Samuel Crockett.

The White Plumes of Navarre: A Romance of the Wars of Religion



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And he never would know.

Yet Valentine la Ni?a would have done the same thing. For in their hearts all women wish to be loved "like that."

The word is their own – and the voice in which they say it.

CHAPTER XLI.
"AND LAZARUS CAME FORTH!"

This was all of the most cheerful for John d'Albret. To be loved with wet glad eyes by the woman for whom you have done brave deeds is the joy of life. Only to taste its flavour, she herself must tell you of it. And John d'Albret was very far from the Mas of the Mountain of Barbentane. He did not feel the dry even rush of the high mistral, steady and broad as a great ocean current – yet how many times more swift. The wind that fanned his heated temples was the warm day wind of Africa, coming in stifling puffs as from an oven, causing the dust to whirl, and lifting the frilled leaves of the palms like a woman's garments. At night, on the contrary, the humid valley-winds stealing down from the Canigou made him shiver, as he crouched in the ancient sheepfolds and rude cane-built shelters where he had expected to find Jean-aux-Choux.

But these were deserted, the charge of his troop taken over by another. The house of La Masane had been put to sack – partly by those who had come to take away the more portable furniture for the tartana bound for Les Santes Maries, and also in part at a later date by the retainers of the Lord of Collioure. Several times, from his hiding-place on the mountain, John d'Albret had observed Raphael Llorient wandering idly about the abandoned house of La Masane, revolving new plots or brooding on the manner in which the old had been foiled.

As Jean-aux-Choux did not return, the Abb? John waxed quickly weary of the bare hillside, where also he was in constant danger of discovery from some of Jean-aux-Choux's late comrades. These, however, contented themselves chiefly with surveying their flocks from convenient hill-tops, or at most, in launching a couple of swift dogs in the tracks of any wanderers. But John knew that these very dogs might easily at any moment lead to his discovery, if they smelt out the reed-bed in which it was his habit to lie hid during the day.

Meantime the Abb?, with needle and thread drawn from Jean-aux-Choux's stores, had busied himself in repairing the ravages prison-life had made in his apparel. And with his habitual handiness, begun in the Bedouin tents of the Latin quarter, and continued in the camps of the Bearnais, he achieved, if not complete success, at least something which suggested rather a needy young soldier, a little battered by the wars, than a runaway prisoner from the dungeons of the Holy Office.

His aspect was rendered still more martial by Jean-aux-Choux's long Valaisian sword (with "Achille Serre, of Sion" engraved upon the blade), which hung from a plain black leather waist-belt, broad as the palm of the hand. The Abb? John, regarding himself at dawn in the spring near the chapel of the Hermitage, remarked with pleasure that during his sojourn upon the mountain his moustache had actually attained quite respectable proportions.

As for his beard, it still tarried by the way, though he was pleased to say that in order to be respectable he must seek out a hostelry and find there refreshment and a razor – "If" he added, "mine host does not handle the blade himself" – an accomplishment which was not at all uncommon among the Bonifaces of Roussillon.

So leaving the town and castle of Collioure away to the left, and far below him, John d'Albret struck across the tumbled rocky country where the last bastions of the Pyrenees break down to meet the chafe of the Midland sea. He travelled by night, and as it was moonlight, made good enough going. It was pleasant and dry. The mountain wind cooled him, and many a time he paused to look down from the grey-white rocks upon the sweep of some little bay, pebbly-beached, its fringe of sand and surf dazzling white beneath the moon. He heard the sough and rattle as the water arched, foamed a moment, plashed heavily, and then retired, dragging the rounded stones downward in its suck.

John d'Albret meant to strike for Rosas, where he knew he might always hope to find some French boats come in from the pilchard and sardine fisheries about Ivitza and the Cape of Mallorca. He hoped for shelter on one of these. There would certainly be countrymen of his, drinking and running at large on the beach of Rosas. With them he would make his bargain in money or love, according to the province from which they hailed – the Norman for money, the Gascon for love, and the Proven?al for a little of both.

There was also an inn at Rosas – the Parador of the Chevelure d'Or. Some few ventas were scattered along the sea-front, hard to be distinguished from the white fishermen's cottages, save for the evening noises which proceeded from them when the crews of the vessels in the bay came ashore to carouse. Altogether no better place for getting away from the realms of King Philip seemed possible to John d'Albret.

