Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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

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panions would hold their peace ; but the adventure amused
them, and they discussed whether it were a blunder of the
concierge, or a piece of prudery of Madame la Comtesse, or,
after all, a precaution. The palace so full of strange people,
who could say what might happen ? And there was a talk
of a conspiracy of the Huguenots. At any rate, every one
was too much frightened to go to sleep, and, some sitting on
the floor, some on a chest, some on a bed, the girls huddled
together in Gabrielle de Limeuil's recess, the nearest to the
door, and one after another related horrible tales of blood,
murder, and vengeance — then, alas ! only too frequent occur-
rences in their unhappy land — each bringing some frightful


contribution from lier own province, each enhancing upon the
last-told story, and ever and anon pausing with bated breath
at some fancied sound, or supposed start of one of the others ;
then clinging close together, and renewing the ghastly anec-
dote, at first in a hushed voice that grew louder with the
interest of the story. Eustacie alone would not join the
cluster. Her cloak round her shoulders, she stood with her
back against the door, ready to profit by the slightest indica-
tion outside of a step that might lead to her release, or at
least enable her to communicate with Veronique; longing
ardently that her companions would go to bed, yet unable to
avoid listening with the like dreadful fascination to each of
the terrible histories, which added each moment to the
nervous horror of the whole party. Only one, a dull and
composed girl, felt the influence of weariness, and dozed with
her head in her companion's lap ; but she was awakened by
one general shudder and suppressed cry when the hoarse
clang of a bell struck on the ears of the already terrified,
excited maidens,

" The tocsin ! The bell of St. Germain ! Fire ! No, a
Huguenot rising ! Fire ! Oh, let us out ! Let us out !
The window ! Where is the fire ? iSTowhere ! See the
lights ! Hark, that was a shot ! It was in the palace ! A
heretic rising ! Ah ! there was to be a slaughter of the
heretics ! I heard it wbispered. Oh, let us out ! Open the
door ! "

But nobody heard : nobody opened. There was one who
stood without word or cry, close to the door — her eyes dilated,
her cheek colourless, her whole person, soul and body alike,
concentrated in that one impulse to spring forward the first
moment the bolt should be di-awn. But still the door
remained fast shut !



"A linman shambles with hlood-reeking floor."

Miss Swanwick, ^Esch. Agamemnon.

The door was opened at last, but not till full daylight. It
found Eustacio as ready to rush forth, past all resistance, as
she had been the night before, and she was already in the
doorway when her maid Yeronique, her face swollen with
weeping, caught her by the hands and implored her to turn
back and listen.

And words about a rising of the Huguenots, a general
destruction, corpses lying in the court — were already passing
between the other maidens and the concierge. Eustacie
turned upon her servant ; " Veronique, what means it 1
Where is he ? "

" Alas ! alas ! Ah ! IMademoiselle, do but lie down ! "Woe
is me ! I saw it all ! Lie down, and I will tell you."

" Tell ! I will not move till you have told me where my
husband is," said Eustacie, gazing with eyes that seemed to
Veronique turned to stone.

" Ah ! my lady — my dear lady ! I was on the turn of the
stairs, and saw all. The traitor — the Chevalier Karcisse —
came on him, cloaked like you — and — shot him dead — with,
oh, such cruel words of mockery ! Oh ! woe the day ! Stay,
stay, dear lady, the place is all blood — they are slaying them


all — all the Huguenots ! Will no one stop her 1 — Mademoi-
selle — ma'm'selle ! — "

For Eustacie no sooner gathered the sense of Veronique's
words than she darted suddenly forwards, and was in a few
seconds more at the foot of the stairs. There, indeed, lay a
pool of dark gore, and almost in it Berenger's black velvet
cap, with the heron plume. Eustacie, with a low cry,
snatched it up, continued her headlong course along the
corridor, swiftly as a bird, Yeronique following, and vainly
shrieking to her to stop. Diane, appearing at the other end
of the gallery, saw but for a moment the little figure, with
the cloak gathered round her neck, and floating behind her,
understood Veronique's cry and joined in the chase across
hall and gallery, where more stains were to be seen, even
down to the marble stairs, every step slippery with blood.
Others there were who saw and stood aghast, not under-
standing the apparition that flitted on so swiftly, never
pausing till at the great door at the foot of the stairs she
encountered a gigantic Scottish archer, armed to the teeth.
She touched his arm, and standing with folded arms, looked
up and said, " Good soldier, kill me ! I am a Huguenot ! "

" Stop her ! bring her back ! " cried Diane from behind.
" It is Mdlle. de Md-de-Merle ! "

"IsTo, no ! My husband is Huguenot ! I am a Huguenot !
Let them kill me, I say !" — struggling with Diane, who had
now come up with her, and was trying to draw her back.

