|| || The journey to Saumur was complicated but uneventful, made easier by the peace agreement between France and England, so it was no longer necessary to take a route through Holland. They were favoured by a gentle norwesterly, easing them out through the Thames estuary and then reaching south down the Channel to Le Havre. The conditions were, if anything, too mild for Archie, who was anxious to be getting on with his life and some rough weather would have taken his mind off things.
From Le Havre they bought two nondescript horses for the four or five day ride to Saumur. When they arrived they found that the Professor was terminally ill, bedridden and incontinent, but still with enough mental capacity to be totally embarrassed and depressed by his helplessness, simply wanting to die and angry that his wish was being slow to be granted. Not having any relatives still in France, his neighbours were doing what they could, but his house was a mess. Archie moved in, sleeping on a couch in the parlour, and did what he could to look after his old mentor. In between times, he immersed himself in the Professor’s library.
He persuaded Stuart that there was no need for him to stay in France and that he should return to London, giving him a letter for Simon explaining the situation but reassuring him that all was under control.
A few months later, the Professor was finally granted his wish and slipped away in his sleep. He was quietly buried with his wife in the abandoned and unkempt Huguenot graveyard, without official religious ceremony, but words of remembrance and blessing were said over his coffin before the internment.
Archie could no longer stay in the Professor’s house and moved to lodgings in the town. He was kindly treated, both from being remembered as a young boy and from respect for the care he gave to the Professor. He borrowed a horse and rode the the country residence of the Marquise de la Frézelière to ask for her advice. She now lived mostly in the country, finding Paris too difficult since her husband’s untimely death, and she enjoyed the simple rural life. Her son and daughter remained in Paris and raised their families.
She received him kindly, as the son of a good friend, albeit his lovechild.
‘Welcome Archie. And how is your father?’
Archie explained that his father was well and finally achieving the chieftainship that he believed was his right and destiny. He know that his father corresponded with the Marquise so did not consider that he had to give her all the news, such as of his new marriage.
‘You are welcome to stay here, Archie, but it is very quiet and a long ride from town, so perhaps may not be suitable for you.’
‘Thank you, My Lady, but I more came to ask your advice as to what I should do next,’ Archie replied, ‘I had originally planned to continue my studies with Professor Joseph, but now that he is gone, I am at a loss.’
‘You would like to continue your education?’
‘Yes, I need to learn to have a career of some kind so that I can lead my own life. My father has a new life, necessarily without me, so I have to find my own way.’
She asked some more questions, about his financial situation and what his interests were.
‘I would like to think on this. Perhaps we could talk again in the morning.’
The next morning they sat together in the parlour of the country house, filled with old furniture.
‘I have thought over your situation,’ said the Marquise, ‘and have had some discussions with my staff. And while you are welcome here, you would basically become a servant of the house, and I am sure that that is not what you want.’
She looked at him for confirmation, and he nodded.
‘So it must be Saumur, with education a part of the plan. As you are only fifteen and without a family, it would be difficult for you to find a way of living and attend a normal school. I think that we have to consider the best way for you until you are eighteen. Then you can perhaps go to Paris and find further education and opportunity there.
‘We think that perhaps the best option is the Oratory. You will be able to live there and they provide some basic education for children and also teach theology.’
Archie know something of the Oratory from his childhood, as being a community refuge run by a secular Catholic order, providing housing for the impoverished, abandoned women, the insane and orphans. They also ran a theological college, originally set up as a challenge to the Huguenot movement. The Professor, despite being a Huguenot himself, had expressed respect for their dedication to the community and, to a lesser extent, to their erudition.
Archie wryly acknowledged to himself that he could be considered to be an orphan, for the want of a better description. The possibility that he might learn from a college of theology was not unattractive.
‘Yes, My Lady, I think that would be satisfactory. There does not seem to be any other choice. Looking for lodgings with a family so that I could go to a local school would be difficult, and the school may not allow me entrance, seeing as I am a foreigner.’
The Marquise became very businesslike, ‘That is settled then. I will write to Sieur Bernard, who is the director of the Oratory, and ask him to take you in. And I will send a donation to the order to make it difficult for him to refuse, even though, as you say, you are a foreigner.’
‘I will also write to Lord Simon and ask him to send a regular donation whilst you are there, just to make sure that you are properly looked after.’
