Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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

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•chaj)el, and distinguish the chatter of the lay-sisters in the
yard. Another time, in conjunction with the sacristan, he
bestowed her in the great seigneurial tribune (or squire's
pew) in the village church, a tall carved box, where she was
•completely hidden ; and the only time when she had failed
to obtain warning beforehand, she stood kneading bread at a
tub in Martin's cottage, while the hunt passed by, and a
man-at-arms looked in and questioned the master on the last
traces of the runaway.

It was seldom possible to see Mere Perrine, who was
carefully watched, under the conviction that she must know
where her nursling was ; but one evening Veronique ventured
up to Martin's farm, trusting to tidings that the gentlemen
had ridden to Saumur. It had been a wet day, but the


woods had been Eustacie's only secure harbour ; and when,
in a bright evening gleam of the setting sun from beneath
the clouds, Vcronique came in sight of her Lady, the Queen's
favourite, it was to see her leading by a string a little shaggy
cow, with a bell round its neck, her grey cloak huddled
round her, though dank with wet, a long lock of black hair
streaming over her brow, her garments clinging with damp,
her bare ankles scratched with thorns, her heayj'jabots
covered with mire, her cheeks pale with cold and wet.

The contrast overwhelmed poor Veronique. She dropped
on her knees, sobbing as if her heart would break, and
declaring that this was what the Abbess had feared ; her
Lady was fast killing herself.

" Hush ! Veronique," said Eustacie ; " that is all folly.
I am wet and weary now, but oh ! if you knew how much
sweeter to me life is now than it was, shut up down there,
with my fears. See," and she held up a bunch of purple
pasque-flowers and wood-sorrel, "this is what I found in the
wood, growing out of a rugged old dead root ; and just by,
sheltered by the threefold leaves of the alleluia-flower, was a
bird's nest, the mother-bird on her eggs, watching me with
the wise black eye that saw I would not hurt her. And it
brought back the words I had heard long ago, of the good
God caring for the sparrows ; and I knew He would care the
more for me and mine, because I have not where to lay my


" Alas ! " sobbed Yeronique, " now she is getting to be a
saint outright. She will be siu-e to die ! Ah, Madame —
dear Madame ! do but listen to me. If you did but know
how Madame de Bellaise is afflicting herself on your account!
She sent for me — ah ! do not be angry, dear Lady 1 "

" I wish to hear nothing about her," said Eustacie.

" Nay, listen, de grace — one moment, Madame ! She has


wept, she has feared for you, all the lay-sisters say so. She
lakes no pleasure in hawking, nor in visiting ; and she did
not eat more than six of Soeur Bernardine's best conserves.
She does nothing hut watch for tidings of Madame. And
she sent for me, as I told you, and conjured me, if I knew
where you were, or had any means of finding out, to implore
you to trust to her. She will swear on aU the relics in the
chapel never to give a hint to Messieurs les Chevaliers if
only you would trust her, and not slay yourself with all this
dreadful wandering."

" Never ! " said Eustacie ; " she said too much ! "

" Ah ! but she declares that, had she known the truth,
she never would have said that. Ah, yes, Madame, the
Abbess is good ! " And Veronique, holding her mistress's
cloak to secure a hearing, detailed the Abbess' plan for
lodging her niece in secret apartments within the thickness
of the convent walls, where Mere Perrine could be with her,
and every sacred pledge should be given that could remove
her fears.

" And could they make me believe them, so that the doubt
and dread would not kill me in themselves 1 " said Eustacie.

" But it is death — certain death, as it is. Oh, if Madame
would hear reason ! — but she is headstrong ! She will grieve
when it is too late ! "

" Listen, Veronique. I have a far better plan. The sacris-
tan has a sister who weaves red handkerchiefs at ChoUet.
She will receive me, and keep me as long as there is need.
Martin is to take me in his cart when he carries the hay to
the garrison. I shall be well hidden, and within reach of
your mother. And then, when my son is once come — then
all will be well ! The peasants will rise in behalf of their
young Lord, though not for a poor helpless woman. 'No one
will dare to dispute his claim, when I have appealed to the


King ; and then, Vcroniqiie, you shall come back to me, and
all will be well ! "

Veronique only began to wail aloud at her mistress'
obstinacy. Martin came up, and rudely silenced her, and
said afterwards to his wife, " Have a care ! That girl has
— I verily believe — betrayed her Lady once ; and if she do
not do so again, from pure pity and faintness of heart, I
shall be much surprised."



" 'Tis said, as through the aisles they passed,
They heard strange voices on the blast,
And through the cloister galleries small,
Which at mid-height thread the chancel wall.
Loud sobs and laughter louder ran.
And voices unlike the voice of man,
As if the fiends kept holiday. "

Scott, Lay of the Last Minstrel.

