Seeking out my Rossignol.
After several more months had gone by, and the Church occupied itself with its more... godly... affairs; as it should, I dared to think of seeing my Rossignol again.
I ached to know of her and of our child, but I dared not approach her. I could not bear to see the hatred I knew I would see in her eyes, or feel her rejection of me for what I had done. I would have to remain at a distance, but I had to know that she was alright.
I quit St. Denis and made my way to the northwest over several days and then weeks, to the small village where I knew she now resided in relative peace and safety.
I knew that if I became careless, and was ever recognized, that everything would change.
If I were recognized.
Had I been recognized in St Denis, as I had been revenged on the Bishop? I would be careful. If I was seen to be in any way close to her, she would face death too. A Chambertin... another, condemned, like those Vaillancourts! They would not know of our marriage.
She seemed to be blissfully unaware of any of those dangers that she had left behind.
What was especially foolhardy of her, but which gave me much pleasure when I learned it, was that she’d kept my name... Vaillancourt and was going by it... Vaillancourt.
Mine was a name, ‘marked’ for scrutiny across all of France, though maybe not as far from St. Denis as this; and that name was fairly common across France.
I knew that as long as I stayed well back, she would not recognize me.
By this time I had grown a thick beard, as well as letting my hair grow. Even in just those few months since I had last seen her, I had changed profoundly.
I was gaunt, and I no longer smiled. (I had nothing to smile about). I was also vigilant, suspicious of everything, having learned to trust no one.
In any Inn, or Hostel of an evening, if I did not sleep in a barn or in the hay somewhere, I mostly listened and learned, staying well back in the shadows, speaking little to anyone.
I changed my name again.
‘Vachon’, Henri Vachon, as befitted a common farmer, which I decided would be my calling, but, as a younger son. The story would be that, I had been encouraged to leave after my father died, and with their being so many older sons than I.
Rossignol may have heard from her relatives by the time I got to the village of Deux Églises, that I, Guillaume, had killed her family... at least the males of it, and had scattered the females to the four winds, in fear of their lives.
What other tales she may have heard of me, and of what had happened in our community, I do not know. It was certain that she would never have heard of her brother, Robert, having tried to murder me, or all that had followed that; or of my entire family being murdered by hers.
None of what she was likely to have learned would reflect well upon me, even if I had saved the lives of her sister, her aunts, cousins, or nieces... or of her mother.
I soon recognized her mother and her sister with her at church one Sunday, so she must have heard all that her mother had to say of that difficult time, after her grandfather had sent her away. It would have been a difficult story to relate.
With her daughter being far along in pregnancy, her mother may have decided to tell her nothing, for fear of her losing the baby in her extreme grief. I know Rossignol had loved her grandfather very dearly, while being afraid of her own father and her brothers.
At least I had not killed the old man. He had died peacefully, even if nagged with doubt about his own sons.
If she had confessed anything about me, and how in love we had been, it would have been to him. She may even had told him of our marriage, and of her pregnancy. I would never know.
Her mother and sister had made their way to her after they’d seen everything torn away from them. They had saved their own lives by heeding my caution that day I took their men, and they had left the valley.
They had seen their fill of violence over the years and had known better than to try and wait things out. Few things ever went as one wanted them to go.
Those soldiers catching up to them after that, with their questions, must have been a severe shock, but I had warned them what to expect.
Then, at that very moment, they might have begun to believe me... that I might have saved their lives.
It must have been a surprise to them to learn that Rossignol had married me, bearing that accursed name now, and wearing it proudly (if she did) instead of her own. It was my name she adopted. I, the one who had been the engine of their total destruction. They also learned yet another surprise that they had not known when Rossignol had left; that she was pregnant, and with my child.
That must have been another shock.
I needed to stay well back and out of sight. They... her mother and sister, might recognize me from that scar, even hidden, as it mostly was by my beard and hair by now, though it was visible enough where it crossed my forehead, so I stayed out of their way.
I was not sure how much she would tell her mother and sister of any of us, or how much they would tell her. Some things were best not disclosed or discussed.
By then, they had learned, as I had, to stay back and to stay quiet... to say nothing of what they had seen, or been told. One upheaval in their lives, the like of what we all had suffered, was one too many. They had learned as I had, to fear the church and to be cautious of it.
It did not respect any life, other than as a means to its own end.
When they sat and talked of an evening, exchanging tales of what they knew... if, or when my name came up, I doubt they would have anything good to say of me... they must have known who I had been at that time; bloody as I had been, telling them to go. I must have seemed like the angel of death, or more likely the devil.
That Vaillancourt youth with his bloody sword in his hand, and murder in his heart!
I tortured myself with my own fears, and I held back.
If I could not approach her, I could at least protect her, though she was well protected in the midst of that other branch of her family that, fortunately, did not bear that Chambertin name, but that of Diderot, and would likely not attract the wrong attention of the church.
I studied them closely over the next few days and weeks as I lodged with an older widow who needed a man to chop her wood, to repair her fences and walls, and to see to milking her cow and goats. She did not seem put off by my appearance and closed her ears to gossip about me and her.
I attended their church, sitting at the back, soon learning that these people... her relatives... were devout Catholics, while those who had recently come to them... Rossignol, and then her mother and sister, were not. Not after what they has seen and heard.
Their relatives from the south-east did not say anything of why they had come to this village, or where their menfolk were... or why they neglected their faith. Some questions were better, not asked.
Unlike their relatives, they attended mass infrequently, never went into the confessional, and spoke politely and reverentially to the priest when he asked what troubled them. They told him nothing. The behavior of the Church had changed them, as it had, me.
With secrets like theirs, it was wiser to say nothing.
He seemed to know better than to approach me, just as I did not approach him. He disapproved of me with my unkempt appearance.
What man chose, or would dare, to bring weapons into the church? Though I kept my sword well hidden. I think he may have heard it bang against one of the seats.
I slept with it in my hand.