Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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

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with enamelled cupids in the corners, addressed to herself;
and then came upon Berenger's own.

Again came a fringed pair of gloves among the personal
jewellery such as gentlemen were wont to wear, the rings,
clasps and brooches he had carried from home. Dame
Annora's impatience at last found vent in the exclamation,
'' The pearls, son ; I do not see the chaplet of pearls."

" She had them," answered Berenger, in a matter-of-fact
tone, "to wear at the masque."

" She "

Sir Marmaduke's great hand choked, as it were, the query
on his wife's lips, unseen by her son, who, as if the words
had touched some chord, was more eagerly seeking in the
box, and presently drew out a bow of carnation ribbon with
a small piece of paper full of pin-holes attached to it. At
once he carried it to his lips, kissed it fervently, and then,
sinking back in his chair, seemed to be trying to gather up
the memory that had prompted the impulse, knitted his brows
together, and then suddenly exclaimed, "Where is she 1"

His mother tried the last antecedent. " Lucy ? she shall
come and thank you to-morrow."

N 2


He shook his head with a vehement negative, beckoned
Cecily impatiently, and said earnestly, *' Is it the contagion ]
Is she sick ? I will go to her."

Cecily and Sir Marmaduke both replied with a " 'No, no ! "
and were thankful, though in much suspense at the momen-
tary pause, while again he leant back on the cushions, looked
steadily at the pin-holes, that formed themselves into the
word " Sweet heart," then suddenly began to draw up the
loose sleeve of his wrapping-gown, and unbutton the wrist-
band of his right sleeve. His mother tried to help him,
asking if he had hurt or tired his arm. They would have
been almost glad to hear that it was so, but he shook her
off impatiently, and the next moment had a view of the
freshly skinned over, but still wide and gaping gash on his
arm. He looked for a brief space, and said, " It is a sword-

''Truly it is, lad," said Sir Marmaduke, "and a very
bad one, happily whole ! Is this the first time you have
seen it?"

He did not answer, but covered his eyes with his hand,
and presently burst out again, " Then it is no dream 1 Sir —
Have I been to France 1 "

" Yes, my son, you have," said Sir Marmaduke, gently,
and with more tenderness than could have been looked for ;
" but what passed there is much better viewed as a dream,
xnd cast behind your back."

Berenger had, while he spoke, taken up the same little mirror
where he had once admired himself ; and as he beheld the
scar and plaster that disfigured his face, with a fresh start of
recollection, muttered over, " ' Barhouiller ce chien de visage '
— ay,' so he said. I felt the pistol's muzzle touch ! Kar-
cisse ! Has God had mercy on me 1 I prayed Him. Ah !
'le baiser d'Hustacie' — so he said. I was waiting in the


dark. "Why did he come instead of her ? Oh ! father,
where is she ? "

It was a sore task, but Sir Marmaduke went bravely and
bluntly, though far from unkindly, to the jooint : " She
remains with her friends in France."

There the youth's look of utter horror and misery shocked
and startled them all, and he groaned rather than said,
" Left there ! Left to them ! What have I done to leave
her there ? "

" Come, Berenger, this wUl not serve," said his mother,
trying to rouse and cheer him. "You should rather be thankful
that when you had been so foully ensnared by their wiles,
good Osbert brought you off with your life away from those
bloody doings. Yes, you may thank Heaven and Osbert, for
you are the only one of them living now." j

"Of whom, mother?"

" Of all the poor Protestants that like you were deluded
by the pack of murderers over there. "What," — fancying it
would exhilarate him to hear of his own escape — "you knew
not that the bloody Guise and the Paris cut-throats rose and
slew every Huguenot they could lay hands on ? Why, did
not the false wench put off your foolish runaway project for
the very purpose of getting you into the trap on the night of
the massacre 1 "

He looked with a piteous, appealing glance from her to Cecily
and Sir Marmaduke, as if in hopes that they would contradict.

" Too true, my lad," said Sir Marmaduke. " It is Heaven's
good mercy that Osbert carried ,you out alive. !N'o other
Protestant left the palace alive but the King of Navarre and
his cousin, who turned renegades."

" And she is left there 1 " he repeated.

