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It is possible that our reader, whose recollections may perhaps go back as far as the Restoration, will be surprised at the size of the frame required for the picture we are about to bring before him, embracing as it does two centuries and a half; but as everything, has its precedent, every river its source, every volcano its central fire, so it is that the spot of earth on which we are going to fix our eyes has been the scene of action and reaction, revenge and retaliation, till the religious annals of the South resemble an account-book kept by double entry, in which fanaticism enters the profits of death, one side being written with the blood of Catholics, the other with that of Protestants.
In the great political and religious convulsions of the South, the earthquake-like throes of which were felt even in the capital, Nimes has always taken the central place; Nimes will therefore be the pivot round which our story will revolve, and though we may sometimes leave it for a moment, we shall always return thither without fail.
Nimes was reunited to France by Louis VIII, the government being taken from its vicomte, Bernard Athon VI, and given to consuls in the year 1207. During the episcopate of Michel Briconnet the relics of St. Bauzile were discovered, and hardly were the rejoicings over this event at an end when the new doctrines began to spread over France. It was in the South that the persecutions began, and in 1551 several persons were publicly burnt as heretics by order of the Seneschal's Court at Nimes, amongst whom was Maurice Secenat, a missionary from the Cevennes, who was taken in the very act of preaching. Thenceforth Nimes rejoiced in two martyrs and two patron saints, one revered by the Catholics, and one by the Protestants; St. Bauzile, after reigning as sole protector for twenty-four years, being forced to share the honours of his guardianship with his new rival.
Maurice Secenat was followed as preacher by Pierre de Lavau; these two names being still remembered among the crowd of obscure and forgotten martyrs. He also was put to death on the Place de la Salamandre, all the difference being that the former was burnt and the latter hanged.
Pierre de Lavau was attended in his last moments by Dominique Deyron, Doctor of Theology; but instead of, as is usual, the dying man being converted by the priest, it was the priest who was converted by de Lavau, and the teaching which it was desired should be suppressed burst forth again. Decrees were issued against Dominique Deyron; he was pursued and tracked down, and only escaped the gibbet by fleeing to the mountains.
The mountains are the refuge of all rising or decaying sects; God has given to the powerful on earth city, plain, and sea, but the mountains are the heritage of the oppressed.
Persecution and proselytism kept pace with each other, but the blood that was shed produced the usual effect: it rendered the soil on which it fell fruitful, and after two or three years of struggle, during which two or three hundred Huguenots had been burnt or hanged, Nimes awoke one morning with a Protestant majority. In 1556 the consuls received a sharp reprimand on account of the leaning of the city towards the doctrines of the Reformation; but in 1557, one short year after this admonition, Henri II was forced to confer the office of president of the Presidial Court on William de Calviere, a Protestant. At last a decision of the senior judge having declared that it was the duty of the consuls to sanction the execution of heretics by their presence, the magistrates of the city protested against this decision, and the power of the Crown was insufficient to carry it out.
Henri II dying, Catherine de Medicis and the Guises took possession of the throne in the name of Francois II. There is a moment when nations can always draw a long breath, it is while their kings are awaiting burial; and Nimes took advantage of this moment on the death of Henri II, and on September 29th, 1559, Guillaume Moget founded the first Protestant community.
Guillaume Moget came from Geneva. He was the spiritual son of Calvin, and came to Nimes with the firm purpose of converting all the remaining Catholics or of being hanged. As he was eloquent, spirited, and wily, too wise to be violent, ever ready to give and take in the matter of concessions, luck was on his side, and Guillaume Moget escaped hanging.
The moment a rising sect ceases to be downtrodden it becomes a queen, and heresy, already mistress of three-fourths of the city, began to hold up its head with boldness in the streets. A householder called Guillaume Raymond opened his house to the Calvinist missionary, and allowed him to preach in it regularly to all who came, and the wavering were thus confirmed in the new faith. Soon the house became too narrow to contain the crowds which flocked thither to imbibe the poison of the revolutionary doctrine, and impatient glances fell on the churches.