" III news, Martin, I see by your look ! " cried Eustacie,
starting to lier feet from, the heap of straw on which she was
sitting in his cowhouse, one early April day, about seven
weeks since her evasion from the convent.

"Ifot so, I hope, Madame, but I do not feel at ease.
Monsieur has not sent for me, nor told me his plans for the
morrow, and I much doubt me whether that bode not a
search here. Now I see a plan, provided Madame would
trust herself to a Huguenot."

" They would guard me for my husband's sake."
" And could Madame walk half a league, as far as the
Grange du Temple? There live Mathieu Eotrou and his
wife, who have, they say, baffled a himdred times the gen-
darmes who sought their ministers. ]^o one ever found a
pastor, they saj^, when Eotrou had been of the congregation ;
and if they can do so much for an old preacher with a long


tongue, surely they can for a sweet young lady ; and if they
coukl shelter her just for to-morrow, till the suspicion is
over, then would I come for Madame with my cart, and
carry her into ChoUet among the trusses of hay, as we had

Eustacic was already tying her cloak, and asking for
Lucette ; but she was grieved to hear that Martin had sent
her to vespers to disarm suspicion, and moreover that he
meant not to tell her of his new device. " The creature is
honest enough," he said, "but the way to be safe witk
women is not to let them know."

He cut short all messages and expressions of gratitude-,.
and leading Eustacie to a small stream, he made her creep
along its course, with her feet in the water, so as to be
sheltered by the boughs that hung over the banks, while he
used his long strides to enable him to double back and enter
into conversation with passers-by, quite off the track of the
Grange du Temple, but always telling her where he should
join her again, and leaving with her the great dog, whom she
had come to regard as a friend and protector. Leaving the
brook, he conducted her beneath hedges and by lonely wood-
land paths beyond the confines of her own property, to a
secluded valley, so shut in by wooded hills that she had not
been aware of its existence. Through an extensive orchard,
she at length, when nearly spent with the walk, beheld the
cluster of stone buildings, substantial as the erections of
religious orders were wont to be.

Martin found a seat for her, where she might wait while
he went on alone to the house, and presently returned with
both the good people of the farm. They were more offhand
and less deferential than were her OAvn people, but were full
of kindliness. They were middle-aged folk, most neatly
clad, and with a grave, thoughtful look about them, as if life



were a mucli heavier charge to them than to their light-
hearted neighhours.

" A fair day to you, Madame," said the farmer, doffing his
■wide-flapped hat. " I am glad to serve a sufferer for the
truth's sake."

" My husband was," faltered Eustacie.

" Ah ! la pauvre" cried the good woman, pressing forward
as she saw how faint, heated, and exhausted was the wanderer.
" Come in, ma pauvreite. Only a bride at the Bartholomew !
Alas ! There, lean on me, my dear."

To be Udoyee by the Fermiere Eotrou was a shock ; yet
the kind manner was comfortable, and Eustacie suffered her-
self to be led into the farm-house, where, as the dame
observed, she need not fear chance-comers, for they lived
much to themselves, and no one would be about till their
boy Eobinet came in with the cows. She might rest and
eat there in security, and after that they would find a hiding-
place for her — safe as the horns of the altar — for a night or
two ; only for two nights at most.

" ISTor do I ask more," said Eustacie. " Then Martin will
come for me."

" Ay, I or Elaise, or whichever of us can do it with least

" She shall meet you here," added Eotrou.

"All right, good man; I understand; it is best I should
not know where you hide her. Those rogues have tricks
that make it as well to know nothing. Farewell, Madame,
I commend you to all the saints till I come for you on
Monday morning."

Eustacie gave him her hand to kiss, and tried to thank
him, but somehow her heart sank, and she felt more lonely
than ever, when entirely cast loose among these absolute
strangers than amongst her own vassals. Even the farm-


kitclien, large, stone-"built, and scrupulously clean, seemed
strange and dreary after the little, smoky, earth-built living-
rooms in "which her jieasantry were content to live, and she
never had seemed to herself so completely desolate ; but all
the time she was so wearied out with her long and painful
wallc, that she had no sooner taken some food than she
began to doze in her chair.

" Father," said the good wife, " we had better take la
■pauwette to her rest at once."

"Ah ! must I go any farther?" sighed Eustacie.

" It is but a few fields beyond the yard, ma xM'de" said
the good woman consolingly ; " and it will be safer to take
you there ere we need a light."

The sun had just set on a beautiful evening of a s|)riug
that happily for Eustacie had been unusually warm and
mild, Avhen they set forth, the dame having loaded her
husband with a roll of bedding, and herself taking a pitcher
of millc and a loaf of bread, whilst Eustacie, as usual, car-
ried her own small parcel of clothes and jewels. The way
was certainly not long to any one less exhausted than she ; it
was along a couple of fields, and then through a piece of
thicket, where Eotrou held back the boughs and his wife
almost dragged her on with kind encouraging words, till
they came up to a stone ivy-covered wall, and coasting along
it to a tower, evidently a staircase turret. Here Eotrou,
holding aside an enormous bush of ivy, showed the foot of a
winding staircase, and his wife assured her that she would
not have far to climb.

