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Margaret have a hand on the keys? Whether or not, he in some way escaped, and, though nearly blind, he took the road to Basle. We shall meet him again in Geneva. Farel was represented at Paris by one of the martyrs; and it will not be a mere episode to tell the story of the converted friar, Le Croix. While a Dominican at his convent in Paris, he was startled in mind by the teaching of Cop and young Calvin. He longed for the gospel, dared not hear it in the capital, and resolved to go to a country where it was freely preached. The eyes of Duprat were on the watch; but he escaped, and went to Neufchatel and Geneva, leaving his cowl in the convent, and his monkish name in the air. He was thenceforth Alexander Canus. Heartily was he welcomed by Farel and Froment, who carefully taught him the glad tidings which they preached. He was converted—completely transformed. He must proclaim the Sun of Righteousness, point to the cross, preach the kingdom. One thought absorbed all others: 'O my Saviour! Thou hast given Thy life for me; I desire to give mine for Thee.'
But he could not declare the truth in Geneva. The priests controlled the magistrates, and the magistrates wrote him a heretic, and condemned him to death. They, however, lifted the sentence 'for fear of the king of France,' and he was simply turned out of the city. On the highway, beyond the walls, he stopped and preached to the people who followed him. All were charmed by his powerful eloquence. 'Nobody could stop him,' says Froment, 'so strongly did his zeal impel him to win people to the Lord.'
He went with Froment to Berne, and there asked himself and Heaven where he should go and preach. To Switzerland? It had already able men. To France?
Prisons and death awaited him there. But France needed preachers; he might, perhaps, do something for the gospel. He crossed the border, and went into the region of Macon, where Margaret's chaplain, Michael D'Aranda, had preached nearly ten years before. He raised his voice among the simple and warm-hearted people, who were exposed to the wildest fanaticism. Wandering along the paths, he entered the cottages, talked unto the peasants, and planted the truth on the plains of Bresse.
Certain pious goldsmiths in Lyons heard rumours of his wonderful work. They probably remembered that a certain William Farel had filled Dauphiny with his doctrine ten years before, and that Peter Sebville was not allowed to preach the Lenten sermons in their city. They were ready to run risks, and to make sacrifices for their faith, and they sent for Alexander to visit them. He went and entered their shops, talked of the new doctrines, and found several 'poor men of Lyons' rich in faith. The conversation was pleasant; but he was not satisfied. He must teach more openly. He preached from house to house, then drew the people into larger assemblies. The good word grew. Opposition sprang up like tares to choke its growth. He exclaimed, 'Oh that Lyons were a free city like Geneva!'
Those who wished to hear the truth became more thirsty every day. They went to him and listened to his messages; they dragged him to their homes; they gave him more work than he could do. He asked Farel to send him help, but none came. The persecution was thought to be so fierce at Lyons that nobody dared face it. He worked on alone, in bye-streets, or in upper rooms. The priests and their pack were always on the watch ready to seize him. But as soon as his sermon was ended, his friends surrounded him, carried him away, and hid him in safe retreats. But he could not remain silent. Wistfully putting out his head and looking round the house to see that no spy was near, he sallied forth, went to the other end of the city, and there preached with all his energy. Scarcely was his sermon finished when he was again taken and hid in some new retreat, where he could not be found. 'The evangelist was everywhere and nowhere.' When the priests were looking for him in the southern suburbs, he was preaching on the northern heights that overlook the city. Thus he was the invisible preacher, a mystery to the people, a marvel to the police.
He did still more: he visited the prisons. One day he heard that two men, well known in Geneva, had come to Lyons on business; the Genevan priests had informed against them as heretical Huguenots, and the bishop had thrown them into a dungeon. They were the energetic Baudichon de la Maison-Neuve and his friend Cologny. Alexander asked to see them; the gates opened; the strange preacher, who had baffled the police, was inside the episcopal prison. He was in jeopardy every moment. Had any of the agents, who were searching for his track, recognised him, the gates would never have opened to him again, and his sudden disappearance would have been another of those mysteries which Rome has ever been skilful in preparing. He felt no fears. He spoke to the two Genevans 'a word in season;' he went to other prisoners with the heavenly consolations, and left the cells, no man laying hands on him.
The priests found out what a chance they had missed; but it was too late. He was off, they knew not where.
They were 'near bursting with vexation,' and lamented with one another, saying, 'There is a Lutheran, who preaches and disturbs the people, collecting assemblies here and there in the city, whom we must catch, for he will spoil all the world, as everybody is running after him; and yet we cannot find him or know who he is.' More diligently did they watch and search; but all was useless. Never had a preacher in such strange ways escaped so many snares. They began to say that the unknown man must be possessed of strange powers, by which he passed about invisible.
Blaster came—the time when the reformers in Lyons were to boldly raise their banner. The goldsmiths were no longer content with secret meetings; they had made every preparation for a large assembly; the place was settled; they talked of little else, and notice was quietly given from house to house. The day brought the people, and the converted Dominican preached to a large audience. Whether in a church, or hall, or in the open air, the chronicle does not say. He moved and swayed his hearers, and 'it might have been said that Christ rose again that Easter morn in Lyons, where He had been so long in the sepulchre.' Spies were present; knowing glances were cast; the preacher was no longer invisible; the detectives saw him, heard him, studied his features, took note of his heresies, and hurried to report them to their superiors.
The gladness of many a heart found vent in many an humble dwelling. The cautious believers had a taste of the good word. They wanted a perpetual feast. They requested him to preach again on the morrow. He was ready, and he spoke to a larger audience than before. Eyes were fixed, ears attent, hearts open, and souls rejoicing. But the police were there, charged to seize the mysterious preacher. After a touching sermon, his friends surrounded him to take him safely away. But the officers laid hands on him and took him to prison. He was tried and condemned to death. This cruel sentence caused many to mourn. They urged him to appeal. He did appeal; but the result was, he was transferred to Paris. They remembered that Paul had once appealed to Caesar, and thus he won over a great nation at Rome. Why might not Alexander do the same at Paris? He was led away by a captain and his company, who knew not the nature of the preacher's offence.
The captain was a worthy man. He rode beside Alexander, and they soon were in conversation. The officer asked him why he was arrested. The cause was told. The captain was astonished; he became still more interested in the story of the mysterious preacher; new truths entered his mind, and he wished himself like the pious prisoner. 'The captain was converted,' says Froment, 'while taking him to Paris.' Alexander did not stop at this. He spoke to the guards, one by one, and several of them were won over to the gospel. They halted for the night at an inn, and there he found means to address a few good words to the servants and the heads of the household. This was repeated at every stopping-place, and he was happier in receiving the attentions of the villagers to the things he told them, than ever was prince in having suppers and ovations at the towns through which he passed. It was often whispered abroad that a strange captive was at the inn, and the people came to hear him. Now and then they brought the priest or the orator of the village to dispute with him; but he soon silenced them with arguments,