" Puir lassie ! " muttered the stout Scotsman to himself,
" this fearsome night has driven her demented."

But, like a true sentinel, he moved neither hand nor foot
to interfere, as shaking herself loose from Diane, she was
springing down the steps into the court, when at that' moment
the young Abbe de Mericour was seen advancing, pale,
breathless, horror-struck, and to him Diane shrieked to arrest


the headlong course. He obeyed, seeing the wild distraction
of the white face and widely glaring eyes, took her by both
hands, and held her in a firm grasp, saying, " Alas, lady, you
cannot go out. It is no sight for any one."

" They are killing the Protestants," she said ; " I am one !
Let me find them and die."

A strong effort to free herself ensued, but it was so sud-
denly succeeded by a swoon that the Abbe could scarcely
save her from dropping on the steps. Diane begged him to
carry her in, since they were in full view of men-at-arms in
the court, and, frightful to say, of some of the ladies of the
palace, who, in the frenzy of that dreadful time, had actually
come down to examine the half-stripped corpses of the men
with whom they had jested not twelve hours before.

" Ah ! it is no wonder," said the youthful Abbe, as he
tenderly lifted the inanimate figure. " This has been a night
of horrors. I was coming in haste to know whether the
King knows of this frightful plot of M. de Guise, and the
bloody work that is passing in Paris."

" The King ! " exclaimed Diane, " M. I'Abbe, do you know
where he is now 1 In the balcony overlooking the river,
taking aim at the fugitives ! Take care ! Even your soutane
would not save you if M. d'O and his crew heard you. But
I must pray you to aid me with this poor child ! I dread
that her wild cries should be heard."

The Abbe, struck dumb with horror, silently obeyed
Mdlle. de Eibaumont, and brought the still insensible Eus-
tacie to the chamber, now deserted by all the young ladies.
He laid her on her bed, and finding he could do no more, left
her to her cousin and her maid.

The poor child had been unwell and feverish ever since
the masque, and the suspense of these few days with the
tension of that horrible night had prostrated her. She only


awoke from her swoon to turn lier head from the light and
refuse to be spoken to.

"But, Eustacie, child, listen ; this is all in vain — he lives,"
said Diane.

" Weary me not Avith falsehoods," faintly said Eustacie.

" No ! no ! no ! They meant to hinder your flight,

" They knew of it 1 " cried Eustacie, sitting up suddenly.
" Then you told them. Go — go ; let me never see you more !
You have been his death ! "

" Listen ! I am sure he lives ! What ! would they injure
one whom my father loved 1 I heard my father say he would
not have him hurt. Depend upon it, he is safe on his way
to England."

Eustacie gave a short but frightful hysterical laugh,
and pointed to Y^ronique. " She saw it," she said ;
"ask her."

"Saw what?" said Diane, turning fiercely on Veronique.
" What vile deceit have you half killed your lady with ? "

" Alas ! Mademoiselle, I did but tell her what I had seen,"
sighed V^ronique, trembling.

" Tell me ! " said Diane, passionately.

" Yes, everything," said Eustacie, sitting up.

"Ah ! Mademoiselle, it will make you ill again."

" I ivill be ill — I will die ! Heaven's slaying is better than
man's. Tell her how you saw Narcisse."

" Ealse girl ! " burst out Diane.

" JSTo, no," cried Veronique. " Oh, pardon me, Mademoi-
selle, I could not help it."