"Heed her not, my dear boy," began his mother; "you
are safe, and must forget her ill-faith and "


Berenger seemed scarcely to hear this speech — he held
out his hands as if stunued and dizzied, and only said, or
rather indicated, " Let me lie down."

His stepfather almost carried him across the room, and
laid him on his bed, where he turned away from the light and
shut his eyes ; but the knot of ribbon and the pin-pricked
word was still in his hand, and his mother longed to take
away the token of this false love, as she believed it. The
great clock struck the hour for her to go. " Leave him
quiet," said Cecily, gently ; " he can bear no more now. I
will send over in the evening to let you know how he fares."

" But that he^ should be so set on the little bloodthirsty
baggage," sighed Lady Thistlewood; and then going up to
her son, she poured out her explanation of being unable to
stay, as her parents were already at the Manor, with no
better entertainers than Lucy, Philip, and the children. She
thanked him for the gifts, which she would take to them with
his love. All this passed by him as though he heard it not,
but when leaning down, she kissed his forehead, and at the
same time tried to withdraw the knot of ribbon ; his fingers
closed on it with a grasp like steel, so cold were they, yet
so fast.

Sir Marmaduke lingered a few moments behind her, and
Berenger opening his eyes, as if to see whether solitude had
been achieved, found the kind-hearted knight gazing at him
with eyes full of tears. " Berry, my lad," he said, " bear it
like a man. I know how hard it is. There's not a woman
of them all that an honest, plain Englishman has a chance
with, when a smooth-tongued Frenchman comes round her I
But a man may live a true and honest life however sore his
heart may be, and God Almighty makes it up to him if he
faces it out manfully."

Good Sir Marmaduke in his sympathy had utterly for-


gotten both Berenger's French blood, and that he was the son
of the very smooth-tongued interloper who had robbed his
life of its first bloom. Berenger was altogether unequal to
do more than mui-mur, as he held out his hand in response
to the kindness, "You do not know her,"

"Ah! poor lad." Sir Marmaduke shook his head and left
him to Cecily.

After the first shock, Berenger never rested till he had
made Osbert, Mr. Adderley, and Cecily tell him all they
knew, and asked by name after those whom he had known
best at Paris. Alas ! of all those, save such as had been in
the Ambassador's house, there was but one account to give.
Venerable warrior, noble-hearted youth, devoted pastor, all
alike had perished !

This frightful part of the story was altogether new to him.
He had been probably the earliest victim in the Louvre, as
being the special object of private malice, which had contrived
to involve him in the general catastrophe ; and his own
recollections carried him only to the flitting of lights and
ringing of bells, that had made him imagine that an alarm of
fire would afford a good opportunity of escape if she would
but come. A cloaked figure had approached, — he had held
out his arms — met that deadly stroke — heard the words
hissed in his ear.

He owned that for some time past strange recollections had
been flitting through his mind — a perpetual unsatisfied longing
for and expectation of his wife, and confused impressions of
scenes and people that harassed him perpetually, even when
he could not discern between dreams and reality ; but
knowing that he had been very ill, he had endeavoured to
account for everything as delirious fancies, but had become
increasingly distressed by their vividness, confusion, and
want of outward confirmation. At last these solid tokens


and pledges from that time had brought certainty back,
and \rith it the harmony and clearness of his memory :
and the strong affection, that even his oblivion had not
extinguished, now recurred in all its warmth to its object.

Four months had passed, as he now discovered, since that
night when he had hoped to have met Eustacie, and she must
be believing him dead. His first measiire on the following
day when he had been dressed and seated in his chair was to
send for his casket, and with his slow stiff arm write thus : —

" MOX CCEUB, MY OWN" SWEETHEART, Hast thoU thought

me dead, and thyseK deserted ? Osbert will tell thee all,
and why I can scarce write. Trust thyseK to him to bring
to me, I shall be whole seeing thee. Or if thou canst not
come with him, write or send me the least token by him, and
I will come and bear thee home so soon as I can put foot in
stirrup. Would that I could write all that is in my heart !

" Thy Husba>-d."

It was all that either head or hand would enable him to
say, but he had the fullest confidence in Landry Osbert, who
was one of the few who imderstood him at half a word. He
desired Osbert to seek the lady out wherever she might be,
whether stiU at court or ia a convent, convey the letter
to her if possible, and, if she could by any means escape,
obtain from Chateau Leurre such an escort as she could
come to England with. H, as was too much to be feared,
she was under too close restraint, Osbert should send in-
telligence home, as he could readily do through the Am-
bassador's household, and Berenger trusted by that time to
be able to take measures for claiming her in person.