The Bay (or Gulf) of Rosas is one of the noblest harbours in the world – fifteen Spanish leagues from horn to horn, when you follow the indentations of the coast. So at least avers the Geographer-Royal. But it is to be suspected that his legs either wandered or that he measured some of the course twice over. The Bay of Rosas could contain all the navies of the world. A notable harbour in peace or war, with its watch-tower at either side, and its strong castle in the midst, it was no inconsiderable place in the reign of the Golden Philip.

Even in these last years when the gold was becoming dim, when its late array of war-ships had mostly found a resting-place on the rocky skerries of Ireland or the Hebrides, there were sometimes as many as six or eight king's ships in the bay – a fact which John d'Albret had omitted to reckon in his forecast of chances concerning the harbourage of Rosas.

The landlord of the Parador was a jovial, bustling man – a type not Spanish but purely Catalan. In the rest of Spain, your landlord shows himself little, if at all. Generally you serve yourself, and if you want anything you have not brought, you buy it in the town and descend to the kitchen to cook it. But the host of the Inn of Rosas was omnipresent, loquacious, insistent, not to be abashed or shaken off.

He met the Abb? John on the doorstep, and taking in at a glance his frayed court suit, his military bearing, and the long sword that swung at his heels, the landlord bowed low, yet with vigilant eyes aslant to measure the chances of this young ruffler having a well-filled purse.

"Your Excellency," he cried, "you do honour to yourself, whoever you may be, by coming to seek lodgings at the hostel of La Cabeladura d'Oro, as we say in our Catalan. Doubtless you have come seeking for a place and pay from Philip our king. A place you may have for the asking – the pay not so surely. It behooves me therefore to ask whether you desire to eat in my house at the Table Solvent or at the Table Expectant?"

"I do not gather your meaning, mine host," said John d'Albret haughtily.

"Nay, I am a plain man," said the landlord, "and you may read my name above my door – Sileno Lorent y Valvidia. That tells all about me. Therein, you see, you have the advantage of me. I know nothing about you, save that you arrive at my door with a cocked bonnet and a long sword."

John d'Albret felt that it was no time to resent this Catalan brusquerie. Indeed, he himself was enough of a Gascon to respect the man's aplomb. For what would be rudeness intentional in a Castilian, in a man of Catalonia is only the rough nature of the borderer coming out. So the Abb? John answered him in kind, using the Languedocean speech which runs like a kind of Lingua Franca from Bayonne to Barcelona.

"I am for the Table Solvent. Bite on that, Master Sileno, and the next time be not so suspicious of a soldier who has fought in many campaigns, and hopes to fight in many another! Now, by my beard which is yet to be, give me a razor and shaving-tackle, that I may make myself fit to call upon the Governor – while do you, Master Sileno, be off and get a good dinner ready!"

The landlord pocketed the coin as an asset towards the lengthy bill he saw unrolling in his mind's eye.

"Our Lord Governor the Count of Livia is at present with the King in Madrid," he said, "so I fear that you will be compelled to await his return, that is, if your business be with him, or has reference to any of the ships in the harbour, or is connected with supplies or stores military."

Se?or Don Sileno, of the Chevelure d'Or, felt that he had given his guest quite sufficient latitude for entering into an explanation. But the Abb? John only thrust the hilt of his sword hard down, till the point cocked itself suggestively under the landlord's nose as he turned his back upon him.

"My business is with the Governor," he said shortly, "and if your house prove a good one and your table well supplied, I may indeed be content to await his return!"

"This bantling mayoral," muttered the landlord, "keeps his mask up. Very well – so much the better, so long as he pays. None gives himself airs in the house of Don Sileno Lorent y Valvidia, hosteller of Rosas, without paying for it! That is the barest justice. But, methinks this young boaster of many campaigns and the long sword, might have a new suit of clothes to go and see the Governor withal. Yet I am not sure – fighting is a curious trade. A good cook is not always known by the cleanliness of his apron."

At this moment the Abb? John roared down the stairs for the hot water.

"Coming, your Excellency!" answered the host, making a wry face; "all that you desire shall be in your chamber as fast as my scullions' legs can bring it."

Shaved, reorganised as to his inner man, daintied as to his outer, the Abb? John looked out of the window of the Golden Chevelure upon the sleeping sea. The Parador was a little house with a trellised flower-garden running down to the beach, and sheltered from the heat of the sun by vine-leaves and trembling acacias.

"That is a strange name you have given your inn," said the Abb? John, taking some oil from the salad-bowl and burnishing the hilt of his sword with a rag, as became a good cavalier. He had the sign of the Golden Tresses held by Sileno Lorent y Valvidia under his eyes as he spoke.

