Charlotte Mary Yonge.

The chaplet of pearls; or, The white and black Ribaumont (Volume 1) online

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impulse to leap forward and snatch her from that giddy re-
volving prison, that he struck against the sword of Monsieur
with a hearty good-will. His silvered lath snapped in his
hand, and at that moment he was seized round the waist,
and, when his furious struggle was felt to be in earnest, he
was pulled over on his back, while yells and shouts of dis-
cordant laughter rang round him, as demons pinioned him
hand and foot.

He thought he heard a faint cry from Eustacie, and, with
a sudden, unexpected struggle, started into a sitting posture;


but a derisive voice, that well he knew, cried, " Ha, the
deadly sin of pride! Monsieur thinks his painted face
pleases the ladies. To the depths with him — " and therewith
one imp pulled him backwards again, while others danced a
war-dance round him, pointing their forks at him ; and the
prime tormentor, whom he perfectly recognised, not only
leapt over him, but spurned at his face with a cloven foot,,
giving a blow, not of gay French malice, but of malignity.
It was too much for the boy's forbearance. He struggled
free, dashing his adversaries aside fiercely, and as they again
gathered about him, with the leader shouting, "Eage, too,
rage ! To the prey, imps—" he clenched his fist, and dealt
the foremost foe such a blow on the chest as to level him at
once with the ground.

" Monsieur forgets," said a voice, friendly yet reproachful,
" that this is but sport."

It was Henry of ISTavarre himself who spoke, and bent to
give a hand to the fallen imp. A flush of shame rushed over
Berenger's face, already red with passion. He felt that he
had done wrong to use his strength at such a moment, and
that, though there had been spite in his assailant, he had not
been therefore justified. He was glad to see ISTarcisse rise
lightly to his feet, evidently unliurt, and, with the frankness
with wliich he had often made it up Avith Philip Thistlewood
or his other English comrades after a sharp tussle, he held
out his hand, saying, " Good demon, your pardon. You
roused my spirit, and I forgot myself."

"Demons forget not," was the reply. "At him, imps!"
And a whole circle of hobgoblins closed upon with their
tridents, forks, and other horrible implements, to drive him
back within two tall barred gates, which, illuminated by red
flames, were to form the ghastly prison of the vanquished.
Perhaps fresh indignities would have been attempted, had not


the King of Navarre thrown himself on his side, shared Avith
him the brunt of all the grotesque weapons, and battled them
off with infinite spirit and address, shielding him as it were
from their rude insults by his ovna. dexterity and inviolability,
though retreating all the time till the infernal gates were
closed on both.

Then Henry of Navarre, who never forgot a face, held out
his hand, saying, "Tartarus is no region of good omen for
friendships, M. de Eibaumont, but, for lack of yonder devil's
claw, here is mine. I like to meet a comrade who can strike
a hearty blow, and ask a hearty pardon."

" I was too hot, Sire," confessed Berenger, with one of his
ingenuous blushes, " but he enraged me."

" He means mischief," said Henry. " Eemember, if you
are molested respecting this matter, that you have here a
witness that you did the part of a gentleman."

Berenger bowed his thanks, and began something about the
honour, but his eye anxiously followed the circuit on which
Eustacie was carried, and the glance was quickly remarked.

" How ? Your heart is spinning in that Mahometan para-
dise, and that is what put such force into your fists. Which
of the houris is it 1 The little one with the wistful eyes, who
looked so deadly white and shrieked out when the devilry
overturned you 1 Eh ! Monsieur, you are a happy man."

" I should be. Sire ; " and Berenger was on the point of
confiding the situation of his afiairs to this most engaging of
princes, when a fresh supply of prisoners, chased with wild
antics and fiendish yells by the devils, came headlong in on
them ; and immediately, completing, as Henry said, the gali-
matias of mythology, a pasteboard cloud was propelled on the
stage, and disclosed the deities Mercury and Cupid, who
made a complimentary address to the three princely brothers,
nciting them to claim the nymphs whom their valour had


defended, and lead them through the mazes of a choric
celestial dance.

