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STRAY PEARLS

MEMOIRS OF MARGARET DE RIBAUMONT, VISCOUNTESS OF BELLAISE

By Charlotte Yonge




PREFACE


No one can be more aware than the author that the construction of this
tale is defective. The state of French society, and the strange scenes
of the Fronde, beguiled me into a tale which has become rather a family
record than a novel.

Formerly the Muse of the historical romance was an independent and
arbitrary personage, who could compress time, resuscitate the dead,
give mighty deeds to imaginary heroes, exchange substitutes for popular
martyrs on the scaffold, and make the most stubborn facts subservient to
her purpose. Indeed, her most favoured son boldly asserted her right
to bend time and place to her purpose, and to make the interest and
effectiveness of her work the paramount object. But critics have lashed
her out of these erratic ways, and she is now become the meek hand maid
of Clio, creeping obediently in the track of the greater Muse, and never
venturing on more than colouring and working up the grand outlines that
her mistress has left undefined. Thus, in the present tale, though it
would have been far more convenient not to have spread the story over
such a length of time, and to have made the catastrophe depend upon
the heroes and heroines, instead of keeping them mere ineffective
spectators, or only engaged in imaginary adventures for which a
precedent can be found, it has been necessary to stretch out their
narrative, so as to be at least consistent with the real history, at the
entire sacrifice of the plot. And it may be feared that thus the story
may partake of the confusion that really reigned over the tangled thread
of events. There is no portion of history better illustrated by memoirs
of the actors therein than is the Fronde; but, perhaps, for that very
reason none so confusing.

Perhaps it may be an assistance to the reader to lay out the bare
historical outline like a map, showing to what incidents the memoirs of
the Sisters of Ribaumont have to conform themselves.

When Henry IV. succeeded in obtaining the throne of France, he found
the feudal nobility depressed by the long civil war, and his exchequer
exhausted. He and his minister Sully returned to the policy of Louis
XI., by which the nobles were to be kept down and prevented from
threatening the royal power. This was seldom done by violence, but by
giving them employment in the Army and Court, attaching them to the
person of the King, and giving them offices with pensions attached to
them.

The whole cost of these pensions and all the other expenses of
Government fell on the townspeople and peasantry, since the clergy and
the nobles to all generations were exempt from taxation. The trade and
all the resources of the country were taking such a spring of recovery
since the country had been at peace, and the persecution of the
Huguenots had ceased, that at first the taxation provoked few murmurs.
The resources of the Crown were further augmented by permitting almost
all magistrates and persons who held public offices to secure the
succession to their sons on the payment of a tariff called LA PAULETTE,
from the magistrate who invented it.

In the next reign, however, an effort was made to secure greater
equality of burthens. On the meeting of the States-General - the only
popular assembly possessed by France - Louis XIII., however, after
hearing the complaints, and promising to consider them, shut the doors
against the deputies, made no further answer, and dismissed them to
their houses without the slightest redress. The Assembly was never to
meet again till the day of reckoning for all, a hundred and seventy
years later.

Under the mighty hand of Cardinal Richelieu the nobles were still more
effectually crushed, and the great course of foreign war begun, which
lasted, with short intervals, for a century. The great man died, and
so did his feeble master; and his policy, both at home and abroad, was
inherited by his pupil Giulio Mazarini, while the regency for the
child, Louis XIV., devolved on his mother, Anne of Austria - a pious and
well-meaning, but proud and ignorant, Spanish Princess - who pinned her
faith upon Mazarin with helpless and exclusive devotion, believing him
the only pilot who could steer her vessel through troublous waters.

But what France had ill brooked from the high-handed son of her ancient
nobility was intolerable from a low-born Italian, of graceful but
insinuating manners. Moreover, the war increased the burthens of the
country, and, in the minority of the King, a stand was made at last.

The last semblance of popular institutions existed in the Parliaments
of this was the old feudal Council of the Counts of Paris, consisting
of the temporal and spiritual peers of the original county, who had
the right to advise with their chief, and to try the causes concerning
themselves. The immediate vassals of the King had a right to sit there,
and were called Paris De France, in distinction from the other nobles
who only had seats in the Parliament in whose province their lands might
lie. To these St. Louis, in his anxiety to repress lawlessness, had
added a certain number of trained lawyers and magistrates; and these
were the working members of these Parliaments, which were in general
merely courts of justice for civil and criminal causes. The nobles only
attended on occasions of unusual interest. Moreover, a law or edict of
the King became valid on being registered by a Parliament. It was a
moot question whether the Parliament had the power to baffle the King by
refusing to register an edict, and Henry IV. had avoided a refusal from
the Parliament of Paris, by getting his edict of toleration for the
Huguenots registered at Nantes.