The next day, Archie rode back to Saumur with a letter for his father, to be delivered to the wine merchant for forwarding to England, and a donation and letter for The Oratory. He was neither happy nor sad, just determined.
Sieur Robert Bernierd, Frère Robert to his charges, was well respected in Saumur, having been raised in the Oratory and spent his life caring for the unfortunate in the local community, and now the senior member of the organisation, but not of the Theological College, which had its own heirarchy. Frère Robert had met with Simon during his town arrest, and they had discussed spiritual matters with many viewpoints in common, also knowing of Archie and hearing about the rumours of a complex marriage situation leading to him becoming a lovechild. It was clear that the marriage had not been by Catholic clergy, and so was not considered to be valid in France. Frère Robert was also aware that Archie had been tutored by Professor Théreau, and that this education was likely to be at least partly beyond strict church guidelines.
However, the Oratory was going through a difficult time with funding becoming increasingly difficult, at least in part because the learned brothers of the Theological College had become influenced by the Jansenist schism within the Church, and the Bishop of the Diocese of Angers was determined to support the orthodox teachings of Rome.
Frère Robert read the Marquise’s letter, weighing the donation in his hand and knowing how useful it would be in putting food on tables and clothes on backs. It was not usual for the Oratory to have students paying board, as its main business was supporting the destitute. He looked at the boy sitting opposite him, sitting firmly upright and looking down at his hands gently folded in his lap, and could see intelligence and determination. He thought that he could see how to make this work,
‘Simon, sorry, Archie,’ he corrected himself remembering that no-one used Archie’s first name, ‘ I will be happy if you come and live with us. You are too young to enrolled in the College, but, if you are happy to help in teaching the children, I will arrange that you can do some courses at the College.’
‘I would be happy with such an arrangement. What will I be expected to teach?’
‘We try to teach our young children how to read and write, French of course, not Latin.’
Archie fitted into his new life as best he could. He found the teaching to be very hard work, as these were orphans who had no real interest in becoming literate as they could not see how it would make their lives any the less miserable. From their perspective they were locked into a world with no choices under their control, with the range of possibilities ranging from rural slavery, through being a beggar, to various levels of crime. Frère Robert helped him understand the business of teaching, himself finding a paternal interest in his intelligent young assistant.
He accepted that his permission to attend courses at the College was on the understanding that he was studying for the priesthood. He was not totally committed to that thought, but considered it as a possibility. Frère Robert also discussed the theological studies. He himself was not entangled in the Jansenist activities, having long accepted that his role in life was to simply be a faithful servant of the church, taking comfort in the certainty of faith.
He wrote to his father every few months telling him briefly of his life, and, in return, Simon continued to send donations.
The Professor’s house stood empty. There were many empty houses in Saumur following the mass exodus of the Huguenots, as there were also empty shops and workplaces. A few had been successfully sold, but there were not enough buyers so many remained empty or became the domain of squatters.
The parish priest of St Peter’s Church, one of several in Saumur, was ambitious and looking for ways to impress his immediate superior, the Bishop of the Diocese of Angers, who was known for his conservative views and intolerance of any teachings not strictly according to Rome. So the priest arranged for a mass burning of heretical books in the Place Saint-Pierre, in front of his church. His main source of material was from the Professor’s library. While there were a few Jansenist and Calvanist tracts in the collection, in truth most of it was collections from classic history, many translated into Latin from the original Greek or from Arabic, and then printed. The Professor had forgone many luxuries to pay for this collection, his love of knowledge being his only remaining solace.
With due ceremony he set light to the pile and delivered a powerful sermon about the evils of heresy, and that God’s way was the only true way. He had a few avid supporters who cheered, but the huge crowd that he had envisaged did not materialise. There was a small group of townspeople soberly surveying the conflagration, mostly mourning the passing of a fine gentleman who had been part of their community all their lives.
Archie heard that the burning was to take place, and immediately regretted that he had not hidden away some of the books that were special to him. He made his way to the square, but stayed hidden in a side street, both from considering his position at the Oratory, and because he might otherwise be overwhelmingly tempted to rush into the flames. The memory of the feel of Euclid’s Elements of Geometry came to his hands like a physical presence.
He felt a great sense of outrage that these sources of knowledge had been so wantonly destroyed, as well as feeling that he had betrayed the memory of his tutor and mentor.
Frère Robert noticed that his protege was deeply upset, and guessed the cause. He thought the action of the parish priest was unnecessarily political and an expression of ambition rather than faith, but did not discuss it with Archie, not wishing to disturb him further.