This dance had heen the special device of Monsieur and
the ballet-master, and during the last three days the houris
had heen almost danced off their legs with rehearsing it
morning, noon, and night, but one at least of them was
scarcely in a condition for its performance. Eustacie, dizzied
at the first minute by the whirl of her Elysian merry-go-
round, had immediately after become conscious of that which
she had been too childish to estimate merely in prospect, the
exposure to universal gaze. Strange staring eyes, glaring
lights, frightful imps seemed to wheel round her in an in-
tolerable dehrious succession. Her only refuge was in closing
her eyes, but even this could not Hong be persevered in, so
necessary a part of the pageant was she ; and besides, she had
Berenger to look for, Berenger, whom she had foolishly
laughed at for knowing how dreadful it would be. But of
course the endeavour to seek for one object with her eyes
made the dizziness even more dreadful ; and when, at length,
she beheld him dragged down by the demoniacal creatures,
whose horrors were magnified by her confused senses, and
the next moment she was twirled out of sight, her cry of dis-
tracted alarm was irrepressible. Carried round again and
again, on a wheel that to her was far more like Ixion's than
that of the spheres, she never cleared her perceptions as to
where he was, and only was half-maddened by the fantastic
whirl of incongruous imagery, while she barely sat out Mer-
cury's lengthy harangue ; and when her wheel stood still, and
she was released, she could not stand, and was indebted to
Charon and one of her feUow nymphs for supporting her to
a chair in the back of the scene. Kind Charon hurried to
bring her wine, the lady revived her with essences, and the
ballet-master clamoured for his performers.


111 or well, I'oyal ballets must be danced. One long sob,
one gaze round at the refreshing sight of a room no longer in
motion, one wistful look at the gates of Tartarus, and the
misery of the throbbing, aching head must be disregarded.
The ballet-master touched the white cheeks with rouge, and
she stepped forward just in time, for Monsieur himself was
coming angrily forward to learn the cause of the delay.

Spectators said the windings of that dance were exquisitely
graceful. It was well that Eustacie's drilling had been so
complete, for she moved through it blindly, senselessly, and
when it was over was led back between the two Demoiselles
de Limeuil to the apartment that served as a green-room,
drooping and almost fainting. They seated her in a chair,
and consulted round her, and her cousin Narcisse was among
the first to approach ; but no sooner had she caught sight of
his devilish trim than with a little shriek she shut her eyes,
and flung herself to the other side of the chair.

"My fair cousin," he said, opening his black vizard, "do you
not see me 1 I am no demon, remember ! I am your cousin."

"That makes it no better," said Eustacie, too much dis-
ordered and confused to be on her guard, and hiding her face
with her hands. " Go, go, I entreat."

" ISTay, my fair one, I cannot leave you thus ! Shall I send
for my father to take you home 1"

In fact he had already done this, and the ladies added their
counsel ; for indeed the poor child could scarcely hold up her
head, but she said, " I should like to stay, if I could : a little,
a little longer. Will they not open those dreadful bars 1 "
she added, presently.

"They are even now opening them," said Mdlle. de
Limeuil. " Hark ! they are going to fight en melee. MdUe.
de Nid-de-Merle is better now 1 "

" Oh yes ; let me not detain you."


Eustacie would have risen, "but the two sisters had flut-
tered back, impatient to lose nothing of the sports ; and her
cousin in his grim disguise stood full before her. " ^No
haste, cousin," he said ; " you are not fit to move."

" Oh, then go," said Eustacie, suffering too much not to
be petulant. " You make me worse."

" And why 1 It Avas not always thus," began Narcisse, so
eager to seize an opportunity as to have little consideration
for her condition ; but she was unable to bear any more, and
broke out : " Yes, it was ; I always detested you, I detest
you more than ever, since you deceived me so cruelly. Oh,
do but leave me ! "

" You scorn me, then ! You prefer to me — who have
loved you so long — that childish new-comer, who was ready-
enough to cast you off."

" Prefer ! He is my husband ! It is an insult for any
one else to speak to me thus ! " said Eustacie, drawing herself
up, and rising to her feet ; but she was forced to hold by the
back of her chair, and Diane and her father appearing at that
moment, she tottered towards the former, and becoming quite
passive under the influence of violent dizziness and headache,
made no objection to being half led, half carried, through
salleries that connected the Hotel de Bourbon with the Louvre.

