blue. But there was a difference. No lance or plume projected from the corner. The traveller had emerged from cover, and was walking waist-deep in the lush grasses. He was a thin, nondescript pilgrim, without arms save a great staff like the crozier of a Bishop. Philip was disappointed in him and preferred the invisible knight, but the wood was all he had desired. It was indeed a blessed place, and the old scribe had known it, for a scroll of gold hung above it with the words "Sylva Vitae."

At the age of ten the boy had passed far beyond Father Ambrose, and was sucking the Abbey dry of its learning, like some second Abelard. In the cloisters of Montmirail were men who had a smattering of the New Knowledge, about which Italy had gone mad, and, by the munificence of the Countess Catherine, copies had been made by the Italian stationarii of some of the old books of Rome which the world had long forgotten. In the Abbey library, among a waste of antiphonaries and homilies and monkish chronicles, were to be found texts of Livy and Lucretius and the letters of Cicero. Philip was already a master of Latin, writing it with an elegance worthy of Niccolo the Florentine. At fourteen he entered the college of Robert of Sorbonne, but found little charm in its scholastic pedantry. But in the capital he learned the Greek tongue from a Byzantine, the elder Lascaris, and copied with his own hand a great part of Plato and Aristotle. His thirst grew with every draught of the new vintage. To Pavia he went and sat at the feet of Lorenzo Vallo. The company of Pico della Mirandola at Florence sealed him of the Platonic school, and like his master he dallied with mysteries and had a Jew in his house to teach him Hebrew that he might find a way of reconciling the Scriptures and the classics, the Jew and the Greek. From the verses which he wrote at this time, beautifully turned hexameters with a certain Lucretian cadence, it is clear that his mind was like Pico's, hovering about the borderland of human knowledge, clutching at the eternally evasive. Plato's Banquet was his gospel, where the quest of truth did not lack the warmth of desire. Only a fragment remains now of the best of his poems, that which earned the praise of Ficino and the great Lorenzo, and it is significant that the name of the piece was "The Wood of Life."

At twenty Philip returned to Beaumanoir after long wanderings. He was the perfect scholar who had toiled at books and not less at the study of mankind. But his well-knit body and clear eyes showed no marks of bookishness, and Italy had made him a swordsman. A somewhat austere young man, he had kept himself unspotted in the rotting life of the Italian courts, and though he had learned from them suavity had not lost his simplicity. But he was more aloof than ever. There was little warmth in the grace of his courtesy, and his eyes were graver than before. It seemed that they had found much, but had had no joy of it, and that they were still craving. It was a disease of the time and men called it aegritudo. "No saint," the aged Ambrose told the Countess. "Virtuous, indeed, but not with the virtue of the religious. He will never enter the Church. He has drunk at headier streams." The Countess was nearing her end. All her days, for a saint, she had been a shrewd observer of life, but with the weakening of her body's strength she had sunk into the ghostly world which the Church devised as an ante-room to immortality. Her chamber was thronged with lean friars like shadows. To her came the Bishop of Beauvais, once a star of the Court, but now in his age a grim watch-dog of the Truth. To him she spoke of her hopes for Philip.

"An Italianate scholar!" cried the old man. "None such shall pollute the Church with my will. They are beguiled by such baubles as the holy Saint Gregory denounced, poetarum figmenta sive deliramenta. If your grandson, madame, is to enter the service of God he must renounce these pagan follies."

The Bishop went, but his words remained. In the hour of her extremity the vision of Catherine was narrowed to a dreadful antagonism of light and darkness-God and Antichrist-the narrow way of salvation and a lost world. She was obsessed by the peril of her darling. Her last act must be to pluck him from his temptress. Her mood was fanned by the monks who surrounded her, narrow men whose honesty made them potent.

The wan face on the bed moved Philip deeply. Tenderness filled his heart, and a great sense of alienation, for the dying woman spoke a tongue he had forgotten. Their two worlds were divided by a gulf which affection could not bridge. She spoke not with her own voice but with that of her confessors when she pled with him to do her wishes.

"I have lived long," she said, "and know that the bread of this world is ashes. There is no peace but in God. You have always been the child of my heart, Philip, and I cannot die at ease till I am assured of your salvation.... I have the prevision that from me a saint shall be born. It is God's plain commandment to you. Obey, and I go to Him with a quiet soul."