After Archie had been at the Oratory for two years, the Bishop finally lost patience with the Jansenists ensconced at the Theological College and, with approval from his Archbishop, closed the College, requiring that all those students studying to be priests move to the Seminary of Angers, providing, of course, that they could demonstrate that they had not been spiritually contaminated.
Now Archie was without educational opportunities, and wrote to his father expressing his frustration at being simply an assistant teacher in an orphanage, and asking for help in finding a better situation.
Simon wrote to the Marquise de la Frézelière asking that she discuss the situation with Sieur Bernierd. She made the short journey to the Oratory and wrote back that Sieur Bernierd had assured her that he would continue to look after Archie as best he could. The Marquise was somewhat disappointed that Simon was not brave enough to acknowledge his son, gently emphasising the lovechild aspect of Archie’s situation, aware that Simon suffered remorse and himself wished that it could be otherwise.
Sieur Bernierd, on his part, had developed an almost paternal affection for Archie and knew that it was time to discuss the future for this seventeen-year-old, knowing that this would lead to Archie leaving the Oratory. This would also mean the loss of the donations from Simon, which would lead to increased hardship for all those dependent on the Oratory, but he thought it possible that the Diocese would be more generous after the purging of the College. In any event he was accustomed to doing the best possible with whatever resources were available, and the idea of manipulating Archie in order to retain the donations was repugnant.
‘Archie, we need to discuss your future. One option is that you continue your theological studies and become a priest. I could write a letter of recommendation to the Seminary of Angers, if that is what you wish.’
Archie looked down at his hands, and then directly at Frère Robert, with an expression of some anguish on this face,
‘Professor Joseph was a good man, and taught me many things, including Latin and, more importantly, the love of learning. His library was foremost a place of knowledge, not of heresy.’
‘I take it that this means that you do not wish to be a priest?’ Archie moved his hands and shoulders in agreement and apology. To become a Catholic priest would be an act of disloyalty to the memory.
Although this was as he expected, Sieur Bernierd gave a small sigh of regret, then,
‘The next suggestion would then be that you go to Paris to continue your education. There are few opportunities in Saumur. It is still suffering from the loss of so may citizens.
‘My thought is that we could discuss this with the Marquise. She has contacts and family in Paris and perhaps can help. I expect that the donations that your father has kindly given over the past two years could become an allowance for your upkeep while studying. In addition, I have get some to the money aside, just in case, and this should be enough to get you established in Paris, and to let your father know where you can be contacted.’
The Marquise was very generous and welcomed him as a guest in her house for a few days. But Archie knew that this was because of her friendship with Simon, doing what she could for his lovechild, and that this was not a way towards building his own life.
The Marquise’s youngest son Hilarion, was going through officer training as a cadet in Paris, so she wrote to him asking that he help Archie find his feet. Archie thanked her but knew that Hilarion would only be doing as little as he could to satisfy his mother, having much more important things to do, establishing himself in the military, both as an officer and with social standing.
So Archie travelled to Paris, determined to make his own way, hopefully with some continuing financial support from his father. He found Paris much easier than London, even though he still spoke French with a slight foreign accent. An explanation that his family came from Scotland was enough to get him accepted without suspicion.
He found lodgings in a boarding house and set out to find educational opportunities. He explored the possibility of studying accountancy and discretely attended some lectures, carefully dressing in a manner similar to the other students, mostly being sons of bureaucrats doing their preliminary training to follow in their father’s footsteps. Archie understood that he had little chance of being accepted within French bureaucracy, having no family contacts and not being acknowledged as a French citizen. The subject matter of the few lectures that he attended was also directed to governmental procedures, whereas his interest was towards commercial accounting.
He found some basic texts, and the precision of the double-entry procedure was to his liking. He then approached merchants to find an opportunity to learn more, perhaps as an apprentice. After many attempts, his proposal was finally accepted by a clothier specialising in military fabrics, supplying the manufacturers of army uniforms. He was employed on trial as an apprentice, which meant that he had to pay, nominally for the training. He was luckier that some of the other apprentices in having an independent income so that he could maintain his lodgings, and not sleep under a work-bench.
The clothier was delighted to find that Archie was not only literate but also had a good head for arithmetic and some understanding of the basics of accounting, and so put him directly under the control of his chief clerk.