And thus it was that when Berenger had fought out his
part in the melee of the prisoners released, and had main-
tained the honours of the rose-coloured token in his helmet,
he found that his lady-love had been obliged by indisposition
to return home; and while he stood, folding his arms to
restrain their strong inclination to take Narcisse by the throat
and demand whether this were another of his deceptions, a
train of fireworks suddenly exploded in the middle of the
Styx — a last surprise, especially contrived by King Charles,
and so effectual that half the ladies were slirieking, and


imagining tliat tliey and the whole hall had blo'svn up

A long supper, full of revelry, succeeded, and at length
Sidney and Eibaumont walked home together in the midst
of their armed servants bearing torches. All the way home
Berenger was bitter in vituperation of the hateful pageant
and all its details.

" Yea, truly," replied Sidney ; '^ methought that it betokens
disease in the mind of a nation when their festive revelry is
thus ghastly, rendering the most awful secrets made known
by our God in order to warn man from sin into a mere antic
laughing-stock. Laughter should be moved by what is fair
and laughter-worthy — even like such sports as our own
' Midsummer Night's Dream.' I have read that the bloody
temper of Rome fed itself in gladiator shows, and verily,
what we beheld to-night betokens something at once grisly
and light-minded in the mood of this country."

Sidney thought so the more when on the second ensuing
morning the Admiral de Coligny was shot through both
hands by an assassin generally known to have been posted by
the Duke of Guise, yet often called by the sinister sobriquet
of Ze Tueur du Hoi.



THE king's tragedy.

" The night is come, no fears disturb
The sleep of innocence.
They tnist in kingly faith, and kingly oath.

They sleep, alas ! they sleep.
Go to the palace, wouldst thou know

How hideous night can be ;
Eye is not closed in those accursed walls,
Nor heart is quiet there ! "

Soxj'niEY, Bartholomew's Eve.

" Young gentlemen," said Sir Francis Walsingliam, as he
rose from dinner on the Saturday, " are you bound for the
palace this evening 1 "

" I am, so please your Excellency," returned Berenger.

" I would have you both to understand that you must have
a care of yourselves," said the Ambassador. " The Admiral's
wound has justly caused much alarm, and I hear that the
Protestants are going vapouring about in so noisy and in-
cautious a manner, crying out for justice, that it is but too
likely that the party of the Queen-mother and the Guises
will be moved to strong measures."

" They will never dare lay a finger upon us ! " said Sidney.

" In a terror-stricken fray men are no respecters of persons,"
replied Sir Francis. " This house is, of course, inviolable ;
and, whatever the madness of the people, we have stout


hearts enougli here to enforce respect thereto ; but I cannot
answer even for an Englishman's life beyond its precincts ;
and you, Eibaumont, whom I cannot even claim as my
Queen's subject — I greatly fear to trust you beyond its

" I cannot help it, Sir. Nay, with the most grateful thanks
for all your goodness to me, I must pray you not to take
either alarm or offence if I return not this night."

"No more, my friend," said Walsingham, quickly; "let
me know nothing of your purposes, but take care of yourself.
I would you were safe at home again, though the desire may
seem inhospitable. The sooner the better with whatever you
have to do."

" Is the danger so imminent 1" asked Sidney.

" I know nothing, Philip. All I can tell is that, as I have
read that dogs and cattle scent an earthquake in the air, so
men and women seem to breathe a sense of danger in this
city. And to me the graciousness with which the Huguenots
have been of late treated wears a strangely suspicious air.
Sudden and secret is the blow lilce to be, and we cannot be
too much on our guard. Therefore remember, my young,
friends both, that your danger or death would fall heavily on
those ye love and honour at home."

So saying, he left the two youths, unwilling to seek further
confidence, and Berenger held his last consultation with
Sidney, to whom he gave directions for making full explana-
tion to Walsingham in his absence, and expediting Mr.
Adderley's return to England. Osbert alone was to go to
the Louvre with him, after having seen the five English
grooms on board the little decked market-vessel on the Seine,
which was to await the fugitives. Berenger was to present
himself in the palace as in his ordinary Court attendance, and,
contriving to elude notice among the throng who were there

K 2


lodged, was to take up his station at tlie foot of the stairs
leading to the apartments of the ladies, whence Eustacie was .
to descend at about eleven o'clock, with her maid Yeronique.
Landry Osbert was to join them from the lackeys' hall below,
where he had a friend, and the connivance of the porter at
the postern opening towards the Seine had been secui-ed.