Meanwhile the Vicomte de Joyeuse, who had just been appointed governor of Languedoc in the place of M. de Villars, grew uneasy at the rapid progress made by the Protestants, who so far from trying to conceal it boasted of it; so he summoned the consuls before him, admonished them sharply in the king's name, and threatened to quarter a garrison in the town which would soon put an end to these disorders. The consuls promised to stop the evil without the aid of outside help, and to carry out their promise doubled the patrol and appointed a captain of the town whose sole duty was to keep order in the streets. Now this captain whose office had been created solely for the repression of heresy, happened to be Captain Bouillargues, the most inveterate Huguenot who ever existed.
The result of this discriminating choice was that Guillaume Moget began to preach, and once when a great crowd had gathered in a garden to hear him hold forth, heavy rain came on, and it became necessary for the people either to disperse or to seek shelter under a roof. As the preacher had just reached the most interesting part of his sermon, the congregation did not hesitate an instant to take the latter alternative. The Church of St. Etienne du Capitole was quite near: someone present suggested that this building, if not the most suitable, as at least the most spacious for such a gathering.
The idea was received with acclamation: the rain grew heavier, the crowd invaded the church, drove out the priests, trampled the Holy Sacrament under foot, and broke the sacred images. This being accomplished, Guillaume Moget entered the pulpit, and resumed his sermon with such eloquence that his hearers' excitement redoubled, and not satisfied with what had already been done, rushed off to seize on the Franciscan monastery, where they forthwith installed Moget and the two women, who, according to Menard the historian of Languedoc, never left him day or night; all which proceedings were regarded by Captain Bouillargues with magnificent calm.
The consuls being once more summoned before M. de Villars, who had again become governor, would gladly have denied the existence of disorder; but finding this impossible, they threw themselves on his mercy. He being unable to repose confidence in them any longer, sent a garrison to the citadel of Nimes, which the municipality was obliged to support, appointed a governor of the city with four district captains under him, and formed a body of military police which quite superseded the municipal constabulary. Moget was expelled from Nimes, and Captain Bouillargues deprived of office.
Francis II dying in his turn, the usual effect was produced,--that is, the persecution became less fierce,--and Moget therefore returned to Nimes. This was a victory, and every victory being a step forward, the triumphant preacher organised a Consistory, and the deputies of Nimes demanded from the States-General of Orleans possession of the churches. No notice was taken of this demand; but the Protestants were at no loss how to proceed. On the 21st December 1561 the churches of Ste. Eugenie, St. Augustin, and the Cordeliers were taken by assault, and cleared of their images in a hand's turn; and this time Captain Bouillargues was not satisfied with looking on, but directed the operations.
The cathedral was still safe, and in it were entrenched the remnant of the Catholic clergy; but it was apparent that at the earliest opportunity it too would be turned into a meeting-house; and this opportunity was not long in coming.
One Sunday, when Bishop Bernard d'Elbene had celebrated mass, just as the regular preacher was about to begin his sermon, some children who were playing in the close began to hoot the 'beguinier' [a name of contempt for friars]. Some of the faithful being disturbed in their meditations, came out of the church and chastised the little Huguenots, whose parents considered themselves in consequence to have been insulted in the persons of their children. A great commotion ensued, crowds began to form, and cries of "To the church! to the church!" were heard. Captain Bouillargues happened to be in the neighbourhood, and being very methodical set about organising the insurrection; then putting himself at its head, he charged the cathedral, carrying everything before him, in spite of the barricades which had been hastily erected by the Papists. The assault was over in a few moments; the priests and their flock fled by one door, while the Reformers entered by another. The building was in the twinkling of an eye adapted to the new form of worship: the great crucifix from above the altar was dragged about the streets at the end of a rope and scourged at every cross-roads. In the evening a large fire was lighted in the place before the cathedral, and the archives of the ecclesiastical and religious houses, the sacred images, the relics of the saints, the decorations of the altar, the sacerdotal vestments, even the Host itself, were thrown on it without any remonstrance from the consuls; the very wind which blew upon Nimes breathed heresy.