For a moment he was tempted. Surely it was a little thing this, to gladden the dying. The rich Abbey of Montmirail was his for the taking, and where would a scholar's life be more happily lived than among its cool cloisters? A year ago, when he had been in the mood of seeing all contraries but as degrees in an ultimate truth, he might have assented. But in that dim chamber, with burning faces around him and the shadow of death overhead, he discovered in himself a new scrupulousness. It was the case of Esau; he was bidden sell his birthright for pottage, and affection could not gloze over the bargain.

"I have no vocation," he said sadly. "I would fain do the will of God, but God must speak His will to each heart, and He does not speak thus to me."

There was that in the words which woke a far-away memory of her girlhood. Once another in a forest inn had spoken thus to her. She stretched out her hand to him, and he covered it with kisses.

But in the night the priests stirred her fears again, and next morning there was another tragic pleading, from which Philip fled almost in tears. Presently he found himself denied her chamber, unless he could give assurance of a changed mind. And so the uneasy days went on, till in a dawn of wind amid a great praying and chanting the soul of the Countess Catherine passed, and Aimery reigned in Beaumanoir.

The place had grown hateful to Philip and he made ready to go. For him in his recalcitrancy there was only a younger son's portion, the little seigneury of Eaucourt, which had been his mother's. The good Aimery would have increased the inheritance, but Philip would have none of it. He had made his choice, and to ease his conscience must abide strictly by the consequences. Those days at Beaumanoir had plucked him from his moorings. For the moment the ardour of his quest for knowledge had burned low. He stifled in the air of the north, which was heavy with the fog of a furious ignorance. But his mind did not turn happily to the trifling of his Italian friends. There was a tragic greatness about such as his grandmother, a salt of nobility which was lacking among the mellow Florentines. Truth, it seemed to him, lay neither with the old Church nor the New Learning, and not by either way could he reach the desire of his heart.

Aimery bade him a reluctant farewell. "If you will not keep me company here, I go to the wars. At Beaumanoir I grow fat. Ugh, this business of dying chills me." And then with a very red face he held out a gold ring. "Take it, Philip. She cherished it, and you were her favourite and should wear it. God knows I have enough."

Likewise he presented him with a little vellum-bound book. "I found this yesterday, and you being the scholar among us should have it. See, the grandmother's name is written within."

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

It was a bright May morning when Philip, attended by only two lackeys as became a poor man, rode over the bridge of Canche with eyes turned southward. In the green singing world the pall lifted from his spirits. The earth which God had made was assuredly bigger and better than man's philosophies. "It would appear," he told himself, "that like the younger son in the tale, I am setting out to look for fortune."

At an inn in the city of Orleans he examined his brother's gift. It was a volume of careful manuscript, entitled Imago Mundi, and bearing the name of one Pierre d'Ailly, who had been Bishop of Cambray when the Countess Catherine was a child. He opened it and read of many marvels-how that the world was round, as Pythagoras held, so that if a man travelled west he would come in time to Asia where the sun rose. Philip brooded over the queer pages, letting his fancy run free, for he had been so wrapped up in the mysteries of man's soul that he had forgotten the mysteries of the earth which is that soul's place of pilgrimage. He read of cities with silver walls and golden towers waiting on the discoverer, and of a river on whose banks "virescit sylva vitae." And at that phrase he fell to dreaming of his childhood, and a pleasant unrest stirred in his heart. "Aimery has given me a precious viaticum," he said.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

He travelled by slow stages into Italy, for he had no cause for haste. At Pavia he wandered listlessly among the lecture halls. What had once seemed to him the fine gold of eloquence was now only leaden rhetoric. In his lodging at Florence he handled once again his treasures-his books from Ficino's press; his manuscripts, some from Byzantium yellow with age, some on clean white vellum new copied by his order; his busts and gems and intaglios. What had become of that fervour with which he had been used to gaze on them? What of that delicious world into which, with drawn curtains and a clear lamp, he could retire at will? The brightness had died in the air.

He found his friends very full of quarrels. There was a mighty feud between two of them on the respective merits of Cicero and Quintilian as lawgivers in grammar, and the air was thick with libels. Another pair wrangled in public over the pre-eminence of Scipio and Julius Caesar; others on narrow points of Latinity. There was a feud among the Platonists on a matter of interpretation, in which already stilettos had been drawn. More bitter still was the strife about mistresses-kitchen-wenches and courtesans, where one scholar stole shamelessly from the other and decked with names like Leshia and Erinna.... Philip sickened at what he had before tolerated, for he had brought back with him from the north a quickened sense of sin. Maybe the Bishop of Beauvais had been right. What virtue was there in this new knowledge if its prophets were apes and satyrs! Not here grew the Wood of Life. Priapus did not haunt its green fringes.