Sidney wished much to accompany him to the palace, if
his presence could be any aid or protection, but on con-
sideration it was decided that his being at the Louvre was
likely to attract notice to Eibaumont's delaying there. The
two young men therefore shook hands and parted, as youths
who trusted that they had begun a lifelong friendship, with
mutual promises to write to one another — the one, the
adventures of his flight ; tlie other, the astonishment it would
excite. And auguries were exchanged of merry meetings in
London, and of the admiration the lovely Httle wife would
excite at Queen Elizabeth's court.

Then, with an embrace such as English friends then gave,
they separated at the gate ; and Sidney stood watching, as
Berenger walked free and bold down the street, his sword at
his side, his cloak over one shoulder, his feathered cap on one
side, showing his bright curKng hair, a sunshiny picture of a
victorious bridegroom — such a picture as sent Philip Sidney's
wits back to Arcadia.

It was not a day of special state, but the palace was greatly
crowded. The Huguenots were in an excited mood, inclined
to rally round Henry of ISTavarre, whose royal title made him
be looked on as in a manner their monarch, though his
kingdom had been swallowed by Spain, and he was no more
than a French Duke distantly related to royalty in the male
line, and more nearly through his grandmother and bride.
The eight hundred gentlemen he had brought with him
swarmed about his apartments, making their lodging on


staircases and in passages ; and to Berenger it seemed as if
the King's guards and Monsieur's gentlemen must have come
in in equal numbers to balance them. Narcisse was there,
and Berenger kept cautiously amid his Huguenot acquaint-
ance, resolved not to have a quarrel thrust on him which he
could [not honourably desert. It was late before he could
work his way to the young Queen's reception-room, where
he found Eustacie, She looked almost as white as at the
masque ; but there was a graver, less childish expression in
lier face than he had ever seen before, and her eyes glanced
confidence when they met his.

Behind the Queen's chair a few words could be spoken.

"Ma mie, art thou well again? Canst bear this journey
now ? "

" Quite well, now ! quite ready. Oh that we may never
have masqiies in England ! "

He smiled — " Never such as this !"

*' Ah ! thou knowest best. I am glad I am thine already ;
I am so silly, thou wouldest never have chosen me ! But
thou wilt teach me, and I will strive to be very good ! And
oh ! let me but give one farewell to Diane."

" It is too hard to deny thee aught to-night, sweetheart,
but judge for thyself. Think of the perils, and decide."

Before Eustacie could answer, a rough voice came near, the
King making noisy sport with the Count de Rochefoucauld
and others. He was louder and ruder than Berenger had
ever yet seen him, almost giving the notion of intoxication ;
but neither he nor his brother Henry ever tasted wine,
though both had a strange pleasure in being present at the
orgies of their companions : the King, it was generally said,
from love of the self-forgetfulness of excitement — the Duke
of Anjou, because his cool brain there collected men's secrets
to serve afterwards for his spiteful diversion.


Berenger would willingly have escaped notice, but his
bright face and sunny hair always made him conspicuous,
and the King suddenly strode up to him, " You here, sir !
I thought you Avould have managed your affairs so as to be
gone long ago !" then before Berenger could reply, "How-
ever, since here you are, come along with me to my bed-
chamber ! We are to have a carouse there to-night that will
ring through all Paris ! Yes, and shake Eochefoucauld out
of his bed at midnight ! You will be one of us, Eibauniont 1
I command it ! "

And without waiting for reply he turned away with an
arm round Eochefoucauld's neck, and boisterously addressed
another of the company, almost as wildly as if he were in the
mood that Scots call " fey."

" Eoyalty seems determined to frustrate our plans," said
Berenger, as soon as the King was out of hearing.

" But you will not go ! Ilis comrades drink till — oh !
two, three in the morning. We should never get away."

"ISTo, I must risk his displeasure. We shall soon be
beyond his reach. But at least I may make his invitation a
reason for remaining in the Louvre. People are departing !
Soon wilt thou be my own."

" As soon as the Queen's coucher is over ! I have but to
change to a travelling dress."

" At the foot of the winding stair. Sweetest, be brave !"

" I fear nothing with thee to guard me. See, the Queen
is rising."

Elisabeth was in effect rising to make her respectful pro-
gress to the rooms of the Queen-mother, to bid her good-
night J and Eustacie must follow. Would Diane be there 1
Oh that the command to judge between her heart and her
caution had not been given ! Cruel kindness !