For the moment Nimes was in full revolt, and the spirit of organisation spread: Moget assumed the titles of pastor and minister of the Christian Church. Captain Bouillargues melted down the sacred vessels of the Catholic churches, and paid in this manner the volunteers of Nimes and the German mercenaries; the stones of the demolished religious houses were used in the construction of fortifications, and before anyone thought of attacking it the city was ready for a siege. It was at this moment that Guillaume Calviere, who was at the head of the Presidial Court, Moget being president of the Consistory, and Captain Bouillargues commander-in-chief of the armed forces, suddenly resolved to create a new authority, which, while sharing the powers hitherto vested solely in the consuls, should be, even more than they, devoted to Calvin: thus the office of les Messieurs came into being. This was neither more nor less than a committee of public safety, and having been formed in the stress of revolution it acted in a revolutionary spirit, absorbing the powers of the consuls, and restricting the authority of the Consistory to things spiritual. In the meantime the Edict of Amboise, was promulgated, and it was announced that the king, Charles IX, accompanied by Catherine de Medicis, was going to visit his loyal provinces in the South.
Determined as was Captain Bouillargues, for once he had to give way, so strong was the party against him; therefore, despite the murmurs of the fanatics, the city of Nimes resolved, not only to open its gates to its sovereign, but to give him such a reception as would efface the bad impression which Charles might have received from the history of recent events. The royal procession was met at the Pont du Gare, where young girls attired as nymphs emerged from a grotto bearing a collation, which they presented to their Majesties, who graciously and heartily partook of it. The repast at an end, the illustrious travellers resumed their progress; but the imagination of the Nimes authorities was not to be restrained within such narrow bounds: at the entrance to the city the king found the Porte de la Couronne transformed into a mountain-side, covered with vines and olive trees, under which a shepherd was tending his flock. As the king approached the mountain parted as if yielding to the magic of his power, the most beautiful maidens and the most noble came out to meet their sovereign, presenting him the keys of the city wreathed with flowers, and singing to the accompaniment of the shepherd's pipe. Passing through the mountain, Charles saw chained to a palm tree in the depths of a grotto a monster crocodile from whose jaws issued flames: this was a representation of the old coat of arms granted to the city by Octavius Caesar Augustus after the battle of Actium, and which Francis I had restored to it in exchange for a model in silver of the amphitheatre presented to him by the city. Lastly, the king found in the Place de la Salamandre numerous bonfires, so that without waiting to ask if these fires were made from the remains of the faggots used at the martyrdom of Maurice Secenat, he went to bed very much pleased with the reception accorded him by his good city of Nimes, and sure that all the unfavourable reports he had heard were calumnies.
Nevertheless, in order that such rumours, however slight their foundation, should not again be heard, the king appointed Damville governor of Languedoc, installing him himself in the chief city of his government; he then removed every consul from his post without exception, and appointed in their place Guy-Rochette, doctor and lawyer; Jean Beaudan, burgess; Francois Aubert, mason; and Cristol Ligier, farm labourer--all Catholics. He then left for Paris, where a short time after he concluded a treaty with the Calvinists, which the people with its gift of prophecy called "The halting peace of unsure seat," and which in the end led to the massacre of St. Bartholomew.
Gracious as had been the measures taken by the king to secure the peace of his good city of Nimes, they had nevertheless been reactionary; consequently the Catholics, feeling the authorities were now on their side, returned in crowds: the householders reclaimed their houses, the priests their churches; while, rendered ravenous by the bitter bread of exile, both the clergy and the laity pillaged the treasury. Their return was not, however; stained by bloodshed, although the Calvinists were reviled in the open street. A few stabs from a dagger or shots from an arquebus might, however, have been better; such wounds heal while mocking words rankle in the memory.
On the morrow of Michaelmas Day--that is, on the 31st September 1567--a number of conspirators might have been seen issuing from a house and spreading themselves through the streets, crying "To arms! Down with the Papists!" Captain Bouillargues was taking his revenge.