Osbert readily undertook everythiag, but supplies for his
journey were needed, and there was an absolute commotion


in the house when it was known that Berenger had been
writing to his faithless spouse, and wishing to send for her.
Lord Walwyn came up to visit his grandson, and explain to
him with much pity and consideration that he considered
such a step as vain, and only likely to lead to further
insiilt. Berenger's respect forced him to listen without
interruption, and though he panted to answer, it was a
matter of much difficulty, for the old lord was becoming
deaf, and could not catch the indistinct, agitated words —

" My Lord, she is innocent as day."

" Ah ! Amen, boy."

" I pledge my life on her love and innocence."

" Love ! yes, my poor boy ; but if she be unworthy ? Eh ?
Cecily, what says he ? "

" He is sure of her innocence, sir."

" That is of course. But, my dear lad, you Avill soon leaxn
that even a gentle, good woman who has a conscience-
keeper, is too apt to think her very sense of right ought
to be sacrificed to what she calls her religion. — "Wliat is it,
what is he telling you, CecUy 1 "

" She was ready to be one of us," Berenger said, with a
great effort to make it clear.

- " Ah, a further snare. Poor child I The very softest of
them become the worst deceivers, and the kindred who have
had the charge of her all their life could no doubt bend
her will."

" Sir," said Berenger, finding argument impossible, " if
you will but let me despatch Osbert, her answer will prove
to you what she is."

" There is something in that," said Lord "Walwyn, when he
had heard it repeated by CecUy. " It is, of course, needful
that both she and her relations should be aware of Berenger's
life, and I trow nothing but the reply will convince him."


" Convince him ! " muttered Berenger. " Oh that I could
make him understand. What a wretch I am to have no
voice to defend her ! "

" What 1 " said the old lord again,

" Only that I could speak, sir ; you should know why it is
sacrilege to doubt her."

" Ah ! well, we will not wound you, my son, while talk is
vain. You shall have the means of sending your groom, if
thus you will set your mind at rest, though I had rather have
trusted to Walsingham's dealing. I will myself give him a
letter to Sir Francis, to forward him on his way ; and should
the young lady prove willing to hold to her contract and
come to you here, I will pray him to do everything to aid
her that may be consistent with his duty in his post."

This was a great and wonderful concession for Lord
Walwyn, and Berenger was forced to be contented with it,
though it galled him terribly to have Eustacie distrusted,
and be unable to make his vindication even heard or under-
stood, as well as to be forced to leave her rescue, and even
his own explanation to her, to a mere servant.

This revival of his memory had not at all conduced to his
progress in recovery. His braia was in no state for excite-
ment or agitation, and pain and confusion were the conse-
quence, and were counteracted, after the practice of the time,
by profuse bleedings, which prolonged his weakness. The
splintered state of the jaw and roof of the mouth likewise
produced effects that made him suffer severely, and deprived
him at times even of the small power of speech that he
usually possessed ; and though he had set his heart upon
being able to start for Paris so soon as Osbert's answer
should arrive, each little imprudence he committed, in order
to convince himself of his progress, threw him back so
seriously, that he was barely able to walk downstairs to


the hall, and sit watching — watching, so that it was piteous
to see him — the gates of the courtyard, by the time that, on
a cold March day, a booted and spurred courier (not Osbert)
entered by them.

He sprang up, and faster than he had yet attempted to
move, met the man in the hall, and demanded the packet.
It was a large one, done up in canvas, and addressed to the
Eight Honourable and Worshipful Sir William, Baron
Walwyn of Hurst Walwyn, and he had further to endure
the delay of carrying it to his grandfather's library, which
he entered with far less delay and ceremony than was his
wont. " Sit down, Berenger," said the old man, while
addressing himself to the fastenings ; and the permission
was needed, for he could hardly have stood another minute.
The covering contained a letter to Lord Walwyn himself,
and a packet addressed to the Baron de Eibaumont, which
his trembling fingers could scarcely succeed in cutting and
tearing open.