Diane was there, straight as a poplar, cold as marble, with


fixed eyes. Eustacio stole up to her, and touched her. Slie
turned with a start. " Cousin, you have heon very good to
me !" Diane started again, as if stung. " You will love me
still, whatever you hear I "

"Is this meant for farewell?" said Diane, grasping her

" Do not ask me, Diane. I may not."

" Where there is no trust there is no treason," said Diane,
dreamily. " J^o, answer me not, little one, there will be time
for that another day. Where is he'?"

" In the ceil-de-boevf, between the King's and Queen's
suites of rooms. I must go. There is the Queen going.
Diane, one loving word."

" Silly child, you shall have plenty another time," said
Diane, breaking away. " Follow thy Queen now ! "
• Catherine, who sat between her daughters Claude and
Marguerite, looked pre-occupied, and summarily dismissed
her daughter-in-law, Elisabeth, whom Eustacie was obliged
to follow to her own state-room. There all the forms of the
coucher were tediously gone through ; every pin had its own
ceremony, and even when her Majesty was safely deposited
under her blue satin coverlet the ladies still stood round till
she felt disposed to fall asleep. Elisabeth was both a sleepy
and a considerate person, so that this was not so protracted
a vigil as was sometimes exacted by the more wakeful prin-
cesses ; but Eustacie could not escape from it till it was
already almost midnight, the period for her tryst.

Her heart was very full. It was not the usual flutter and
terror of an eloping girl. Eustacie was a fearless little being,
and her conscience had no alarms ; her affections were wholly
with Berenger, and her transient glimpses of him had been
as of something come out of a region higher, tenderer,
stronger, purer, more trustworthy than that where she had


dwelt. Slie was proud of belonging to him. She had felt
upheld by the consciousness through years of waiting, and
now he more than realized her hopes, and she could have
wept for exulting joy. Yet it was a strange, stealthy break
with all she had to leave behind. The light to which he
belonged seemed strange, chill, dazzling light, and she
shivered at the thought of it, as if the new world, new ideas,
and new requirements could only be endured with him to
shield her and help her on. And withal, there seemed to
her a shudder over the whole place on that night. The
King's eyes looked wild and startled, the Queen-mother's
calm was strained, the Duchess of Lorraine was evidently
in a state of strong nervous excitement ; there were strange
sounds, strange people moving about, a weight on every-
thing, as if they were under the shadow of a thunder-cloud.
"Could it be only her own fancy?" she said to herself,
because this was to be the great event of her life, for surely
all these great people could not know or heed that little
Eustacie de Eibaumont was to make her escape that
night !

The trains of royalty were not sumptuously lodged.
France never has cared so much for comfort as for display.
The waiting-lady of the bedcliamber slept in the ante-room
of her mistress ; the others, however high their rank, were
closely herded together up a winding stair leading to a small
passage, with tiny, cell-like recesses, wherein the demoiselles
slept, often with their maids, and then dressed themselves
in the space afforded by the passage. Eustacie's cell was
nearly at the end of the gallery, and, exchanging "good
nights" with her companions, she proceeded to her recess,
where she expected to find Veronique ready to adjust her
dress. Yeronique, however, was missing ; but anxious to
lose no time, she had taken off her delicate white satin


farthingale to change it for an unobtrusive dark woollen
Ivirtle, when, to her surprise and dismay, a loud creaking,
growling sound made itself heard outside the door at the
other end. Half-a-dozen heads came out of their cells ; half-
a-dozen voices asked and answered the question, " What is
it?" "They are bolting our door outside." But only
Eustacie sped like lightning along the passage, pulled at the
door, and cried, "Open! Open, I say!" No answer, but
the other bolt creaked.

" You mistake, concierge ! We are never bolted in ! My
maid is shut out."

]S"o answer, but the step retreated. Eustacie clasped her
hands with a cry that she could hardly have repressed, but
which she regretted the next moment.

Gabrielle de Limeuil laughed. " AVTiat, Mademoiselle, are
you afraid they wUl not let us out to-morrow ? "

" My maid ! " murmured Eustacie, recollecting that she
must give a colour to her distress.

"Ah ! perhaps she will summon old Pierre to open for us."

This suggestion somewhat consoled Eustacie, and she stood
intently listening for Veronique's step, wishing that her com-

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeThe chaplet of pearls; or, The white and black Ribaumont (Volume 1) → online text (page 10 of 23)