As the Catholics were attacked unawares, they did not make even a show of resistance: a number of Protestants--those who possessed the best arms--rushed to the house of Guy-Rochette, the first consul, and seized the keys of the city. Guy Rochette, startled by the cries of the crowds, had looked out of the window, and seeing a furious mob approaching his house, and feeling that their rage was directed against himself, had taken refuge with his brother Gregoire. There, recovering his courage and presence of mind, he recalled the important responsibilities attached to his office, and resolving to fulfil them whatever might happen, hastened to consult with the other magistrates, but as they all gave him very excellent reasons for not meddling, he soon felt there was no dependence to be placed on such cowards and traitors. He next repaired to the episcopal palace, where he found the bishop surrounded by the principal Catholics of the town, all on their knees offering up earnest prayers to Heaven, and awaiting martyrdom. Guy-Rochette joined them, and the prayers were continued.
A few instants later fresh noises were heard in the street, and the gates of the palace court groaned under blows of axe and crowbar. Hearing these alarming sounds, the bishop, forgetting that it was his duty to set a brave example, fled through a breach in the wall of the next house; but Guy-Rochette and his companions valiantly resolved not to run away, but to await their fate with patience. The gates soon yielded, and the courtyard and palace were filled with Protestants: at their head appeared Captain Bouillargues, sword in hand. Guy-Rochette and those with him were seized and secured in a room under the charge of four guards, and the palace was looted. Meantime another band of insurgents had attacked the house of the vicar-general, John Pebereau, whose body pierced by seven stabs of a dagger was thrown out of a window, the same fate as was meted out to Admiral Coligny eight years later at the hands of the Catholics. In the house a sum of 800 crowns was found and taken. The two bands then uniting, rushed to the cathedral, which they sacked for the second time.
Thus the entire day passed in murder and pillage: when night came the large number of prisoners so imprudently taken began to be felt as an encumbrance by the insurgent chiefs, who therefore resolved to take advantage of the darkness to get rid of them without causing too much excitement in the city. They were therefore gathered together from the various houses in which they had been confined, and were brought to a large hall in the Hotel de Ville, capable of containing from four to five hundred persons, and which was soon full. An irregular tribunal arrogating to itself powers of life and death was formed, and a clerk was appointed to register its decrees. A list of all the prisoners was given him, a cross placed before a name indicating that its bearer was condemned to death, and, list in hand, he went from group to group calling out the names distinguished by the fatal sign. Those thus sorted out were then conducted to a spot which had been chosen beforehand as the place of execution.
This was the palace courtyard in the middle of which yawned a well twenty-four feet in circumference and fifty deep. The fanatics thus found a grave ready-digged as it were to their hand, and to save time, made use of it.
The unfortunate Catholics, led thither in groups, were either stabbed with daggers or mutilated with axes, and the bodies thrown down the well. Guy-Rochette was one of the first to be dragged up. For himself he asked neither mercy nor favour, but he begged that the life of his young brother might be spared, whose only crime was the bond of blood which united them; but the assassins, paying no heed to his prayers, struck down both man and boy and flung them into the well. The corpse of the vicar-general, who had been killed the day before, was in its turn dragged thither by a rope and added to the others. All night the massacre went on, the crimsoned water rising in the well as corpse after corpse was thrown in, till, at break of day, it overflowed, one hundred and twenty bodies being then hidden in its depths.
Next day, October 1st, the scenes of tumult were renewed: from early dawn Captain Bouillargues ran from street to street crying, "Courage, comrades! Montpellier, Pezenas, Aramon, Beaucaire, Saint-Andeol, and Villeneuve are taken, and are on our side. Cardinal de Lorraine is dead, and the king is in our power." This aroused the failing energies of the assassins. They joined the captain, and demanded that the houses round the palace should be searched, as it was almost certain that the bishop, who had, as may be remembered, escaped the day before, had taken refuge in one of them. This being agreed to, a house-to-house visitation was begun: when the house of M. de Sauvignargues was reached, he confessed that the bishop was in his cellar, and proposed to treat with Captain Bouillargues for a ransom. This proposition being considered reasonable, was accepted, and after a short discussion the sum of 120 crowns was agreed on. The bishop laid down every penny he had about him, his servants were despoiled, and the sum made up by the Sieur de Sauvignargues, who having the bishop in his house kept him caged. The prelate, however, made no objection, although under other circumstances he would have regarded this restraint as the height of impertinence; but as it was he felt safer in M. de Sauvignargues' cellar than in the palace.