The chief clerk considered himself to be superior to the workers in the warehouse and cutting room, and did not start work before dawn as they did, but sometimes worked late into the night if the work demanded it.
This allowed Archie time to stop for a pastry at a small patisserie on the way to work, considering himself quite the gentleman. The patisserie was crowded at this hour, and, queuing not being an French custom, there was a degree of jostling as the customers tried to attract the attention of the counter staff. On several occasions Archie noticed a young woman, not very tall and of slender build, who was easily pushed aside by those customers who were in more of a hurry. On one occasion, she was just in front of him and he helped her get to the counter, so they started to converse.
Over the weeks that followed they fell into the habit of waiting for each other so that they could make their way to the counter together, continuing their conversation. Eventually they got to the stage of exchanging names; Archie Fraser meeting Marie de Beaufort. He was startled by her name because his father had always said that he was a Fraser of Beaufort, and asked where she came from.
‘I was born and raised in Paris’, she said, and then, quickly looking to see that no-one was listening, and so quietly that he had to stoop down, ‘But my family came from Anjou. And you?’
‘I was also born in Paris, but my parents are Scottish. I spent much of my childhood in Saumur.’
When he mentioned Saumur, she again looked around nervously, saying quietly that they should continue their conversation outside. He could see that she was nervous and not sure whether to trust him.
‘Who did you know in Saumur?’
‘I lived with my father, but I had a wonderful tutor, Professor Théreau, who taught me many things.’
‘I have heard of him. Is he not a Huguenot?’
‘Yes, he was a Huguenot, but has died.’
Marie seemed to be getting agitated,
‘I had heard that all the Huguenots from Saumur had emigrated.’
‘Professor Joseph was old, had no children, a wife’s grave to tend and a library, so he chose to stay.’
Archie apologised for having to leave, but he had to get to work. They agreed to meet again the next morning. This time Marie walked with him to work so that they may have longer to talk.
‘Did you find it difficult with the Professor being a Huguenot?’, she asked, rather shyly.
‘I didn’t know in the beginning. And he was a really good gentle old man, and very learned. It was a bit difficult when he was dying, and afterwards the parish priest burned the books from his library, even though they were mostly Greek and Roman classics.”
She looked behind her as they walked, and said quietly, ‘I am a Huguenot too. I hope that I can trust you.’
Archie found that he was not surprised. He had sensed something of her difference and isolation.
Over the next few days, he learned that she was staying in Paris to look after her maternal grandmother, who was too old and frail to travel to London with the rest of the family. Marie’s parents had died and she was supported by her uncle, who had gone to London with his wife and children, leaving her in Paris, being the eldest of the grandchildren. She was nervous of her situation and lived very quietly, trying not to draw any attention to herself.
Over the following weeks they became friends, spending some time together on Sundays, with Marie teasing Archie a little about not going to mass.
He met the grandmother, who was very frail, both in body and mind. They lived in a two-room apartment on the second floor, and it was clear that the old lady had not left her bed for some time, with Marie looking after all her needs, feeding her and dealing with the excretions.
Then one day she was not at the patisserie. He thought that maybe she was not well or had other things to do. The same the following day, and he started to be a little worried, so detoured on his way from work to check on the apartment. It was a cold, windy and rainy night. There was no answer when he knocked on the door, and when he walked around to the side of the building he could see no lights in the apartment windows. He did not know what to think, and felt bereft that she had gone somewhere without letting him know.
However, the next morning she was waiting for him at the patisserie, looking stressed and worried. His heart leapt, but was quickly concerned. She took him aside.
‘My grandmother has died, and now I need to get to London,’ she said, with a pleading look, ‘Can you help me? I do not see how I can do it on my own.’
Their eyes met and he knew that he would do whatever he could to help her. He asked some questions and learned that the old lady had died peacefully in her sleep, had been quietly buried next to her husband and a daughter who had died young, in the unkempt Huguenot cemetery. Arranging this had taken nearly all the money that she had, and now she had a small chest of family treasures to take to her uncle in London.
‘Where are you staying now?’ he asked.
‘The family below our apartment are sheltering me, which is very kind of them, and it is very crowded. I cannot stay long with them because harbouring a Huguenot puts them at risk.’
He thought quickly over the possibilities.
‘I will come and get you this afternoon, and you must stay with me tonight. Then we will leave together for London in the morning.’
‘Are you sure that will be alright?’