In spite of her reluctance, she was forced to tell that she
had found herself locked out of her mistress's room, and after
losing much time in searching for the concierge, learnt that
the ladies were locked up by order of the Queen-mother, and


was strongly advised not to bo running about the passages.
After a time, liowevcr, while sitting with the concierge's Avife,
she heard such frightful whispers from men with white badges,
whcJ were admitted one by one by the porter, and all led
silently to a small lower room, that she resolved on seeking
out the Baron's servant, and sending him to warn his master,
while she would take up her station at her lady's door. She
found Osbert, and with him was ascending a narrow spiral
leading from the offices — she, unfortunately, the foremost.
As she came to the top, a scufile was going on — four men
had thrown themselves upon one, and a torch distinctly
showed her the younger Chevalier holding a pistol to the
cheek of the fallen man, and she heard the words, " Le haiser
(TEustacie ! Je te harhouillerai ce chien de visage," and at the
same moment the pistol was discharged. She sprang back,
oversetting, as she believed, Osbert, and fled shrieking to the
room of the conciei^ge, who shut her in till morning.

" And how — how," stammered Diane, " should you know
it was the Earon ? "

Eustacie, with a death-like look, showed for a moment
what even in her swoon she had held clenched to her
bosom, the velvet cap soaked with blood.

" Besides," added Vcronique, resolved to defend her
assertion, " whom else would the words suit 1 Besides, are
not all the heretic gentlemen dead 1 "Why, as I sat there
in the porter's room, I heard M. d'O call each one of them
by name, one after the other, into the court, and there the
white-sleeves cut them down or pistolled them like sheep
for the slaughter. They lie all out there on the terrace like
so many carcases at market ready for winter salting."

" All slain?" said Eustacie, dreamily.

" All, except tliose that the King called into his own
garde rohe.'"



" Then, I slew Lira !" Eustacie sank back.

" I tell you, child," said Diane, almost angrily, " he lives.
Not a hair of his head was to be hurt ! The girl deceives

But Eustacie had again become insensible, and awoke
delirious, entreating to have the door opened, and fancying
herself still on the revolving elysium, *' Oh, demons !
demons, have pity !" was her cry.

Diane's soothings were like speaking to the winds ; and
at last she saw the necessity of calling in further aid ; but
afraid of the scandal that the poor girl's raving accusations
might create, she would not send for the Huguenot surgeon,
Ambroise Pare, whom the King had carefully secured in his
own apartments, but employed one of the barber valets of
the Queen-mother's household. Poor Eustacie was well
pleased to see her blood flowing, and sank back on her
pillow murmuring that she had confessed her husband's
faith, and would soon be one with him, and Diane feared
for a moment lest the swoon should indeed be death.

The bleeding was so far effectual that it diminished the
fever, and Eustacie became rational again when she had
dozed and wakened, but she was little able or willing to
speak, and would not so much as listen to Diane's assevera-
tions that Veronic|ue had made a frightful error, and that
the Baron would prove to be alive. Whether it were that
the admission that Diane had known of the project for
preventing the elopement that invalidated her words, or
whether the sufferer's instinct made her believe Veronique's
testimony rather than her cousin's assurances, it was all
" cramming words into her ear against the stomach of her
sense," and she turned away from them with a piteous,
petulant hopelessness : " Could they not even let her alone
to die in peace !"


Diane was almost angered at this little silly child being in
such an agony of sorrow — she, who could never have known
how to love him. And after all this persistent grief was
wilfully thrown away. For Diane spoke in perfect sincerity
when she taxed Vcronique with an injurious, barbarous
mistake. She knew her father's strong aversion to violence,
and the real predilection that Berenger's good mien, respectful
manners, and liberal usage had won from him, and she
believed he had much rather the youth lived, provided '
he were inoffensive. No doubt a little force had been neces-
sary to kidnap one so tall, active, and determined, and
Veronique had made up her horrible tale after the usual
custom of waiting-maids.

i^othing else should be true. Did she think otherwise,
she should be even more frantic than Eustacie ! Why, it
Avould be her own doing ! She had betrayed the day of the
escape — she had held aloof from warning. There was
pleasure in securing ]^[id-de-Merle for her brother, pleasure
in baulking the foolish child who had won the heart that
disregarded her. Nay, there might have been even pleasure
in the destruction of the scorner of her charms — the foe
of her house — there might have been pride in receiving
Queen Catherine's dexterous hint that she had been an apt
pupil if the young Baron had only been something different
— something less fair, gracious, bright, and pure. One bright
angel seemed to have flitted across her path, and nothing
should induce her to believe she had destroyed him.

The stripped corpses of the murdered Huguenots of the
palace had been laid in a line on the terrace, and the ladies
who had laughed with them the night before went to inspect
them in death. A few remnants of Soeur Monique's in-
fluence would have withheld Diane, but that a frenzy of
suspense was growing on her. She must see for herself.