The peculiarly oppressive house-tax, with four more imposts proposed in
1648, gave the Parliament of Paris the opportunity of trying to make an
effectual resistance by refusing the registration. They were backed
by the municipal government of the city at the Hotel de Ville, and
encouraged by the Coadjutor of the infirm old Archbishop of Paris,
namely, his nephew, Paul de Gondi, titular Bishop of Corinth in partibus
infidelium, a younger son of the Duke of Retz, an Italian family
introduced by Catherince de Medici. There seemed to be a hope that the
nobility, angered at their own systematic depression, and by Mazarin's
ascendency, might make common cause with the Parliament and establish
some effectual check to the advances of the Crown. This was the origin
of the party called the Fronde, because the speakers launched their
speeches at one another as boys fling stones from a sling (fronde) in
the streets.

The Queen-Regent was enraged through all her despotic Spanish
haughtiness at such resistance. She tried to step in by the arrest of
the foremost members of the Opposition, but failed, and only provoked
violent tumults. The young Prince of Conde, coming home from Germany
flushed with victory, hated Mazarin extremely, but his pride as a Prince
of the Blood, and his private animosities impelled him to take up the
cause of the Queen. She conveyed her son secretly from Paris, and the
city was in a state of siege for several months. However, the execution
of Charles I. in England alarmed the Queen on the one hand, and
the Parliament on the other as to the consequences of a rebellion,
provisions began to run short, and a vague hollow peace was made in the
March of 1649.

Conde now became intolerably overbearing, insulted every one, and so
much offended the Queen and Mazarin that they caused him, his brother,
and the Duke of Bouillon, to be arrested and imprisoned at Vincennes.
His wife, though a cruelly-neglected woman whom he had never loved, did
her utmost to deliver him, repaired to Bordeaux, and gained over the
Parliament there, so that she held out four months against the Queen.
Turenne, brother to Bouillon, and as great a general as Conde, obtained
the aid of Spaniards, and the Coadjutor prevailed on the King's uncle,
Gaston, Duke of Orleans, to represent that the Queen must give way,
release the Princes, part with Mazarin, and even promise to convoke the
States-General. Anne still, however, corresponded with the Cardinal, and
was directed by him in everything. Distrust and dissension soon broke
out, Conde and the Coadjutor quarrelled violently, and the royal
promises made to both Princes and Parliament were eluded by the King,
at fourteen, being declared to have attained his majority, and thus that
all engagements made in his name became void.

Conde went of to Guienne and raised an army; Mazirin returned to
the Queen; Paris shut its gates and declared Mazarin an outlaw. The
Coadjutor (now become Cardinal de Retz) vainly tried to stir up the Duke
of Orleans to take a manly part and mediate between the parties; but
being much afraid of his own appanage, the city of Orleans, being
occupied by either army, Gaston sent his daughter to take the charge
of it, as she effectually did - but she was far from neutrality, being
deluded by a hope that Conde would divorce his poor faithful wife to
marry her. Turenne, on his brother's release, had made his peace with
the Court, and commanded the royal army. War and havoc raged outside
Paris; within the partisans of the Princes stirred the populace to
endeavour to intimidate the Parliament and municipality into taking
their part. Their chief leader throughout was the Duke of Beaufort, a
younger son of the Duke of Vendome, the child of Gabrille d'Estrees.
He inherited his grandmother's beauty and his grandfather's charm of
manner; he was the darling of the populace of Paris, and led them, in
an aimless sort of way, whether there was mischief to be done; and the
violence and tumult of this latter Fronde was far worse than those of
the first.

A terrible battle in the Faubourg St. Antoine broke Conde's force, and
the remnant was only saved by Mademoiselle's insisting on their being
allowed to pass through Paris. After one ungrateful attempt to terrify
the magistrates into espousing his cause and standing a siege on his
behalf, Conde quitted Paris, and soon after fell ill of a violent fever.

His party melted away. Mazarin saw that tranquillity might be restored
if he quitted France for a time. The King proclaimed an amnesty, but
with considerable exceptions and no relaxation of his power; and these
terms the Parliament, weary of anarchy, and finding the nobles had cared
merely for their personal hatreds, not for the public good, were forced
to accept.