How shall it be told what the contents of the packet were 1'
Lord Walwyn reading on with much concern, but little
surprise, was nevertheless startled by the fierce shout with
which Berenger broke out :

"A lie! a lie forged in hell!" And then seizing the
parchment, was about to rend it with all the force of passion,
when his grandfather, seizing his hand, said, in his calm,
authoritative voice, " Patience, my poor son."

"How, how should I have patience when they send me
such poisoned lies as these of my wife, and she is in the
power of the villains. Grandfather, I must go instantlj' "

" Let me know what you have heard," said Lord Walwyn,
holding him feebly indeed, but with all the impressive
power and gravity of his years.

"Falsehoods," said Berenger, pushing the whole mass of


papers over to him, and then hiding his head between his
arms on the table.

Lord Walwyn finished his own letter first. Walsingham
■wrote with much kind compassion, but quite decisively.
He had no doubt that the Eibaumont family had acted as
one wheel in the great plot that had destroyed all the heads
of Protestant families and swept away among others, as they
had hoped, the only scion of the rival house. The old
Chevalier de Eibaumont had, he said, begun by expressing
sorrow for the mischance that had exposed his brave young
<;ousin to be lost in the general catastrophe, and he had
professed proportionate satisfaction on hearing of the young
man's safety. But the Ambassador believed him to have
been privy to his son's designs ; and whether Mdlle. de
Md- de-Merle herself had been a willing agent or not, she
certainly had remained in the hands of the family. The
decree annulling the marriage had been published, the lady
was in a convent in Anjou, and Karcisse de Eibaumont had
just been permitted to assume the title of Marquis de Md-
de-Merle, and was gone into Anjou to espouse her. Sir
Francis added a message of commiseration for the young
Earon, but could not help congratulating his old friend on
having his grandson safe and free from these inconvenient ties.

Berenger's own packet contained, in the first place, a copy
of the cassation of the marriage, on the ground of its having
been contracted when the parties were of too tender age to
give their legal consent, and its having been unsatisfied since
they had reached ecclesiastical years for lawful contraction
of wedlock.

The second was one of the old Chevalier's polite pro-
ductions. He was perfectly able to ignore Berenger's revo-
cation of his application for the separation, since the first
letter had remained unanswered, and the King's peremptory


commands liad prevented Berenger from taking any open
measures after liis return from Montpipeau. Thus the old
gentleman, after expressing due rejoicing at his dear young
cousin's recovery, and regret at the unfortunate mischance
that had led to his being confounded with the many sus-
pected Huguenots, proceeded as if matters stood exactly as
they had been before the pall-mall party, and as if the
decree that he inclosed were obtained in accordance with the
young Baron's intentions. He had caused it ,to .be duly
registered, and both parties were at liberty to enter upon
other contracts of matrimony. The further arrangements
Avhich Berenger had undertaken to sell his lands in Normandy,
and his claim on the ancestral castle in Picardy, should be
carried out, and deeds sent for his signature so soon as he
should be of age. In the meantime, the Chevalier cour-
teously imparted to his fair cousin the marriage of his daughter,
Mademoiselle Diane de Eibaumont with M. le Comte de
Selinville, which had taken place on the last St. Martin's day,
and of his niece, Mademoiselle Eustacie de Eibaumont de iN'id-
de-Merle with his son, who had received permission to take
her father's title of Marquis de JSTid-de-Merle. The wedding
was to take place at Bellaise before the end of the Carnival,
and would be concluded before this letter came to hand.

Lastly, there was an ill written and spelt letter, running
somewhat thus —

" ]\f ONSEiGNEUR, — Your faithful servant hopes that Mon-
sieur le Baron will forgive him for not returning, since I have
been assured by good priests that it is not possible to save
my soul in a country of heretics. I have done everything as
Monsieur commanded, I have gone down into Anjou, and
have had the honour to see the young lady to whom Monsieur
le Baron charged me with a commission, and I delivered to


her his letter, whereupon the lady replied that she thanked
21. le Baron for the honour he had done her, but that heing
on the point of marriage to M. le Marquis de JSTid-de-Merle,
she did not deem it fitting to write to him, nor had she any
tokens to send him, save what he had received on the
St. Barthelemy midnight ; they might further his suit else-
where. These, Monsieur, were her words, and she laughed
as she said them, so gaily that I thought her fairer than ever.
I have prevailed with her to take me into her service as
intendant of the Chateau de JSTid-de-Merle, knowing as she
does, my fidelity to the name of Eibaumont. And so, trust-
ing Monseigneur will pardon me for what I do solely for the
good of my soul^ I will ever pray for his welfare, and

