Nicholas Cop was careful to arrange his features into as neutral an expression as possible but the calm exterior did nothing to stop his heart from hammering against his chest. Everything had gone as planned. He had stood before one of the most impressive assemblies he had ever seen at the Sorbonne and delivered a speech he could never have conceived of himself. John Calvin had dug deep into the reservoir of his personal faith to produce such a masterpiece. No amount of scholarship could have presented the matchless charms of God’s grace in so poignant and powerful a manner.
At the end of his oration, silence had reigned for a long moment, thick with a mixture of disbelief and rage before all hell had broken loose. The entire assembly, nearly all of whom were Catholic, had swelled like a raging tide to their feet and surged towards him with unmitigated fury. Out of the corner of his eye Cop had seen Calvin melt into the obscurity of the shadows.
That had been part of the plan. One was enough for a sacrifice.
Now as he was jostled towards Parliament, Cop quietly reflected on what his next steps should be. The Parliament was the supreme judge and executioner of heretics and Nicholas Cop was on his way there as a flagrant purveyor of heresy. He closed his eyes for a brief moment.
How had it come to this? His mind went back over the conversation that he had had with Calvin just a short while ago and his brow creased.
“What else did you expect Nicholas?” He chided himself “you knew that it would come to this” he muttered under his breath.
Yes, he had known and he hadn’t cared. He was a flagrant purveyor of the gospel of Jesus Christ and willing to be condemned to the flames for it.
However having said that, if there is a way to avoid being roasted alive I would like to find it he mused thoughtfully.
He was the Rector of the Sorbonne, the highest elected official of the most prestigious university in France. Cop felt his shoulders lift just a touch. Surely they would never burn the Rector of the Sorbonne?
Suddenly a man broke through the gawking crowds that had lined the streets. He approached Cop and grabbed him in a hard embrace. Cop gasped in shock and came to a stumbling halt causing his escort to do the same. “Nicholas!” Cop pulled his head back to survey the face that hovered inches from his own and recognition flitted across his features. The man grasped him tightly once more and brought his lips close to Cop’s ear. “Nicholas, I have word from the Parliament.” Cop’s eyes widened and he gripped the man tightly to his chest. “They are prepared to burn you. You must run Nicholas. Run now!” The man then deftly disentangled himself from the awkward embrace and looked Cop sharply in the eyes, “God Speed my Brother” he said firmly before turning and running back into the crowd. The entire episode had taken less than two minutes which gave none of Cop’s escort any time to react. Cop stood rooted to the spot where the man had left him, every muscle in his body tensed to spring. He looked around at the faces of the men who were conveying him to the Parliament. I have to get out he thought frantically. I have to get out of Paris. Now.
“You are sure of this information?” Jean Morin gazed at the man in front of him with the predatory precision of a patrician falcon.
The man nodded vehemently “Oui Monsieur Morin. Very sure. It was John Calvin who wrote the speech”.
Morin turned to face the window, his brow creasing in concentration. So Cop hadn’t been working alone he mused to himself. He had an accomplice. John Calvin. Morin had heard of this Calvin. He had seen him when he came to court to meet Princess Margaret. It didn’t help that the King’s sister was so fond of these heretics. She coddled them every chance she got. If Calvin had been the mastermind behind the speech then he was more of a threat than Cop had ever been. At least Cop had had the good sense to run. If he hadn’t he would have been ashes by now.
“Do you know where we can find this John Calvin?” Morin asked casually, wheeling around to face the man again. “
Non Monsieur. We do not even know if he is still in Paris”
“Hmmm…” Morin fingered the fabric of the curtain beside him, “Have every college in the Sorbonne searched” he finally said.
“The Sorbonne sir?”
“Every college, every hall of residence. If Calvin is still in Paris, he will be at the University”.
The man nodded. It made complete sense.
“But what if he finds out we are coming for him Monsieur?”
“Make sure he does not” was the quiet reply.
The small dorm room was peaceful and quiet, the silence only briefly punctuated by the soft tap of the quill against the inkwell and the sharp scratching of the quill against the paper. Outside on the cobbled street below the footsteps of collegemen hurrying to and from their dorms filled the otherwise quiet neighborhood. It was turning out to be the perfect day to write. To write and to plan. And John Calvin loved to do both. There was so much work to be done. His desire to see France completely converted to the Protestant cause burned deeply in his heart. France for the gospel regardless of the cost. That had become the driving force of his life.
Calvin’s thoughts turned briefly to his friend Nicholas Cop. He had gotten word that Nicholas had managed to get out of Paris and run to Basel. Calvin took great comfort in the fact that he was safe. They all were. No one knew that he had written the speech, of that he was sure. In Calvin’s mind, they had pulled off their little ploy to perfection. Cop had delivered his message on the grace of God with the stirring finesse of a master orator. The gospel had been laid down in the very heart of the Sorbonne. Nicholas had escaped the flames and he, Calvin, was now safe to continue his work. All’s well that ends well Calvin thought placidly. He paused his writing for a moment and set down the quill. It might be time for a break he thought flexing his hand and pushing his chair back.
At that moment the door of his dorm room was flung open with a crash. Calvin jumped so sharply that his chair fell over and clattered to the floor.
He whipped around to see a group of his friends beginning to crowd into his tiny dorm room. “Wha..?” he stuttered but one of them cut him off “John you have to leave now” “Morin found out that you wrote Nicholas’ speech” another one added while a third crossed the room to stand by the window “They’re coming John…Morin has sent men to search every College in the University…” “They’re already here” his friend standing by the window announced. “What?” John crossed the room to join him and his heart began to clatter loudly in his chest. In the street below he recognized the armed guard of the Lieutenant Criminal, Jean Morin.
“They’re here for you.”
The words shrieked in Calvin’s mind like sharp nails raking down a chalkboard. His jaw clenched almost convulsively. There was no way out.
Suddenly his dorm room was a flurry of activity. Two of his friends ducked out of the room and he could hear their footsteps clattering down the hall. The other two grabbed his sheets off his bed and began to knot them together. By that time the armed guards had already entered the premises and the street below was empty.
“John, you must go now”
Calvin looked up at his friends, they had fastened one end of the makeshift rope to the window and flung the other end outside.
“Hurry John, you don’t have much time.”
He could hear voices coming down the hall towards his room.
Angry. Insistent. Undeterred.
He grabbed the sheet and flung himself out the window without a backward glance and hit the ground running…
To Be Continued…