Conde, on his recovery, left France, and for a time fought against his
country in the ranks of the Spaniards. Beaufort died bravely fighting
against the Turks at Cyprus. Cardinal de Retz was imprisoned, and
Mademoiselle had to retire from Court, while other less distinguished
persons had to undergo the punishment for their resistance, though, to
the credit of the Court party be it spoken, there were no executions,
only imprisonments; and in after years the Fronde was treated as a brief
frenzy, and forgotten.

Perhaps it may be well to explain that Mademoiselle was Anne Genevieve
de Bourbon, daughter of Gaston, Duke of Orleans, by his first wife, the
heiress of the old Bourbon branch of Montpensier. She was the greatest
heiress in France, and an exceedingly vain and eccentric person, aged
twenty-three at the beginning of the Fronde.

It only remains to say that I have no definite authority for introducing
such a character as that of Clement Darpent, but it is well known
that there was a strong under-current of upright, honest, and
highly-cultivated men among the bourgeoisie and magistrates, and that
it seemed to me quite possible that in the first Fronde, when the
Parliament were endeavouring to make a stand for a just right, and
hoping to obtain further hopes and schemes, and, acting on higher and
purer principles than those around him, be universally misunderstood and
suspected.


C. M. YONGE.





LIST OF CONTENTS



CHAPTER I. WHITEHALL BEFORE THE COBWEBS

CHAPTER II. A LITTLE MUTUAL AVERSION

CHAPTER III. CELADON AND CHLOE

CHAPTER IV. THE SALON BLEU

CHAPTER V. IN GARRISON

CHAPTER VI. VICTORY DEARLY BOUGHT

CHAPTER VII. WIDOW AND WIFE

CHAPTER VIII. MARGUERITE TO THE RESCUE

CHAPTER IX. THE FIREBAND OF THE BOCAGE

CHAPTER X. OLD THREADS TAKEN UP

CHAPTER XI. THE TWO QUEENS

CHAPTER XII. CAVALIERS IN EXILE

CHAPTER XIII. MADEMOISELLE'S TOILETTE

CHAPTER XIV. COURT APPOINTMENTS

CHAPTER XV. A STRANGE THANKGIVING DAY

CHAPTER XVI. THE BARRICADES

CHAPTER XVII. A PATIENT GRISEL

CHAPTER XVIII. TWELFTH NIGHT, OR WHAT YOU WILL

CHAPTER XIX. INSIDE PARIS (Annora's Narrative)

CHAPTER XX. CONDOLENCE (By Margaret)

CHAPTER XXI. ST. MARGARET AND THE DRAGON

CHAPTER XXII. ST. MARGARET AND THE DRAGON (By Annora)

CHAPTER XXIII. THE LION AND THE MOUSE

CHAPTER XXIV. FAMILY HONOUR

CHAPTER XXV. THE HAGUE

CHAPTER XXVI. HUNKERSLUST

CHAPTER XXVII. THE EXPEDIENT (Annora's Narrative)

CHAPTER XXVIII. THE BOEUF GRAS (Annora's Narrative)

CHAPTER XXIX. MADAME'S OPPORTUNITY (Annora's Narrative)

CHAPTER XXX. THE NEW MAID OF ORLEAN (Margaret's Narrative)

CHAPTER XXXI. PORTE ST. ANTOINE (Margaret's Narrative)

CHAPTER XXXII. ESCAPE (Annora's Narrative)

CHAPTER XXXIII. BRIDAL PEARLS

CHAPTER XXXIV. ANNORA'S HOME





STRAY PEARLS

MEMOIRS OF MARGARET DE RIBAUMONT, VISCOUNTESS OF BELLAISE




CHAPTER I. - WHITEHALL BEFORE THE COBWEBS.



I have long promised you, my dear grandchildren, to arrange my
recollections of the eventful years that even your father can hardly
remember. I shall be glad thus to draw closer the bonds between
ourselves and the English kindred, whom I love so heartily, though I may
never hope to see them in this world, far less the dear old home where I
grew up.

For, as perhaps you have forgotten, I am an English woman by birth,
having first seen the light at Walwyn House, in Dorsetshire. One brother
had preceded me - my dear Eustace - and another brother, Berenger, and my
little sister, Annora, followed me.