"You think so, sir?" said the landlord, his former brusquerie returning as soon as it was a question of property; "that shows you are unacquainted with the history of the country in which you desire to practise your trade of war!"

"I am none so entirely ignorant of it as you suppose," said John d'Albret.

"Yes, as ignorant as my carving-fork," said the landlord, pointing with that useful and newly-invented piece of cutlery to the sign below. "Now if you are a man of the pen as well as of the sword, what would you draw from that sign?"

"Why," said the Abb? John, smiling, "that you are named, curiously enough, Sileno – that your father's name was Lorent and your mother's Valvidia – that you are tenant of a well-provisioned inn called with equal curiosity the Golden Chevelure, and that you lodge (as you put it) both 'on horseback or on foot.' That is a good deal of printing to pay for at a penny a letter!"

"As I foretold, your Excellency knows nothing of the matter – and indeed, how should you? For by your tongue I would wager that you are from the Navarrese provinces – therefore a speaker of two languages and a wanderer over the face of the earth – your sword your bedfellow, a sack of fodder for your beast your best couch, and the loot of the last town taken by assault the only provender for your purse – "

"Let my purse alone," quoth the Abb? John, "you will find that there is enough therein to pay you, and – for a bottle of good wine on occasion for the pleasure of your company."

This mixture of hauteur and familiarity appeared to enchant the landlord, and he laid down on the bed the dishes he was carrying.

"I will explain," he said; "it is not every day that you can hear such a tale as mine for nothing."

"Bring a bottle of your best!" said John, who was disposed to talk, hoping that by-and-by he might receive also the best of informations as to the ships in the harbour, their incomings and outgoings, their captains and merchandises, together with the ports to which they sailed.

The wine was brought, and the host began his tale.

"This hostelry of mine was my father's also, and his father's before him for many generations. They were of noble blood – of the Llorients of Collioure, though the rolling of vulgar tongues has shortened it a little in these days. And my mother's name was Valvidia, being of one of the best houses of Spain. I am therefore of good blood on either side – you hear, Se?or the Soldier?"

The Abb? John nodded. There was nothing remarkable in that. Every Spaniard counts himself so born, and it must be owned, so far at least as politeness is concerned, comports himself as such.

But the Chevelure d'Or, its carefully-mixed wine, and the tale thereto attached proved so soporific, that when John d'Albret awoke, he found himself chained to a bench in a long, low, evil-smelling place. A huge oar-handle was before him, upon which he was swaying drunkenly to and fro. He had on his left two companions who were doing the work of the rowing, and, erected upon a bench behind, a huge man with a fierce countenance walked to and fro with a whip in his hand.

"Where am I?" said John d'Albret feebly, his voice appearing to himself to come from an infinite distance, and sounding through the buzzing and racking of many windmills, like those of Jean-Marie the Miller-Alcalde when upon their beams and sails the mistral does its bitter worst.

"Hush!" whispered his neighbour, "the comite will flog you if you talk when at work. You are on the King of Spain's galley Conquistador, going south from Rosas to Barcelona. And as for me, I am a fellow-sufferer with you for the religion. I am Francis Agnew, the Scot!"

CHAPTER XLII.
SECRETS OF THE PRISON HOUSE

"But Francis Agnew is dead! With my own eyes I saw him lie dead, in the robing-room of Professor Anatole – "

"Row, you skulking 'Giffe'!" cried the "comite," bringing down his whip upon the Abb? John's shoulders, which were bare, with a force that convinced him that he at least was both alive and awake.

So he kept silence and rowed in his place next the side of the vessel. And even his wonder in the matter of Claire's father could not prevent his cursing in his heart the man who had brought him to this pass – the talkative, hospitable, and far-descended Don Sileno Lorent y Valvidia, of the Parador of the Cabeledura d'Oro in the town of Rosas.

The galley of the first class, Conquistador, was one of the few which had been left behind in the Mediterranean at the time of the Great Armada. Most of the others had been carried northward for coast defence, and now lagged idly in port for lack of crews to navigate them. So that it became a quaint dilemma of King Philip's how to obtain sufficient heretics for his autos de f? without impoverishing too greatly his marine.

The Conquistador kept close company with the Puerto Reale, another of the same class, but with only two hundred slaves aboard to the three hundred and fifty of the Conquistador. The "comite," or master-in-charge of the slaves, walked up and down a long central bench. His whip was hardly ever idle, but it did not fall again upon John d'Albret – not from any pity for a newcomer, but because the ship's purser had let out the fact that a considerable sum in gold was in his hands to the credit of the newcomer. For King Philip, though he persecuted the heretic with fire and sword, fine, imprisonment, and the galleys, did not allow his subordinates to interfere with his monopoly. And indeed, as the Abb? John learned, more than one officer had swung from the forty-foot yard of his own mainmast for intromitting wrongfully with a prisoner's money.

