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- Won by the Sword - 20/68 -
remain there until I have completely recruited my strength. In the Swiss republic I should pass unnoticed, even by the cardinal's agents. And the fact that, although being but a comparatively short distance from Piedmont, I abstained from joining the general, would, if they inquired, show that I could not have been entrusted with any private communication from you to him."
"It could not be better," the duke said. "When you leave here you should no longer wear that military scarf. Of course, when you enter Switzerland there is no reason why you should disguise the fact that you are a French officer, and having been severely wounded, have come there to repair your health. Doubtless many others have done so; and, dressed as a private person, you would excite no attention. But the Swiss, who strive to hold themselves neutral and to avoid giving offence, might raise objections to a French officer wearing military attire staying among them."
That evening Hector bade his adieu to the duchess and to the friends he had made during his stay, and the next morning, attended by Paolo, he started for Geneva.
"I am glad indeed that we are off, master," the latter said. "In truth, had I stayed here much longer I should have become useless from fat and idleness, for I have had nothing whatever to do but to eat and sleep."
"I am glad to be off, too, Paolo. I am convinced myself, in spite of what the surgeon says, that actual exercise will do more for me than the doctor's potions and rich food. I am stiff still, but it is from doing nothing, and were it not that coming from here my presence might be inconvenient for Turenne, I would journey straight to his camp. You saw the prince's manifesto?"
Paolo nodded. "I did, master. Not being able to read or write, I could make nothing of it myself, but a burgher coming along read it aloud, and it made me shake in my shoes with fright. I made my way as quickly as I could from so dangerous a spot, for it seemed nothing short of treason to have heard such words read against the cardinal."
"I fear that the duke has made a terrible mistake, Paolo. Hitherto all who have ventured to measure their strength with the cardinal have been worsted, and many have lost everything and are now fugitives from France. Some have lost their lives as well as honours and estates. Bouillon is an independent prince, and so was Lorraine, and although the latter could put ten men in the field to every one the duke could muster, he has been driven from his principality. Soissons could not help him except with his name, nor can the Archbishop of Rheims. Not a few of the great nobles would join the duke did they think that he had a prospect of success. None have so far done so, though possibly some have given him secret pledges, which will count for nothing unless it seems that he is likely to triumph.
"It is rumoured, as you know, that he has made an alliance with Spain and Austria. Both will use him as an arm against France, but will throw him over and leave him to his fate whenever it suits them. Moreover, their alliance would assuredly deter any, who might otherwise range themselves with him, from taking up arms. No Huguenot would fight by the side of a Spaniard; and although the Guises and the Catholic nobles allied themselves with Spain against Henri of Navarre, it was in a matter in which they deemed their religion in danger, while this is but a quarrel between Bouillon and the cardinal; and with Spain fighting against France in the Netherlands, they would not risk their lands and titles. Bouillon had better have stood alone than have called in the Spaniards and Austrians. We know whose doing that is, the Archbishop of Rheims, who is a Guise, and, methinks, from what I have seen of him, a crafty one.
"I am sure that neither the duke nor Soissons would, unless won over by the archbishop, have ever consented to such a plan, for both are honourable gentlemen, and Soissons at least is a Frenchman, which can hardly be said of Bouillon, whose ancestors have been independent princes here for centuries. However, I fear that he will rue the day he championed the cause of Soissons. It was no affair of his, and it is carrying hospitality too far to endanger life and kingdom rather than tell two guests that they must seek a refuge elsewhere. All Europe was open to them. As a Guise the archbishop would have been welcome wherever Spain had power. With Spain, Italy, and Austria open to him, why should he thus bring danger and misfortune upon the petty dukedom of Sedan? The same may be said of Soissons; however reluctant Bouillon might be to part with so dear a friend, Soissons himself should have insisted upon going and taking up his abode elsewhere. Could he still have brought a large force into the field, and have thus risked as much as Bouillon, the case would be different, but his estates are confiscated, or, at any rate, he has no longer power to summon his vassals to the field, and he therefore risks nothing in case of defeat, while Bouillon is risking everything."
"I daresay that that is all true, master, though in faith I know nothing about the matter. For myself, it seems to me that when one is a noble, and has everything that a man can want, he must be a fool to mix himself up in troubles. I know that if the King of France were to give me a big estate, and anyone came to me and asked me to take part in a plot, I would, if I had the power of life and death, have him hung up over the gate of my castle."
