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Thus one of Margaret's plans failed. But she had another. The king must call back the exiles, and open the prisons. Already had she entreated for one sufferer, saying to the king, 'If you do not interfere, Berquin is a dead man.' He did interpose, and wrote from Spain that he would make the first president answer for Berquin's life, if he dared to condeinn him. The president halted, the monks hung their heads, and Beda and his pack 'were nigh bursting with vexation.' And now the returned king resolved to save Berquin from ' the claws of Beda's faction.' He said to the Parliament, only a few days after his return, ' I will not suffer the person or the goods of this gentleman to be injured. I will inquire into the matter myself.' The king sent his officers to take this Christian captive from his prison, and put him into a more commodious chamber. They were still to keep watch over him, but he should be well treated. He took courage, and set about forming plans for the triumph of the truth.
Good news for Strasburg; the king was inquiring into matters himself; he was making the prisoners more comfortable; he was listening to the importunate Margaret; he was despising the monks and vexing Beda; and now, one step more, and exiles would be permitted to return to France. One day the duchess urged him to put an end to the cruel exile of her friends. He granted it. The glad tidings went to Strasburg, and France was open to her refugees. Nay, not all of them. There was one exception, unaccountable to us, and mysterious in the providence of God. This we shall see to be the earnest William Farel.
What joy! the aged Lefevre, the fervent Roussel, are recalled with honour. These are nearly the words of Erasmus, who did not regard the two men as 'Lutherans,' nor so far gone out of the old Romish Church as Farel. The Strasburgers bade them farewell with tears, and they took the road to France, happy that they were going to the land of their birth, one to die there, and the other to preach the new life. Others followed; all believed that the new times were come. ^
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 Valois, a refuge for the persecuted, and a stronghold of the gospel. On the first of June, Roussel went to this city, 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 1., and were contriving means to impart 'something of Christianity to the most Christian king,' which was in truth very necessary both 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 Vaugris, 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 jpy. He was as much less than the Toussaint of former days as a merciless tormentor could make him.
At first he 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,' God 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 Alencon 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 blows 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 Alencon,' he wrote to CEcolampadius, '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.
'God, 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 1., 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 he 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 in 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.