As to the captains, they were for the most part impoverished grandees or younger sons of dukes and marquises. Most were knights of Malta and so apparent bachelors, whose money would go to the Order at their death. In the meantime, therefore, they spent royally their revenues. The captain of the Conquistador was the young Duke of Err, recently succeeded to the ambassadorial title, and it was said of him that he counted the life of a galley-slave no more than that of a black-beetle beneath his seigneurial heel.

So long as the boat remained at sea, there was no sleep for any slave. Neither, indeed, for any of the "comites" or sub-officers, who consequently grew snappish and drove their slaves to the very limit of endurance, so that they might the sooner reach the harbour. Yet it was full morning before the awnings were spread within the roads of Barcelona, and the Abb? John could stretch his limbs – so far, that is, as the chain allowed. He had been placed, at the request of the senior oarsman of his mess, Francis Agnew, in the easiest place, that next to the side of the galley. Here not only was the stroke of the oar shortest, but at night, or in the intervals of sleep, the curve of the ship's side made a couch, if not luxurious, at least, comparatively speaking, tolerable.

The "comite" hoisted his hammock across the broad coursier or estrada which ran the length of the ship, overlooking and separating the two banks of oars, and formed the only passage from the high poop to the higher stern. It was also useful in rough seas, when the waves broke right across the ship, and (a mere detail) over the rowers also. For the only communication with the hold was by gangways descending from either end of the coursier.

The Abb? John heard the sound of the chief "comite's" whistle with astonishment – so varied were its tones, the quick succession of its notes, that the prompt understanding and obedience of the slaves and sailors, at whatever part of the deck they were placed, seemed as magic to him.

"Do as I do," said Francis Agnew, noticing his bewilderment. So the Abb? John halted and pulled, raised his oar level or backed water at the word of Claire's father. And all the while he kept looking sideways at the Dead-come-to-Life-again with speechless wonder and the sense of walking in a dream. Only the sound of the "comite's" lash on his comrades' backs kept him convinced of the general reality of things.

Francis Agnew was a strong and able-bodied rower, much remarked and approved by his chiefs. At various periods of an adventurous life he had served on the French and other galleys, even including those of Turkey. So that all the commands and disciplines came easily to him. He had even been charged with the provisioning of the rowers of the whole port side, and on occasion he could take the "comite's" whistle and pipe upon it, to the admiration of all.

Claire's father began his tale as soon as he had arranged his great grey cloak of woollen stuff commodiously, and laid the pillow (which he had by favour) close to the Abb? John's ear.

"The servants of the Sorbonne who were employed to carry my body to the vault were greedy rascals. It was their thought at first to sell my body to the younger surgeons for the purpose of their researching. But after stripping me of my apparel, it chanced that they cast a bucket of water over me to help me to 'keep' – the weather being hot in those Barricade Days in the city of Paris."

At this moment the tread of the night-sentinel approached along the coursier above their heads. The voices and whisperings ceased before him as by magic. It was full afternoon without, blazing under the chinked awnings. But officially it was night on board the galley. Day closed when the whistle of the "comite" blew. Mostly a careful captain, from motives of self-interest more than from any humanity, worked his men in the cool times of the night. For the Mediterranean is always so luminous of itself that the merest ripple of air is sufficient to stir the water and show the way. Moreover, in times of peace and on that safe coast galleys were rarely moored save in calm weather.

"It happened thus" – as the sentinel passed Francis Agnew took up the tale – "after the Sorbonne rascals had plashed the cool water over me, I sat up suddenly and looked about me for a sword. But, there being none, I was in their power. For ten days they kept me in hold in a secret place among firewood, deep underground, without any loophole whatever. Twice a day they brought me food, and by the light of a candle they dressed my wounds – one of them being expert at that business, having had practice in the hospitals. Then when I was recovered they gave me a candle which burned two hours only. And with it also a pile of brushwood to cut up into small pieces. This was the pleasantest part of the day to me. But they always took away the axe afterwards, bidding me push it through beneath the door, so that whoever came with my next meal might see it. Else I would get no dinner. For they feared lest I might brain one of them as he came in, and then make a rush for the passage-way. But I knew that the doors were shut behind, so that there was no chance. And besides, being a Christian man, I was covenanted to fight only when I could do so without sin, and with some chance of continuing the life so marvellously preserved to me!



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