His mind turned towards Venice. There the sea was, and there men dwelt with eyes turned to spacious and honourable quests, not to monkish hells and heavens or inward to unclean hearts. And in Venice in a tavern off the Merce

ria he spoke with destiny.

It was a warm evening, and, having dined early, he sought the balcony which overlooked the canal. It was empty but for one man who sat at a table with a spread of papers before him on which he was intently engaged. Philip bade him good evening, and a face was raised which promptly took his fancy. The stranger wore a shabby grey doublet, but he had no air of poverty, for round his neck hung a massive chain of gold, and his broad belt held a richly chased dagger. He had unbuckled his sword, and it lay on the table holding down certain vagrant papers which fluttered in the evening wind. His face was hard and red like sandstone, and around his eyes were a multitude of fine wrinkles. It was these eyes that arrested Philip. They were of a pale brown as if bleached by weather and gazing over vast spaces; cool and quiet and friendly, but with a fire burning at the back of them. The man assessed Philip at a glance, and then, as if liking what he found in him, smiled so that white furrows appeared in his tanned cheeks. With a motion of his hand he swept aside his papers and beckoned the other to sit with him. He called on the drawer to bring a flask of Cyprus.

"I was about to have my evening draught," he said. "Will you honour me with your company, sir?"

The voice was so pleasant that Philip, who was in a mood to shun talk, could not refuse. He sat down by the board, and moved aside a paper to make room for the wine. He noticed that it was a map.

The Bishop of Cambray had made him curious about such things. He drew it to him, and saw that it was a copy of Andrea Bianco's chart, drawn nearly half a century before, showing the Atlantic Sea with a maze of islands stretching westwards.

The other shook his head. "A poor thing and out of date. Here," and he plucked a sheet from below the rest, "here is a better, which Fra Mauro of this city drew for the great prince, Henry of Portugal."

Philip looked at the map, which showed a misshapen sprawling Africa, but with a clear ocean way round the south of it. His interest quickened. He peered at the queer shapes in the dimming light.

"Then there is a way to the Indies by sea?"

"Beyond doubt. I myself have turned the butt of Africa.... If these matters interest you? But the thought of that dry land has given me an African thirst. He, drawer!"

He filled his glass from a fresh bottle. "'Twas in June four years back. I was in command of a caravel in the expedition of Diaz. The court of Lisbon had a fit of cold ague and we sailed with little goodwill; therefore it was our business to confound the doubters or perish. Already our seamen had reached the mouth of that mighty river they called the Congo, and clearly the butt of Africa could not be distant. We had the course of Cam and Behaim to guide us thus far, but after that was the darkness."

The man's face had the intent look of one who remembers with passion. He told of the struggle to cross the Guinea Deep instead of hugging the shore; of blue idle days of calm when magic fish flew aboard and Leviathan wallowed so near that the caravels were all but overwhelmed by the wave of him; of a storm which swept the decks and washed away the Virgin on the bows of the Admiral's ship; of landfall at last in a place where the forests were knee deep in a muddy sea, strange forests where the branches twined like snakes; of a going ashore at a river mouth full of toothed serpents and giant apes, and of a fight with Behemoth among the reeds. Then a second storm blowing from the east had flung them seaward, and for weeks they were out of sight of land, steering by strange stars. They had their magnets and astrolabes, but it was a new world they had entered, and they trusted God rather than their wits. At last they turned eastward.

"What distance before the turn?" Philip asked.

"I know not. We were far from land and no man can measure a course on water."

"Nay, but the ancients could," Philip cried, and he explained how the Romans had wheels of a certain diameter fixed to their ships' sides which the water turned in its passing, and which flung for each revolution a pebble into a tally-box.

The other's eyes widened. "A master device! I would hear more of it. What a thing it is to have learning. We had only the hour-glass and guesswork."

Then he told how on a certain day the crews would go no farther, being worn out by storms, for in those seas the tides were like cataracts and the waves were mountains. The admiral, Bartholomew Diaz, was forced to put about with a heavy heart, for he believed that a little way to the east he should find the southern cape of Africa. He steered west by north, looking for no land till Guinea was sighted. "But on the second morning we saw land to the northward, and following it westward came to a mighty cape so high that the top was in the clouds. There was such a gale from the east that we could do no more than gaze on it as we scudded past. Presently, still keeping land in sight, we were able to bend north again, and when we came into calm waters we captains went aboard the admiral's ship and knelt and gave thanks to God for His mercies. For we, the first of mortals, had rounded the butt of Africa and prepared the sea-road to the Indies."

