’There! stand up, Madame la Comtesse! We will send orders that the Count shall be released. He has expiated his own zeal, and will know better another time.’
Can any one conceive our Cecile’s joy? She rose up and embraced both the boys passionately, and Gaspard could not refrain from congratulating her with the words, scarcely complimentary: ’My aunt, is it not indeed the lion and the mouse? Now my uncle must love you, as my papa loved my mama.’
The Princess, always too sweet and gentle for envy, kissed and congratulated Madame d’Aubepine, and left her on retiring to Milly. Nor did Cecile quit the Court till she actually was the bearer of an order for the release of her husband.
I have gone on with the d’Aubepine side of the story, but while these two devoted wives were making exertions at Bordeaux so foreign to their whole nature, which seemed changed for their husband’s sake, I was far away at the time, even from my son.
It was in March that we received a letter from my brother, Lord Walwyn, bidding us adieu, being, when we received it, already on the high seas with the Marquis of Montrose, to strike another blow for the King. He said he could endure inaction no longer, and that his health had improved so much that he should not be a drag on the expedition. Moreover, it was highly necessary that the Marquis should be accompanied by gentlemen of rank, birth, and experience, who could be entrusted with commands, and when so many hung back it was the more needful for some to go. It was a great stroke to us, for besides that Sir Andrew Macniven went on reiterating that it was mere madness, and there was not a hope of success—the idea of Eustace going to face the winds of spring in the islands of Scotland was shocking enough.
‘The hyperborean Orcades,’ as the Abbe called them, made us think of nothing but frost and ice and savages, and we could not believe Sir Andrew when he told us that the Hebrides and all the west coast of Scotland were warmer than Paris in the winter.
After this we heard nothing—nothing but the terrible tidings that the Great Marquis, as the Cavaliers called him, had been defeated, taken by treachery, and executed by hanging—yes, by hanging at Edinburgh! His followers were said to be all dispersed and destroyed, and our hearts died within us; but Annora said she neither would nor could believe that all was over till she had more positive news, and put my mother in mind how many times before they had heard of the deaths of men who appeared alive and well immediately after. She declared that she daily expected to see Eustace walk into the room, and she looked round for him whenever the door was opened.
The door did open at last to let in tidings from the Hague, but not brought by Eustace. It was Mr. Probyn, one of the King’s gentlemen, however, who told me he had been charged to put into my hands the following letter from His Majesty himself:—