Our family had property both in England and in Picardy, and it was while
attending to some business connected with the French estate that my
father had fallen in love with a beautiful young widow, Madame la
Baronne de Solivet (nee Cheverny), and had brought her home, in spite of
the opposition of her relations. I cannot tell whether she were warmly
welcomed at Walwyn Court by any one but the dear beautiful grandmother,
a Frenchwoman herself, who was delighted again to hear her mother
tongue, although she had suffered much among the Huguenots in her youth,
when her husband was left for dead on the S. Barthelemi.

He, my grandfather, had long been dead, but I perfectly remember her.
She used to give me a sugar-cake when I said 'Bon soir, bonne maman,'
with the right accent, and no one made sugar-cake like hers. She always
wore at her girdle a string of little yellow shells, which she desired
to have buried with her. We children were never weary of hearing how
they had been the only traces of her or of her daughter that her husband
could find, when he came to the ruined city.

I could fill this book with her stories, but I must not linger over
them; and indeed I heard no more after I was eight years old. Until that
time my brother and I were left under her charge in the country, while
my father and mother were at court. My mother was one of the Ladies of
the Bedchamber of Queen Henrietta Maria, who had been enchanted to find
in her a countrywoman, and of the same faith. I was likewise bred up in
their Church, my mother having obtained the consent of my father, during
a dangerous illness that followed my birth, but the other children were
all brought up as Protestants. Indeed, no difference was made between
Eustace and me when we were at Walwyn. Our grandmother taught us both
alike to make the sign of the cross, and likewise to say our prayers and
the catechism; and oh! we loved her very much.

Eustace once gave two black eyes to our rude cousin, Harry Merricourt,
for laughing when he said no one was as beautiful as the Grandmother,
and though I am an old woman myself, I think he was right. She was like
a little fairy, upright and trim, with dark flashing eyes, that never
forgot how to laugh, and snowy curls on her brow.

I believe that the dear old lady made herself ill by nursing us two
children day and night when we had the smallpox. She had a stroke, and
died before my father could be fetched from London; but I knew nothing
of all that; I only grieved, and wondered that she did not come to me,
till at last the maid who was nursing me told me flatly that the old
lady was dead. I think that afterwards we were sent down to a farmer's
house by the sea, to be bathed and made rid of infection; and that the
pleasure of being set free from our sick chambers and of playing on the
shore drove from our minds for the time our grief for the good grandma,
though indeed I dream of her often still, and of the old rooms and
gardens at Walwyn, though I have never seen them since.

When we were quite well and tolerably free from pock-marks, my father
took us to London with him, and there Eustace was sent to school at
Westminster; while I, with little Berry, had a tutor to teach us Latin
and French, and my mother's waiting-maid instructed me in sewing and
embroidery. As I grew older I had masters in dancing and the spinnet,
and my mother herself was most careful of my deportment. Likewise she
taught me such practices of our religion as I had not learnt from
my grandmother, and then it was I found that I was to be brought up
differently from Eustace and the others. I cried at first, and declared
I would do like Eustace and my father. I did not think much about it; I
was too childish and thoughtless to be really devout; and when my mother
took me in secret to the queen's little chapel, full of charming objects
of devotion, while the others had to sit still during sermons two hours
long, I began to think that I was the best off.

Since that time I have thought much more, and talked the subject over
both with my dear eldest brother and with good priests, both English
and French, and I have come to the conclusion, as you know, my children,
that the English doctrine is no heresy, and that the Church is a true
Church and Catholic, though, as my home and my duties lie here, I remain
where I was brought up by my mother, in the communion of my husband and
children. I know that this would seem almost heresy to our good Pere
Chavand, but I wish to leave my sentiments on record for you, my
children.

But how I have anticipated my history! I must return, to tell you that
when I was just sixteen I was told that I was to go to my first ball
at Whitehall. My hair was curled over my forehead, and I was dressed in
white satin, with the famous pearls of Ribaumont round my neck, though
of course they were not to be mine eventually.

I knew the palace well, having often had the honour of playing with the
Lady Mary, who was some years younger than I, so that I was much less
alarmed than many young gentlewomen there making their first appearance.
But, as my dear brother Eustace led me into the outer hall, close behind
my father and mother, I heard a strange whistle, and, looking up, I saw
over the balustrade of the gallery a droll monkey face looking out of a
mass of black curls, and making significant grimaces at me.