But the secret of the worthy prelate's hiding place was but badly kept by those with whom he had treated; for in a few moments a second crowd appeared, hoping to obtain a second ransom. Unfortunately, the Sieur de Sauvignargues, the bishop, and the bishop's servants had stripped themselves of all their ready money to make up the first, so the master of the house, fearing for his own safety, having barricaded the doors, got out into a lane and escaped, leaving the bishop to his fate. The Huguenots climbed in at the windows, crying, "No quarter! Down with the Papists!" The bishop's servants were cut down, the bishop himself dragged out of the cellar and thrown into the street. There his rings and crozier were snatched from him; he was stripped of his clothes and arrayed in a grotesque and ragged garment which chanced to be at hand; his mitre was replaced by a peasant's cap; and in this condition he was dragged back to the palace and placed on the brink of the well to be thrown in. One of the assassins drew attention to the fact that it was already full. "Pooh!" replied another, "they won't mind a little crowding for a bishop." Meantime the prelate, seeing he need expect no mercy from man, threw himself on his knees and commended his soul to God. Suddenly, however, one of those who had shown himself most ferocious during the massacre, Jean Coussinal by name, was touched as if by miracle with a feeling of compassion at the sight of so much resignation, and threw himself between the bishop and those about to strike, and declaring that whoever touched the prelate must first overcome himself, took him under his protection, his comrades retreating in astonishment. Jean Coussinal raising the bishop, carried him in his arms into a neighbouring house, and drawing his sword, took his stand on the threshold.
The assassins, however, soon recovered from their surprise, and reflecting that when all was said and done they were fifty to one, considered it would be shameful to let themselves be intimidated by a single opponent, so they advanced again on Coussinal, who with a back-handed stroke cut off the head of the first-comer. The cries upon this redoubled, and two or three shots were fired at the obstinate defender of the poor bishop, but they all missed aim. At that moment Captain Bouillargues passed by, and seeing one man attacked by fifty, inquired into the cause. He was told of Coussinal's odd determination to save the bishop. "He is quite right," said the captain; "the bishop has paid ransom, and no one has any right to touch him." Saying this, he walked up to Coussinal, gave him his hand, and the two entered the house, returning in a few moments with the bishop between them. In this order they crossed the town, followed by the murmuring crowd, who were, however, afraid to do more than murmur; at the gate the bishop was provided with an escort and let go, his defenders remaining there till he was out of sight.
The massacres went on during the whole of the second day, though towards evening the search for victims relaxed somewhat; but still many isolated acts of murder took place during the night. On the morrow, being tired of killing, the people began to destroy, and this phase lasted a long time, it being less fatiguing to throw stones about than corpses. All the convents, all the monasteries, all the houses of the priests and canons were attacked in turn; nothing was spared except the cathedral, before which axes and crowbars seemed to lose their power, and the church of Ste. Eugenie, which was turned into a powder-magazine. The day of the great butchery was called "La Michelade," because it took place the day after Michaelmas, and as all this happened in the year 1567 the Massacre of St. Bartholomew must be regarded as a plagiarism.
At last, however, with the help of M. Damville; the Catholics again got the upper hand, and it was the turn of the Protestants to fly. They took refuge in the Cevennes. From the beginning of the troubles the Cevennes had been the asylum of those who suffered for the Protestant faith; and still the plains are Papist, and the mountains Protestant. When the Catholic party is in the ascendant at Nimes, the plain seeks the mountain; when the Protestants come into power, the mountain comes down into the plain.
However, vanquished and fugitive though they were, the Calvinists did not lose courage: in exile one day, they felt sure their luck would turn the next; and while the Catholics were burning or hanging them in effigy for contumacy, they were before a notary, dividing the property of their executioners.