" His faithful menial and valet,


The result was only what Lord Walwyn had anticipated,
hut he was nevertheless shocked at the crushing weight of
the blow. His heart was full of compassion for the youth so
cruelly treated in these his first years of life, and as much
torn in his affections as mangled in person. After a pause,
while he gathered up the sense of the letters, he laid his hand
kindly on his grandson's arm, and said, "This is a woful
budget, my poor son; we will do our best to help you
bear it."

" The only way to bear it," said Berenger, lifting up his
face, " is for me to take horse and make for Anjou instantly.
She will hold out bravely, and I may yet save her."

"Madness," said his grandfather; "you have then not
read your fellow's letter."

" I read no letter from fellow of mine. Yonder is a vile
forgery. Narcisse's own, most hkely. l^o one else would


have so profaned her as to put such words into her mouth !
My dear faithful foster -brother — have they murdered
him ? "

" Can you point to any proof that it is forged ? " said Lord
Walwyn, aware that handwriting was too difficult an art, and
far too crabbed, among persons of Osbert's class, for there to
be any individuahty of penmanship.

" It is all forged," said Berenger. *' It is as false that
she could frame such a message as that poor Osbert would
leave me,"

"These priests have much power over the conscience,"
began Lord Walwyn ; but Berenger, interrupting his grand-
father for the first time in his life, cried, " 'No priest could
change her whole nature. Oh ! my wife ! my darling ! what
may they not be inflicting on her now ! Sir, I must go.
She may be saved ! The deadly sin may be prevented ! "

*' This is mere raving, Berenger," said Lord Walwyn, not
catching half what he said, and understanding little more
than his resolution to hasten in quest of the lady. "You
who have not mounted a horse, nor walked across the
pleasaunce yet ! "

" ]\Iy limbs should serve me to rescue her, or they are
worth nothing to me."

Lord Walwyn would have argued that he need not regret
his incapacity to move, since it was no doubt already too
late, but Berenger burst forth — " She will resist ; she wLU
resist to the utmost, even if she deems me dead. Tortures
will not shake her when she knows I live. I must prepare."
And he started to his feet.

"Grandson," said Lord Walwyn, laying a hand on his
arm, " listen to me. You are in no state to judge for yourself.
I therefore command you to desist from this mad purpose."

He spoke gravely, but Berenger was disobedient for the


first time. "My Lord," he said, "you are but my grand-
father. She is my wife. My duty is to her."

He had plucked his sleeve away and was gone, before
Lord Walwyn had been able to reason with him that there
was no wife in the case, a conclusion at which the old states-
man would not have arrived had he known of the ceremony
at Montpipeau, and all that had there passed ; but not
only did Berenger deem himself bound to respect the King's
secret, but conversation was so difficult to him that he had
told very little of his adventures, and less to Lord "Walwyn
than any one else. In effect, his grandfather considered
this resolution of going to France as mere frenzy, and so it
almost was, not only on the score of health and danger,
but because as a ward, he was still so entirely under subjec-
tion, that his journey could have been hindered by absolutely
forcible detention ; and to this Lord Walwyn intended to
resort, unless the poor youth either came to a more rational
mind, or became absolutely unable to travel.

The last — as he had apprehended — came to pass only too
surely. The very attempt to argue, and to defend Eustacie
was too much for the injured head ; and long before night
Berenger fully believed himself on the journey, acted over its
incidents, and struggled wildly with difficulties, all the time
lying on his bed, with the old servants holding him down,
and Cecily listening tearfully to his ravings.

For weeks longer he was to lie there in greater danger
than ever. He only seemed soothed into quiet when Cecily
chanted those old Latin hymns of her Benedictine rule, and
then — when he could speak at all — he showed himself to be
in imagination praying in Eustacie's convent chapel, sure to
speak to her when the service should be over.



" There came a man by middle day,
He spied his sport and went away,

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeThe chaplet of pearls; or, The white and black Ribaumont (Volume 1) → online text (page 14 of 23)