“What is that?” cried M. Bourdinave, starting.
“One of the bulls intended for baiting,” said my father.
“Ah, what a vicinity to find you in?” said M. Bourdinave.
“Better, my dear friend, than the captives of old had in this very dungeon. And now, what news? Where have you been?”
“I’d better go; I’m not wanted.” muttered La Croissette, heard only by me, and then retiring.
“I bring the worst of news,” returned M. Bourdinave, sitting down. “The Edict of Nantes is revoked.”
“Ah!” and a general cry broke from us.
“What signifies it,” said my mother, bitterly, “when already its provisions have been set at nought? Are we any the better for it?”
“We may be yet worse for losing it,” said M. Bourdinave. “Every Reformed meeting-house in France is to be demolished; no private assemblages for devotional purposes are to be allowed on any pretext whatever. All Huguenot schools are to be suppressed; all children born of Huguenot parents to be baptized and educated as Catholics; all non-conforming ministers to quit the country within fifteen days, on pain of the galleys.”
“Let us rise, my children,” cried my father in great agitation, “and leave this country, which is no longer a mother to us, shaking the dust off our feet. Alas, what am I saying? Whither can we go?”
“To England,” replied M. Bourdinave. “I have already taken measures for it.”
“Heaven be praised!” cried we simultaneously.
“But it will be under circumstances of great hardship, difficulty, and danger.”
“Never mind; we willingly encounter them. Yes, yes,” said one after another.
“Have you the courage, my daughters?” looking earnestly at them.
Madeleine threw herself into his arms.
“I knew what your answer would be,” said he, fondly kissing her; “but my little Gabrielle—”
“Oh, fear me not, father,” cried Gabrielle, hastily. “Anything to get out of this horrid place. I believe I have seemed too impatient of it to those around me, but that was because inaction is always so trying to me.”
“My love, you may yet be exposed to it. I have known one of our brethren put into a chest, with very few air-holes, and lowered into the hold of a merchant-vessel, with considerable roughness, where he was left many hours before he could be released.”
Gabrielle changed color. “Never mind,” said she, in a low voice, and pressing her father’s hand. “What man has done man may do, though I am but a woman who say it.”
“That’s my brave girl!” fondly kissing her. “Well, my friends, if we can but get to Bordeaux, we shall escape; that is provided for. It was this which kept me from you so long. And what a return has been mine! I got no answers from you to my letters; I heard the persecution here was raging with fury; I came to snatch you from it, and found my home deserted, the factory burnt, the workmen scattered, no tidings of you to be found. At length I got news of you from one of the men, who told me of your retreat, and that he, under cover of night, brought you bread. We planned how to remove you hence to-night, but it must be in detachments. At a place agreed on there will be a small cart that will convey the children and perhaps their mother.”