"That would be a short way, no doubt, Paolo, but it might not keep you out of trouble," Hector said, smiling. "If the person who came to you were also a noble, his family and friends would rise in arms to avenge his death, and instead of avoiding trouble you would bring it at once upon your head."
"I suppose that would be so, master," Paolo said thoughtfully; "so I think that it would be best for me that the king should not take it into his head to give me that estate. And so we are going to Geneva, master?"
"That pleases me not," the other one said, "for I have heard of it as a terribly serious place, where a man dares not so much as smile, and where he has to listen to sermons and exhortations lasting half a day. My father was a Huguenot, and I suppose that I am, too, though I never inquired very closely into the matter; but as for exhortations of four hours in length, methinks I would rather swim those moats again, master, and to go all day without smiling would be a worse penance than the strictest father confessor could lay upon me."
"I own that I am somewhat of your opinion, Paolo. My father brought me up a Protestant like yourself, and when I was quite young I had a very dreary time of it while he was away, living as I did in the house of a Huguenot pastor. After that I attended the Protestant services in the barracks, for all the officers and almost all the men are Protestants, and, of course, were allowed to have their own services; but the minister, who was a Scotchman, knew better than to make his discourses too lengthy; for if he did, there was a shuffling of jackboots on the stone floor and a clanking of sabres that warned him that the patience of the soldiers was exhausted. In our own glen my father has told me that the ministers are as long winded as those of Geneva; but, as he said, soldiers are a restless people, and it is one thing for men who regard their Sunday gathering as the chief event in the week to listen to lengthy discourses, but quite another for soldiers, either in the field or a city like Paris, to do so. However, if we do not find Geneva to our taste, there is no reason why we should tarry there, as Zurich lies on the other end of the lake, and Zurich is Catholic, or at any rate largely so, and Calvinist doctrines have never flourished there. But, on the other hand, the sympathies of Geneva have generally been with France, while those of Zurich are with Austria; therefore I think that if we like not Geneva we will go to Lyons, where, as an officer of Viscount Turenne's, I am sure to be well received."
"Why not go there at once, master?"
"Because I think that the fresh air of the lake will brace me up, and maybe if I find the people too sober minded for me we will go up into the mountains and lodge there in some quiet village. I think that would suit both of us."
"It would suit me assuredly," Paolo said joyfully. "I love the mountains."
Such was indeed the course eventually taken. The strict Calvinism of Geneva suited neither of them; and after a fortnight's stay there they went up among the hills, and in the clear brisk air Hector found his blood begin to run more rapidly through his veins, and his strength and energy fast returning. Sometimes he rode, but soon found more pleasure in climbing the hills around on foot, for the mountain paths were so rough that it was seldom indeed that his horse could break into a trot.
CHAPTER VII: THE DUC D'ENGHIEN
From time to time news came up of what was passing in the world. The Spaniards had afforded no assistance in men to the duke, for Richelieu had sent a powerful army into the heart of Flanders, and so kept them fully occupied. An Austrian force, however, joined that of the duke, and a battle was fought with the royal army which, under Marshal Chatillon, lay encamped a league from Sedan. The Austrian general commanded the main body, the Duc de Bouillon the cavalry, while the Count de Soissons was with the reserve. At first Chatillon's army had the advantage, but Bouillon charged with such vehemence that he drove the cavalry of the royalists down upon their infantry, which fell into confusion, most of the French officers being killed or made prisoners, and the rest put to rout. The duke, after the victory, rode to congratulate Soissons, whose force had not been engaged. He found the count dead, having accidentally shot himself while pushing up the visor of his helmet with the muzzle of his pistol.
Bouillon soon learned the hollowness of the promises of his allies. The Spaniards sent neither money nor men, while the Austrians received orders to march away from Sedan and to join the Spaniards, who were marching to the relief of Arras.
The duke, deserted by his allies, prepared to defend Sedan till the last. Fortunately for him, however, the position of the French at Arras was critical. The place was strong, two armies were marching to its relief, and it would therefore have been rash to have attempted at the same time the siege of Sedan. The king himself had joined the army advancing against Bouillon, while the cardinal remained in Paris. Many of those round the person of the king,
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