But it was not enough for them to buy or sell this property amongst each other, they wanted to enter into possession; they thought of nothing else, and in 1569--that is, in the eighteenth month of their exile--they attained their wish in the following manner:
One day the exiles perceived a carpenter belonging to a little village called Cauvisson approaching their place of refuge. He desired to speak to M. Nicolas de Calviere, seigneur de St. Cosme, and brother of the president, who was known to be a very enterprising man. To him the carpenter, whose name was Maduron, made the following proposition:
In the moat of Nimes, close to the Gate of the Carmelites, there was a grating through which the waters from the fountain found vent. Maduron offered to file through the bars of this grating in such a manner that some fine night it could be lifted out so as to allow a band of armed Protestants to gain access to the city. Nicolas de Calviere approving of this plan, desired that it should be carried out at once; but the carpenter pointed out that it would be necessary to wait for stormy weather, when the waters swollen by the rain would by their noise drown the sound of the file. This precaution was doubly necessary as the box of the sentry was almost exactly above the grating. M. de Calviere tried to make Maduron give way; but the latter, who was risking more than anyone else, was firm. So whether they liked it or not, de Calviere and the rest had to await his good pleasure.
Some days later rainy weather set in, and as usual the fountain became fuller; Maduron seeing that the favourable moment had arrived, glided at night into the moat and applied his file, a friend of his who was hidden on the ramparts above pulling a cord attached to Maduron's arm every time the sentinel, in pacing his narrow round, approached the spot. Before break of day the work was well begun. Maduron then obliterated all traces of his file by daubing the bars with mud and wax, and withdrew. For three consecutive nights he returned to his task, taking the same precautions, and before the fourth was at an end he found that by means of a slight effort the grating could be removed. That was all that was needed, so he gave notice to Messire Nicolas de Calviere that the moment had arrived.
Everything was favourable to the undertaking: as there was no moon, the next night was chosen to carry out the plan, and as soon as it was dark Messire Nicolas de Calviere set out with his men, who, slipping down into the moat without noise, crossed, the water being up to their belts, climbed up the other side, and crept along at the foot of the wall till they reached the grating without being perceived. There Maduron was waiting, and as soon as he caught sight of them he gave a slight blow to the loose bars; which fell, and the whole party entered the drain, led by de Calviere, and soon found themselves at the farther end--that is to say, in the Place de la Fontaine. They immediately formed into companies twenty strong, four of which hastened to the principal gates, while the others patrolled the streets shouting, "The city taken! Down with the Papists! A new world!" Hearing this, the Protestants in the city recognised their co-religionists, and the Catholics their opponents: but whereas the former had been warned and were on the alert, the latter were taken by surprise; consequently they offered no resistance, which, however, did not prevent bloodshed. M. de St. Andre, the governor of the town, who during his short period of office had drawn the bitter hatred of the Protestants on him, was shot dead in his bed, and his body being flung out of the window, was torn in pieces by the populace. The work of murder went on all night, and on the morrow the victors in their turn began an organised persecution, which fell more heavily on the Catholics than that to which they had subjected the Protestants; for, as we have explained above, the former could only find shelter in the plain, while the latter used the Cevennes as a stronghold.
It was about this time that the peace, which was called, as we have said, "the insecurely seated," was concluded. Two years later this name was justified by the Massacre of St. Bartholomew.
When this event took place, the South, strange as it may seem, looked on: in Nimes both Catholics and Protestants, stained with the other's blood, faced each other, hand on hilt, but without drawing weapon. It was as if they were curious to see how the Parisians would get through. The massacre had one result, however, the union of the principal cities of the South and West: Montpellier, Uzes, Montauban, and La Rochelle, with Nimes at their head, formed a civil and military league to last, as is declared in the Act of Federation, until God should raise up a sovereign to be the defender of the Protestant faith. In the year 1775 the Protestants of the South began to turn their eyes towards Henri IV as the coming defender.