I knew well enough that it was no other than the Prince of Wales. He
was terribly ugly and fond of teasing, but in a good-natured way, always
leaving off when he saw he was giving real pain, and I liked him much
better than his brother, the Duke of York, who was proud and sullen.
Yet one could always trust the Duke, and that could not be said for the
Prince.

By the time we had slowly advanced up the grand staircase into the
banqueting-hall, and had made our reverences to the king and queen - ah,
how stately and beautiful they looked together! - the Prince had stepped
in some other way, and stood beside me.

'Well, Meg,' he said, in an undertone - 'I beg pardon, Mrs.
Margaret - decked out in all her splendour, a virgin for the sacrifice!'

'What sacrifice, sir?' I asked, startled.

'Eh!' he said. 'You do not know that le futur is arrived!'

'She knows nothing, your Highness,' said Eustace.

'What, oh, what is there to know?' I implored the Prince and my brother
in turn to inform me, for I saw that there was some earnest in the
Prince's jests, and I knew that the queen and my mother were looking out
for a good match for me in France.

'Let me show him to you,' presently whispered the Prince, who had been
called off by his father to receive the civilities of an ambassador.
Then he pointed out a little wizened dried-up old man, who was hobbling
up to kiss Her Majesty's hand, and whose courtly smile seemed to me to
sit most unnaturally on his wrinkled countenance. I nearly screamed. I
was forced to bite my lips to keep back my tears, and I wished myself
child enough to be able to scream and run away, when my mother presently
beckoned me forward. I hardly had strength to curtsey when I was
actually presented to the old man. Nothing but terror prevented my
sinking on the floor, and I heard as through falling waters something
about M. le Marquis de Nidemerle and Mrs. Margaret Ribmont, for so we
were called in England.

By and by I found that I was dancing, I scarcely knew how or with whom,
and I durst not look up the whole time, nor did my partner address a
single word to me, though I knew he was near me; I was only too thankful
that he did not try to address me.

To my joy, when we had made our final reverences, he never came near me
again all the evening. I found myself among some young maidens who were
friends of mine, and in our eager talk together I began to forget what
had passed, or to hope it was only some teasing pastime of the Prince
and Eustace.

When we were seated in the coach on the way to our house my father began
to laugh and marvel which had been the most shy, the gallant or the
lady, telling my mother she need never reproach the English with
bashfulness again after this French specimen.

'How will he and little Meg ever survive to-morrow's meeting!' he said.

Then I saw it was too true, and cried out in despair to beg them to let
me stay at home, and not send me from them; but my mother bade me not be
a silly wench. I had always known that I was to be married in France
and the queen and my half-brother, M. de Solivet, had found an excellent
parti for me. I was not to embarrass matters by any folly, but I must
do her credit, and not make her regret that she had not sent me to a
convent to be educated.

Then I clung to my father. I could hold him tight in the dark, and the
flambeaux only cast in a fitful flickering light. 'Oh, sir,' said I,
'you cannot wish to part with your little Meg!'

'You are your mother's child, Meg,' he said sadly. 'I gave you up to her
to dispose of at her will.'

'And you will thank me one of these days for your secure home,' said my
mother. 'If these rogues continue disaffected, who knows what they may
leave us in England!'

'At least we should be together,' I cried, and I remember how I fondled
my father's hand in the dark, and how he returned it. We should never
have thought of such a thing in the light; he would have been ashamed to
allow such an impertinence, and I to attempt it.

Perhaps it emboldened me to say timidly: 'If he were not so old - '

But my mother declared that she could not believe her ears that a child
of hers should venture on making such objections - so unmaidenly, so
undutiful to a parti selected by the queen and approved by her parents.

As the coach stopped at our own door I perceived that certain strange
noises that I had heard proceeded from Eustace laughing and chuckling to
himself all the way. I must say I thought it very unkind and cruel
when we had always loved each other so well. I would hardly bid him
good-night, but ran up to the room I shared with nurse and Annora,
and wept bitterly through half the night, little comforted by nurse's
assurance that old men were wont to let their wives have their way far
more easily than young ones did.




CHAPTER II. - A LITTLE MUTUAL AVERSION.



I had cried half the night, and when in the morning little Nan wanted
to hear about my ball, I only answered that I hated the thought of it. I
was going to be married to a hideous old man, and be carried to France,
and should never see any of them again. I made Nan cry too, and we both



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