"A vision maybe."

"Nay, it was no vision. I returned there under mild skies, when it was no longer a misty rock, but a green mountain. We landed, and set up a cross and ate the fruits and drank the water of the land. Likewise we changed its name from the Cape of Storms, as Diaz had dubbed it, to the Bona Esperanza, for indeed it seemed to us the hope of the world."

"And beyond it?"

"Beyond it we found a pleasant country, and would doubtless have made the Indies, if our ships had not grown foul and our crews mutinous from fear of the unknown. It is clear to me that we must establish a port of victualling in that southern Africa before we can sail the last stage to Cathay."

The man spoke modestly and simply as if he were talking of a little journey from one village to another. Something in his serious calm powerfully caught Philip's fancy. In all his days he had never met such a one.

"I have not your name, Signor," he said.

"They call me Battista de Cosca, a citizen of Genoa, but these many years a wanderer. And yours?"

Philip gave it and the stranger bowed. The de Lavals were known as a great house far beyond the confines of France.

"You contemplate another voyage?"

The brown man nodded. "I am here on the quest of maps, for these Venetians are the princes of mapmaking. Then I sail again."

"To Cathay?"

A sudden longing had taken Philip. It was as if a bright strange world had been spread before him compared with which the old was tarnished and dingy.

Battista shook his head. "Not Cathay. To go there would be only to make assurance of that which we already know. I have shown the road: let others plan its details and build hostelries. For myself I am for a bolder venture."

The balcony was filling up. A noisy group of young men were chattering at one table, and at others some of the merchants from the Merceria were at wine. But where the two sat it was quiet and dusky, though without on the canal the sky made a golden mirror. Philip could see his companion's face in the reflected light, and it reminded him of the friars who had filled the chamber of his dying grandmother. It was strained with a steadfast ardour.

Battista leaned his elbows on the board and his eyes searched the other's.

"I am minded to open my heart to you," he said. "You are young and of a noble stock. Likewise you are a scholar. I am on a mission, Sir Philip-the loftiest, I think, since Moses led Israel over the deserts. I am seeking a promised land. Not Cathay, but a greater. I sail presently, not the African seas, but the Sea of Darkness, the Mare Atlanticum." He nodded towards Bianco's map. "I am going beyond the Ultimate Islands."

"Listen," he went on, and his voice fell very low and deep. "I take it we live in these latter days of which the prophets spoke. I remember a monk in Genoa who said that the Blessed Trinity ruled in turn, and that the reign of the Father was accomplished and that of the Son nearing its close; and that now the reign of the Spirit was at hand. It may have been heresy-I am no scholar-but he pointed a good moral. For, said he, the old things pass away and the boundaries of the world are shifting. Here in Europe we have come to knowledge of salvation, and brought the soul and mind of man to an edge and brightness like a sword. Having perfected the weapon, it is now God's will that we enter into possession of the new earth which He has kept hidden against this day, and He has sent His Spirit like a wind to blow us into those happy spaces.... Now, mark you, sir, this earth is not a flat plain surrounded by outer darkness, but a sphere hung in the heavens and sustained by God's hand. Therefore if a man travel east or west he will, if God prosper him, return in time to his starting-point."

The speaker looked at Philip as if to invite contradiction, but the other nodded.

"It is the belief of the best sailors," Battista went on; "it is the belief of the great Paolo Toscanelli in this very land of Italy."

"It was the belief of a greater than he. The ancients-"

"Ay, what of your ancients?" Battista asked eagerly.

Philip responded with a scholar's zest. "Four centuries before our Lord's birth Aristotle taught the doctrine, from observing in different places the rise and setting of the heavenly bodies. The sages Eratosthenes, Hipparchus and Ptolemy amplified the teaching. It is found in the poetry of Manilius and Seneca, and it was a common thought in the minds of Virgil and Ovid and Pliny. You will find it in St. Augustine, and St. Isidore and Beda, and in many of the moderns. I myself have little knowledge of such things, but on the appeal to high authority your doctrine succeeds.'

"What a thing is learning!" Battista exclaimed with reverence. "Here have I and such as I been fumbling in the dark when the great ones of old saw clearly!... It follows, then, that a voyage westward will bring a man to Cathay?"

