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Lefevre and Roussel hastened to their protectress. Margaret received them kindly, and lodged them in the castle of Angouleme, where she was born, on that smiling hill near "her softly flowing Charente." She had a project in her mind. It was to make Blois, which had been the favourite residence of the house of Yalois, a refuge for the persecuted, and a strong-hold of the gospel. The first of-June Roussel went to this city, built about a hundred miles south-east of Paris. Lefevre joined him there on the last of the month. One was the eloquent court preacher; the other was the teacher of the king's third son, and the keeper of the castle library. Chapelain, the physician of the duchess, and Cop, who was too near the truth to remain a doctor in the Sorbonne, were also there. All of them felt grateful to Francis I., and were contriving means to impart "something of Christianity to the most Christian king," which was in truth very necessary botii for him and the people.
The amiable Peter Toussaint was still in the horrid den into which the cruel abbot of St. Anthony had thrust him. His host at Basle had not sent the books which the treacherous priest had forced him to order; no doubt the man saw through the trick, and knew in whose hands the life of his young friend was placed. Margaret heard of him through such men as the merchant Yaugris, who had interceded in vain for his release. She went to the king, as persistent as ever, and gained her suit. In July 1526 the order came for his deliverance. The officers charged with this pleasing task went down into the gloomy dungeon, and raised out of his stifling den, a young man, thin, weak, and pale as a faded flower. His eyes were pained by the light of day, and his mind seemed bewildered with joy. He was as much less than the Toussaint of former days as a merciless tormentor could make him.
At first lie knew not where to go. Hoping for some pity, he applied to certain old acquaintances, but they were afraid to shelter a heretic who had barely escaped the stake. He had not Berquin's energy; his delicate sensitive nature needed a support, and in the free air and the wide world, he was almost as much alone as in a dungeon. "Ah," he exclaimed, "Glod our heavenly Father has delivered me, in a wonderful manner from the hands of the tyrants; but alas! what is to become of me? The world is mad, and it spurns the rising gospel of Jesus Christ!"
"The duchess of Alen^on alone can protect you," said some timid and well-meaning friends. "There is no asylum for you, but at her court. Make application to a princess, who welcomes with so much generosity, all the friends of learning and of the gospel; and profit by your residence at her court, to investigate closely the wind that blpws in those elevated regions." Toussaint laid hold of such a hope. Timid as he was he went to Paris, under an assumed name.
Margaret was not there, but was soon expected. He kept himself closely concealed. When she arrived he asked permission to see her alone; she received him with great kindness. What an exchange! Just from one of the lowest dungeons, and snatched as a lamb from the claws of a monster, but now in the palace of St. Germain, and in favour with the most elegant and brilliant personage who lent her grace to the court. What charmed him most was her piety.
"The most illustrious duchess of Alenqon," he wrote to (Ecolampadius, "has received me with as much kindness as if I had been a prince or the person who was dearest to her. I hope that the gospel will soon reign in France."
The duchess was touched with the faith of the young evangelist. She could share in his hopes and sympathize in his fears. She invited him to come again the next day. He went, and he went yet again. They had long conversations.
"Grod by the light of his word," said he, "must illumine the world, and by the breath of his Spirit must transform all hearts.''
"It is the only thing that I desire," she replied, believing in the final victory of truth. "It is not only myself that longs for this triumph. Even the king wishes for it. . . . The king is coming to Paris to secure the progress of the gospel; if, at least, the war does not prevent him.'' Not the war, but the wickedness in high places, and the fear of the Romish powers, pope, Sorbonne and all, were to prevent him. Toussaint learned that much of the piety displayed at the court was a mere pretence for the sake of gaining office. When with Margaret, the priests who were applicants for favours, were almost reformers: when with some scoffing noble they threw off the mask and were not even good Romanists. "Alas!" wrote he, "they speak well of Jesus Christ with those who speak well of him; but with those who blaspheme, they blaspheme also.'' What could be expected of Francis I., who lent his ear to such priests and courtiers? His sister saw only his best face.
Toussaint had another joy. 'Lefevre and Roussel came to Paris. Young, impetuous, and full of respect for them, he hastened to tell them of his vexations, and wished them to unmask these hypocrites, and preach the gospel in this perverse court.
"Patience," said the two scholars, each rather temporizing in
his disposition. "Patience; do not let us spoil anything; the
time is not yet come.''
Toussaint burst into tears. "I cannot restrain my tears," said he. Perhaps lie wished that Farel was there. "Yes, be wise after your fashion; wait, put off, dissemble as much as you please; you will acknowledge, howeVer, at last, that it is impossible to preach the gospel without bearing the cross." These words, from an honest heart, reveal one of the dividing lines between the reformers of France. One party, clustering about the duchess, would not do anything to injure the old fallen church; the other would leave the Romish church and seek a new one—or, rather, return to that one which had existed long before Rome introduced her perversions. Toussaint had already cast his lot with the thorough reformers.
He said, plainly, to Margaret,—"Lefevre is wanting in courage; may God strengthen and support him." She did her utmost to keep the young evangelist at her court. She offered him great advantages, and advised him to be more moderate. She wished for men who would exhibit a Christian heart and life, but who would not break with the church. He repelled all these gracious advances. He was sick of the court air. Admiration gave way to disgust. '' I despise these magnificent offers,'' said he. "I detest the court more than any one has done. Farewell to it."
The cardinal of Lorraine appeared now as his friend. He advised Toussaint to be cautious, for, as a heretic, he was never secure of his life. But his courage rose with the perils of his situation. He requested Farel to address him without any concealment, since he was not ashamed of his own name, nor of his correspondence, nor afraid of the consequences of its being known. Since no one else had invited Farel to France, he did it, assuring him of protection among certain friends in Paris. But Farel wished an invitation from a higher authority.
Margaret begged him not to leave France, and commended Toussaint to one of her friends, Madame de Centraigues, a noble lady, who abounded in charity for the persecuted evangelists, and gave them a home in her chateau of Malesherbes, in the Orleans district. He, fearing that a terrible struggle was coming, besought his friends to pray that France would show herself worthy of the word of God. He also prayed that the Lord would send to this people a teacher to lead them in the true paths of life, and went to his new home, to wait there for more favourable days.
Who would be the reformer of France? Not Lefevre, for he was old, timid, and wished not to separate from the Romish church. Not Roussel, for he dare not always go as far as his convictions prompted him. "Alas," he wrote to Far el, "there are many gospel truths, one-half of. which I am obliged to conceal." He was just the man for the duchess; he would advance the Christian life without touching the institutions of the church.
Would it be Berquin? We left him in a comfortable chamber of his prison, forming large plans for the conquests of the truth. Margaret had not dared to visit him, but she tried to send him a few words of good cheer. It was, perhaps, for him that she wrote the "Complaints of the Prisoner," in which he thus addresses his Lord,—
"But yet where'er my prison be,
She did not rest here; she was unwearied in her petitions to the king. The Romish party knew that if Berquin was free, he would deal hard blows, which they could not resist, and they did all they could to prevent the bolt from being drawn. But Margaret had a hand on that prison bolt, and, at length, in