1614: iv

Gilles was walking through the streets of Brussels wearily requesting alms when he heard a shout.

“H’o there! R——, is that you?”

Gilles’ eyes landed on a man he recognized from the French court waving to him. The Frenchman spoke to his companions and pointed. The monk immediately ducked into the alley and pulled his hood over his head as he ran. Gilles couldn’t risk trying to explain his whereabouts or why he was dressed in disguise. Once he had covered some distance, he dashed into a tailor’s and thrust out a handful of gold.

“A set of clothes, quickly!” Gilles ordered. The tailor’s eyes fastened on the coins and he readily obeyed. Gilles reemerged dressed as a gentleman and hired the first horse he could find. His goal was to escape Brussels, never stopping until he reached Amiens.

He was on his way. The horse galloped through the streets, cutting through the people until it took a corner and skidded to a halt before an overturned ox cart. Gilles diverted the horse down another avenue. Familiarity struck him, but it was a few minutes before he realized he was on the lane that would pass the convent garden. He slowed the horse to a walk as they neared. Gilles peered over the wall. He didn’t know what he intended or why, but he knew he would never return to Brussels if he could help it and had to do something about his nagging idea.

“Psst! Aimée,” he called. The girl looked up from digging for potatoes. She didn’t recognize him on horseback and sat frozen with her mouth agape.

“Aimée, come here,” he urged, “It’s Brother Paul.” Her eyes widened with surprise as she rose and came to the wall.

“What are you doing? Are you no longer a monk?” she asked. He held out a hand.

“No, I am not. Come with me. We’ll go search for your dragon,” he replied. She stared at him still stunned and confused. The horse chomped at the bit impatiently.

“Aimée!” The girl turned to see Sister Ruth appear in the doorway of the kitchen. The woman’s eyes widened when they spied the strange horseman with the outstretched hand.

“Aimée!” she called more sternly and took the first steps towards them. In a panic, Gilles grabbed the back of Aimée’s dress. She let out a short shriek as she was lifted roughly over the wall and tossed over the saddle pommel. Gilles dug in his heels and the horse resumed its charge out of Brussels.

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