"Assuredly. But how will he return? If the earth is a sphere, his course will be a descent, and on his way back he will have to climb a great steep of waters."

"It is not so," said Battista vigorously. "Though why it is not so I cannot tell. Travelling eastward by land there is no such descent, and in this Mediterranean sea of ours one can sail as easily from Cadiz to Egypt as from Egypt to Cadiz. There is a divine alchemy in it which I cannot fathom, but the fact stands."

"Then you would reach Cathay by the west?"

"Not Cathay." The man's voice was very earnest. "There is a land between us and Cathay, a great islandland beyond the Seven Cities of Antillia."

"Cipango," said Philip, who had read Marco Polo's book in the Latin version published a year or two before.

"Nay, not Cipango. On this side Cipango. Of Cipango the Venetians have told us much, but the land I seek is not Cipango."

He drew closer to Philip and spoke low. "There was a Frenchman, a Rochellois he-is dead these ten years-but I have spoken with him. He was whirled west by storms far beyond Antillia, and was gripped by a great ocean stream and carried to land. What think you it was? No less than Hy-Brasil. There he found men, broad-faced dusky men, with gentle souls, and saw such miracles as have never been vouchsafed to mortals. 'Twas not Cipango or Cathay' for there were no Emperors or cities, but a peaceful race dwelling in innocence. The land was like Eden, bringing forth five harvests in the year, and vines and all manner of fruits grew without tillage. Tortorel was the man's name, and some thought him mad, but I judged differently. I have talked with him and I have copied his charts. I go to find those Fortunate Islands."

"Alone?"

"I have friends. There is a man of my own city-Cristoforo Colombo, they call him. He is a hard man and a bitter, but a master seaman, and there is a fire in him that will not be put out. And there may be others."

His steadfast burning eyes held Philip's.

"And you-what do you seek?" he asked.

Philip was aware that he had come to a cross roads in life. The easy path he had planned for himself was barred by his own nature. Something of his grandmother's blood clamoured within him for a sharper air than the well-warmed chamber of the scholar. This man, chance met in a tavern, had revealed to him his own heart.

"I am looking for the Wood of Life," he said simply and was amazed at his words.

Battista stared at him with open mouth, and then plucked feverishly at his doublet. From an inner pocket he produced a packet rolled in fine leather, and shook papers on the table. One of these was a soiled and worn slip of parchment, covered with an odd design. "Look," he said hoarsely. "Tortorel's map!"

It showed a stretch of country, apparently a broad valley running east to a seashore. Through it twined a river and on both sides were hills dotted with trees. The centre seemed to be meadows, sown with villages and gardens. In one crook of the stream lay a little coppice on which many roads converged, and above it was written the words "Sylva Vitae."

"It is the finger of God," said Battista. "Will you join me and search out this Wood of Life?"

At that moment there was a bustle at the door giving on the main room of the tavern. Lights were being brought in and a new company were entering. They talked in high-pitched affected voices and giggled like bona-robas. There were young men with them, dressed in the height of the fashion; a woman or two, and a man who from the richness of his dress seemed to be one of the princely merchants who played Maecenas to the New Learning. But what caught Philip's sight was a little group of Byzantines who were the guests of honour. They wore fantastic headdresses and long female robes, above which their flowing dyed beards and their painted eyebrows looked like masks of Carnival time. After Battista's gravity their vain eyes and simpering tones seemed an indecent folly. These were the folk he had called friends, this the life he had once cherished. Assuredly he was well rid of it.

He grasped Battista's hand.

"I will go with you," he said, "over the edge of the world."

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

As it happened Philip de Laval did not sail with Columbus in that first voyage which brought him to San Salvador in the Bahamas. But he and Battista were in the second expedition, when the ship under the command of the latter was separated by a storm from her consorts, and driven on a westerly course when the others had turned south. It was believed to be lost, and for two years nothing was heard of its fate. At the end of that time a tattered little vessel reached Bordeaux, and Philip landed on the soil of Franc. He had a strange story to tell. The ship had been caught up by a current which had borne it north for the space of fifteen days till landfall was made on the coast of what we now call South Carolina. There it had been beached in an estuary, while the crew adventured inland. The land was rich enough, but the tribes were not the gentle race of Battista's imagining. There had been a savage struggle for mastery, till the strangers made alliances and were granted territory between the mountains and the sea. But they were only a handful and Philip was sent back for further colonists and for a cargo of arms and seeds and implements.

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.

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