If it were so, slie must secure a fragment of the sliining
flaxen hair, if only as a token that anythmg so pure and
bright had walked the earth.

She went on the horrible quest, shrinking where others
stared. For it was a pitiless time, and the squadron of the
Queen-mother were as lost to womanhood as the fishwomen
of two centuries later. But Diane saw no corpse at once
so tall, so young, and so fair, though blond ^N'ormans and
blue-blooded Franks, lads scarce sixteen and stalwart
warriors, lay in one melancholy rank. She at least bore
away the certainty that the English Eibaumont was not
there 3 and if not, he must be safe ! She could obtain no
further certainty, for she knew that she must not expect
to see either her father or brother. There was a panic
throughout the city. All Paris imagined that the Huguenots
were on the point of rising and slaying all the Catholics,
and, with the savagery of alarmed cowardice, the citizens
and the mob were assisting the armed bands of the Dukes
of Anjou and Guise to complete the slaughter, dragging
their lodgers from their hiding-places, and denouncing all
whom they suspected of reluctance to mass and confession.
But on the Monday, Diane was able to send an urgent
message to her father that he must come to speak with her,
for Mdlle. de I^id-de-Merle was extremely ill. She would
meet him in the garden after morning mass.

There accordingly, when she stepped forth jDale, rigid,
but stately, with her large fan in her hand to serve as a
parasol, she met both him and her brother. She was for
a moment sorry, for she had much power over her father,
while she was afraid of her brother's sarcastic tongue and
eye ; she knew he never scrupled to sting her wherever she
was most sensitive, and she Avould have been able to extract
much more from her father in his absence. France has


never been without a tendency to produce the tiger-monkoy,

or ferocious foi) ; and the genus was in its full ascendency

under the sons of Catherine de Medicis, when the dregs of

rran(;ois the First's Pseuc/o-chivalry were not extinct — when

horrible, retaliating civil wars of extermination had made

life cheap ; nefarious persecutions had hardened the heart

and steeled the eye, and the licentiousness promoted by the

shifty Queen as one of her instruments of government had

darkened the whole understanding. The most hateful heights

of perfidy, effeminacy, and hypocrisy were not reached till

poor Charles IX, who only committed crimes on compulsion,

was in his grave, and Henry III. on the throne ; but Nar-

cisse de Eibaumont was one of the choice compajiions of

the latter, and after the night and day of murder now stood

before his sister with scented hair and handkerchief — the

last, laced, delicately held by a hand in an embroidered

glove — emerald pendants in his ears, a moustache twisted

into sharp points and turned up like an eternal sardonic

smile, and he led a little white poodle by a rose-coloured


"Well, sister," he said, as he went through the motions
of kissing her hand, and she embraced her father ; " so
you don't know how to deal with megrims and transports ?"

" Father," said Diane, not vouchsafing any attention, " un-
less you can send her some assurance of his life, I will not
answer for the consequences."

Narcisse laughed : " Take her this dog, Avith my compli-
ments. That is the way to deal with such a child as that."

" You do not know what you say, brother," answered
Diane with dignity, " It goes deeper than that."

" The deeper it goes, child," said the elder chevalier, "the
better it is that she should be undeceived as soon as possible.
She will recover, and be amenable the sooner."

L 2


" Then he lives, father 1 " exclaimed Diane. " He lives,
though she is not to hear it — say "

" What know 1 1 " said the old man evasively. " On a
night of confusion many mischances are sure to occur !
Lurking in the palace at the very moment when there was a
search for the conspirators, it would have been a miracle had
the i^oor young man escaped."

Diane turned still whiter. " Then," she said, " that was
why you made Monsieur put Eustacie into the ballet, that
they might not go on "Wednesday ! "

" It was well hinted by you, daughter. "We could not
have effectually stopped them on "Wednesday without making
a scandal."