At that date Nimes, setting an example to the other cities of the League, deepened her moats, blew up her suburbs, and added to the height of her ramparts. Night and day the work of perfecting the means of defence went on; the guard at every gate was doubled, and knowing how often a city had been taken by surprise, not a hole through which a Papist could creep was left in the fortifications. In dread of what the future might bring, Nimes even committed sacrilege against the past, and partly demolished the Temple of Diana and mutilated the amphitheatre--of which one gigantic stone was sufficient to form a section of the wall. During one truce the crops were sown, during another they were garnered in, and so things went on while the reign of the Mignons lasted. At length the prince raised up by God, whom the Huguenots had waited for so long, appeared; Henri IV ascended the, throne.
But once seated, Henri found himself in the same difficulty as had confronted Octavius fifteen centuries earlier, and which confronted Louis Philippe three centuries later--that is to say, having been raised to sovereign power by a party which was not in the majority, he soon found himself obliged to separate from this party and to abjure his religious beliefs, as others have abjured or will yet abjure their political beliefs; consequently, just as Octavius had his Antony, and Louis Philippe was to have his Lafayette, Henri IV was to have his Biron. When monarchs are in this position they can no longer have a will of their own or personal likes and dislikes; they submit to the force of circumstances, and feel compelled to rely on the masses; no sooner are they freed from the ban under which they laboured than they are obliged to bring others under it.
However, before having recourse to extreme measures, Henri IV with soldierly frankness gathered round him all those who had been his comrades of old in war and in religion; he spread out before them a map of France, and showed them that hardly a tenth of the immense number of its inhabitants were Protestants, and that even that tenth was shut up in the mountains; some in Dauphine, which had been won for them by their three principal leaders, Baron des Adrets, Captain Montbrun, and Lesdiguieres; others in the Cevennes, which had become Protestant through their great preachers, Maurice Secenat and Guillaume Moget; and the rest in the mountains of Navarre, whence he himself had come. He recalled to them further that whenever they ventured out of their mountains they had been beaten in every battle, at Jarnac, at Moncontour, and at Dreux. He concluded by explaining how impossible it was for him, such being the case, to entrust the guidance of the State to their party; but he offered them instead three things, viz., his purse to supply their present needs, the Edict of Nantes to assure their future safety, and fortresses to defend themselves should this edict one day be revoked, for with profound insight the grandfather divined the grandson: Henri IV feared Louis XIV.
The Protestants took what they were offered, but of course like all who accept benefits they went away filled with discontent because they had not been given more.
Although the Protestants ever afterwards looked on Henri IV as a renegade, his reign nevertheless was their golden age, and while it lasted Nines was quiet; for, strange to say, the Protestants took no revenge for St. Bartholomew, contenting themselves with debarring the Catholics from the open exercise of their religion, but leaving them free to use all its rites and ceremonies in private. They even permitted the procession of the Host through the streets in case of illness, provided it took place at night. Of course death would not always wait for darkness, and the Host was sometimes carried to the dying during the day, not without danger to the priest, who, however, never let himself be deterred thereby from the performance of his duty; indeed, it is of the essence of religious devotion to be inflexible; and few soldiers, however brave, have equalled the martyrs in courage.
During this time, taking advantage of the truce to hostilities and the impartial protection meted out to all without distinction by the Constable Damville, the Carmelites and Capuchins, the Jesuits and monks of all orders and colours, began by degrees to return to Nines; without any display, it is true, rather in a surreptitious manner, preferring darkness to daylight; but however this may be, in the course of three or four years they had all regained foothold in the town; only now they were in the position in which the Protestants had been formerly, they were without churches, as their enemies were in possession of all the places of worship. It also happened that a Jesuit high in authority, named Pere Coston, preached with such success that the Protestants, not wishing to be beaten, but desirous of giving word for word, summoned to their aid the Rev. Jeremie Ferrier, of Alais, who at the moment was regarded as the most eloquent preacher they had. Needless to say, Alais was situated in the mountains, that inexhaustible source of Huguenot eloquence. At once the controversial spirit was aroused; it did not as yet amount to war, but still less could it be called peace: people were no longer assassinated, but they were anathematised; the body was safe, but the soul was consigned to damnation: the days as they passed were used by both sides to keep their hand in, in readiness for the moment when the massacres should again begin.
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