“I tell you what it is,” he said, “there would be trembling in the heart of a very great man when the nine cravens returned without me. For I am no shaveling ignoramus, but a gentleman of birth; aye, and one who, though poor, is a near cousin of the marshal himself. I warrant the rascals who ran away would smart right soundly for leaving me behind. For Gilles de Sille is no simpleton. He knows more than is written down in the catechism of Holy Church. None can touch my favour with my lord, no matter what they testify against me. For me I have only to ask and have. That is why I take such pride in bringing you to my Lord of Retz. I know that he will give you a post about his person, and if you are not a simple fool you may go very far. For my master is a friend of the King and, what is better, of Louis the Dauphin. He gat the King back a whole province—a dukedom so they say, from the hands of some Scots fool that had it off his grandfather for deeds done in the ancient wars. And in return the King will protect my master against all his enemies. Do I not speak the truth?”
Laurence hoped that he did, but liked not the veiled hints and insinuations of some surprising secret in the life of the marshal, possessed by his dear cousin and well-beloved servant Gilles de Sille.
With an ever loosening tongue the favourite went on:
“A great soldier is our master—none greater, not even Dunois himself. Why, he rode into Orleans at the right hand of the Maid. None in all the army was so great with her as he. I tell you, Charles himself liked it not, and that was the beginning of all the bother of talk about my lord—ignorant gabble of the countryside I call it. Lord, if they only knew what I know, then, indeed—but enough. Marshal Gilles is a mighty scholar as well, and hath Henriet the clerk—a weak, bleating ass that will some day blab if my master permit me not to slice his gizzard in time—he hath him up to read aloud Latin by the mile, all out of the books called Suetonius and Tacitus—such high-flavoured tales and full of—well, of things such as my master loves.”
So ran Gilles de Sille on as the miles fled back behind their horses’ heels and the towers of Chartres rose grey and solemn through the morning mists before the travellers.
THE COUNTRY OF THE DREAD
The three remaining Scottish palmers were riding due west into a sunset which hung like a broad red girdle over the Atlantic. All the sky above their heads was blue grey and lucent. But along the horizon, as it seemed for the space of two handbreadths, there was suspended this bandolier of flaming scarlet.
The adventurers were not weary of their quest. They were only sick at heart with the fruitlessness of it.