He took a deep breath, exhaled slowly, and smiled down at her, ‘Oui, nous survivrons, malgré tout. Be ready to come with me.’
She nodded, and he set off to talk to his employer. As he walked through the door of the workshop, the clothier was waiting for him.
‘I hear that the old lady has died,’ he said with a kind smile, ‘and now the granddaughter must go to London. And I expect that you would go with her.’
Archie’s jaw dropped, ‘How did you know?’
‘I hear the gossip, and believe some of it. You are young and not without courage. Perhaps you are in love, or nearly so.’
‘I am sorry, master, to be letting you down,’ Archie stammered, ‘But you are right and I must go.’
‘You have nearly finished four years of your apprenticeship. Another year and you would be qualified. If you leave now it will all be wasted, and I cannot imagine that a letter of reference from a small Paris clothier will be of much use in London. You have done good work for me, and thank you. I will be sorry to see you go.’
He bought his left hand from behind his back, holding a small bag, ‘Here is a part refund of your apprentice fees. It is not enough to get you both to London, but may help along the way. Good luck, my friend, travel gently.’
Now they both had tears in their eyes. Archie nodded wordlessly. They shook hands for the first and only time, and Archie left.
His next call was to his landlady at the boarding house, explaining that he would be leaving in the morning to go to London, and asking her if she could accommodate a young woman for the night.
She also replied that she had heard that the old lady had died, and that Marie would have to go to London, saying that she was glad that Archie would be looking after her, and that he was ahead with his rent, enough to cover his notice and Marie’s accommodation.
Archie retired to his room and considered what he should take with him. Not the accountancy text books, but he was tempted by the battered and falling apart Euclid which he had found at a street market, even though it was in Greek, which he could not read. He could understand the diagrams, and he had a ruler and compass so that he could work them through himself. Then there was a chipped bust of Socrates, also from a street market, who he fancied looked a little like a younger Professor Joseph. In the end he decided to travel light, with just his clothes. He counted the money that he had, and reckoned that there was enough to get to London, but not much to spare.
He then went to enquire about getting from Paris to London. He asked about the possibility of using a boat down the River Seine to Le Havre, but was told that, while the river was used for cargo transport, it was too slow for passengers, who would normally travel by coach. The ship from Le Havre would take him to Southampton, with then another coach trip to London. Alternatively they could take a longer coach trip to Calais and then a ship direct to London. He was concerned that a coach trip in England might be difficult with his French accent and Marie not speaking English, so decided that the Calais route would be better, and made the necessary arrangements for the coach.
When he went to collect Marie that afternoon he realised that her baggage was more than he could carry. The small chest of family treasures was not the major problem, but her bags of other clothes and household items led to the need to hire a horse and cart. As they walked behind the cart, he suggested,
‘It is best if we travel as brother and sister. It would also be better if we used a name that is not Huguenot. So may I call you Marie Frézeau, and you are to call me Archibald Frézeau. It is a good name, and I think that the Marquise will not be angry if I borrow it.’ He was not so sure that the Marquise’s son, now a newly fledged officer in the French army, would be so forgiving, but neither of them should ever find out.
‘Our story is that we are travelling to England to meet up with our father, who is a merchant in fabrics, and has fallen ill while on a buying trip to Manchester.’
She was taken aback at the need for subterfuge, but was very relieved that Archie was arranging the journey for her.
The next morning they boarded their coach for Calais. This was to take six days, with overnight stop-overs at coaching inns. While in the coach, without privacy, Archie started to teach Marie some English, much to the amusement of the other passengers. When they were to themselves they told each other the stories of their lives and became intimate friends.
The sea journey from Calais required easterly winds, so they had to wait a few days until the westerly gale blew itself out, giving them more opportunity for English lessons and friendship.
The sea voyage was reasonably calm, but Marie was still seasick, which Archie enjoyed the wind and sea, moving easily to the surge of the ship.
An advantage of an east wind was that the stench of London was blown to the west as they made their way up the Thames estuary, so that Marie recovered and was amazed at the busy activities of the port. Archie looked at her and asked, ‘Do you think that we could get married?’
Her smile was radiant, and in English, ‘I very content,’ then in French, ‘you will have to ask my uncle for his blessing. He is my guardian.’
Marie had the address for her uncle, so another horse and cart, with Marie riding next to the driver and Archie perched with the baggage in the tray.