" Once more," said Diane, gasping, though still resolute ;
" is not the story told by Eustacie's woman false — that she
saw him — pistolled — by you, brother ! "

" Peste ! " cried Narcisse. " "Was the prying wench there?
I thought the little one might be satisfied that he had
neighbour's fare. No matter ; what is done for one's beaux
yeux is easily pardoned — and if not, why, I have her all the

same ! "

" ISTevertheless, daughter," said the Chevalier gravely, *' the
woman must be silenced. Either she must be sent home, or
taught so to swear to having been mistaken, that la 2}eiite
may acquit your brother ! Eut what now, my daughter ? "

" She is livid ! " exclaimed Xarcisse, with his sneer.
" What, sir, did not you know she was smitten with the
peach on the top of a pole 1 "

" Enough, brother," said Diane, recovering herself enough
to speak hoarsely, but with hard dignity. " You have slain
■ — you need not insult, one whom you have lost the power of
understanding ! "

"Shallow schoolboys certainly form no part of my study,


save to kick them down stairs wlien they grow impudent,"
said N'arcisse, coolly. " It is only women who think what
is long must be grand."

" Come, children, no disputes," said the Chevalier. " Of
course we regret that so fine a youth mixed himself up with
the enemies of the kingdom, like the stork among the
sparrows. Eoth. Diane and I are sorry for the necessity ;
but remember, child, that when he was interfering between
your brother and his just right of inheritance and destined
wife, he could not but draw such a fate on himself. !N"ow all
is smooth, the estates will be united in their true head, and
you — you too, my child, will be provided for as suits your
name. All that is needed is to soothe the little one, so as to
hinder her from making an outcry — and silence the maid ;
my child will do her best for her father's sake, and that of
her family."

Diane was less demonstrative than most of lier country-
women. She bad had time to recollect the uselessness of
giving vent to her indignant anguish, and her brother's
derisive look held her back. The family tactics, from force
of habit, recurred to ber ; she made no further objection to
her father's commands ; but when her father and brother
parted with her, she tottered into the now empty chapel,
threw herself down, with, ber burning forehead on the stone
step, and so lay for hours. It was not in prayer. It was
because it was the only place where she could be alone. To
her, heaven above and earth below seemed alike full of
despair, darkness, and cruel habitations, and she lay like one
sick with misery and repugnance to the life and world that
lay before her — the hard world that had quenched that one
fair light and mocked her pity. It was a misery of solitude,
and yet no thought crossed her of going to weep and sympa-
thise with the other sufferer. !N'o; rivalry and jealousy came


in there ! Eustacie viewed herself as his "wife, and the very
thought that she had been dehherately prcl'erred and had
enjoyed her triumph hardened Diane's heart against her.
JS'ay, the open violence and abandonment of her grief seemed
to the more restrained and concentrated nature of her elder
a sign of shallowness and want of durability; and in a certain
contemptuous envy at her professing a right to mourn, Diane
never even reconsid^d her own resolution to play out her
father's game, consign Eustacie to her husband's murderer,
and leave her to console herself with bridal splendours and a
choice of admirers from all the court.

However, for the present Diane would rather stay away as
much as possible from the sick-bed of the jDoor girl ; and
Avhen an approaching step forced her to rouse herself and
hurry away by the other door of the chapel, she did indeed
mount to the ladies' bed-chamber, but only to beckon Vero-
nique out of hearing, and ask for her mistress.

Just the same still, only sleeping to have feverish dreams
of the revolving wheel or the demons grappling her husband,
refusing all food but a little drink, and lying silent except
for a few moans, heedless who spoke or looked at her.

Diane explained that in that case it was needless to come
to her, but added, with the vrcdsemhlance of falsehood in
which she had graduated in Catherine's school, " Yeronique,
as I told you, you were mistaken."

" Ah, Mademoiselle, if M. le Baron lives, she will be cured
at once."

" Silly girl," said Diane, giving relief to her pent-up feeling
by asperity of manner, " how could he live when you and
your intrigues got him into the palace on such a night ?
Dead he is, of course; but it was your own treacherous, mis-
chievous fancy that laid it on my brother. He was far away
with M. de Guise at the attack on the Admiral. It was


some of Monsieur's grooms you saw. You remember she had
brought him into a scrape with Monsieur, and it was sure to
he remembered. And look you, if you repeat the other tale,
and do not drive it out of her head, you need not look to be
long with her — no, nor at home. My father will have no
one there to cause a scandal by an evil tongue."

That threat convinced Vcronique that she had been right ;
but she, too, had learnt lessons at the Louvre, and she was
too diplomatic not to ask pardon for her blunder, promise to

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeThe chaplet of pearls; or, The white and black Ribaumont (Volume 1) → online text (page 11 of 23)