She knew where she was now. She had heard of the
old Eefectory of the Knights Templars. Partly demolished
by the hatred of the people upon the abolition of the Order,
it had ever since lain waste, and had become the centre of
all the ghostly traditions of the country ; the locality of all



the most horrid tales of revenants told under the breath at
Dame Perrine's hearth or at recreation hour at Bellaise.
Her courage was not proof against spiritual terrors. She
panted and leant against the wall, as she faintly exclaimed,
" The Temple — there — and alone ! "

" Nay, Lady, methought as Monsieur voire mari knew
the true light, you would fear no vain terror nor power of

Should these peasants — these villeins — be bold, and see
the descendant of the "bravest of knights," the daughter of
the house of Piibaumont, afraid ? Slie rallied herself, and
replied manfully, "I fear not, no !" but then, womanfully,
" But it is the Temple ! It is haunted ! Tell me what I
must expect."

" I tell you truly, Madame," said Eotrou ; " none whom I
have slieltered here have seen aught. On the faith of a
Christian, no evil spirit — no ghost — has ever alarmed them;
but they were fortified by prayer and psalm."

" I do pray ! I have a psalm-book," said Eustacie, and
she added to herself, "No, they shall never see that I fear.
After all, revenants can do nothing Avorse than scare one ;
they cannot touch one ; the saints and angels will not let
them — and my uncle would do much worse."

Eut to climb those winding stairs, and resign herself to
be left alone Avith the Templars for the night, was by far
the severest trial that had yet befallen the poor young
fugitive. As her tired feet dragged up the crumbling steps,
her memory reverted to the many tales of the sounds heard
by night within those walls — church chants turning into
diabolical songs, and ending in terrific shrieks — or of the
sights that had chased bewildered travellers into thickets
and morasses, where they had been found in the morning,
shuddering as they told of a huge white monk, with clanking


weapons, and a burning cross of fire printed on his shoulde
and breast, Avho stood on the walls and hurled a shrieking
babe into the abyss. "Were such spectacles awaiting her]
Must she bear them, and could her endurance hold out?
Our Lady be her aid, and spare her in her need !

At the top of the stairs she found Eotrou's hand, ready to
help her out on a stone floor, quite dark, but thickly covered,
as she felt and smelt, with trusses of hay, between which a
glimmering light showed a narrow passage. A few steps,
guided by Eotrou's hand, brought her out into light again,
and she found herself in a large chamber, with the stone
floor broken away in some places, and with a circular
window, thickly veiled with ivy, but still admitting a good
deal of evening lio-ht.

It was in fact a chamber over the vaulted refectory of
the knights. The walls and vaults still standing in their
massive solidity, must have tempted some peasant, or may-
hap some adventurer, rudely to cover in the roof (which had
of course been stripped of its leading), and thus in the
unsuspected space to secure a hiding-place, often for less
innocent commodities than the salt, which the iniquitous and
oppressive gabelle had always led the French peasant to
smuggle, ever since the days of the first Valois. The room
had a certain aj)pearance of comfort ; there was a partition
across it, a hearth with some remains of wood-ashes, a shelf,
holding a plate, cup, lamp, and a few other necessaries ;
and altogether the aspect of the place was so unlike what
Eustacie had expected, that she almost forgot the Templar
as she saw the dame begin to arrange a comfortable-
looking couch for her wearied limbs. Yet she felt very
unwilling to let them depart, and even ventured on faltering
out the inquiry whether the good woman could not stay Avith
her, — she would reward her largely.


" It is for tlie love of Heaven, Madame, not for gain," said
Xanon Eotrou, rather stiffly. "If yoR were ill, or needed me,
all must then give "way; but for me to be absent this
evening would soon be reported around the village down
there, for there are many who Avould find occasion against
us." But, by way of consolation, they gave her a whistle,
and showed her that the window of their cottage was much
nearer to a loophole-slit looking towards the east than she
had fancied. The wliistle perpetrated a most unearthly
screech, a good deal like that of an owl, but more dis-
cordant, and Ifanon assured her that the sound would
assuredly break her slumbers, and bring her in a few minutes
at any moment of need. In fact, the noise was so like the
best authenticated accounts of the shrieks indulged in by the
spirits of the Temple, that Eustacie had wit enough to
suspect that it might be the foundation of some of the
stories ; and with that solace to her alarms, she endured
the departure of her hosts, Nanon promising a visit in the
early morning.

The poor child was too weary to indulge in many terrors,
the beneficent torpor of excessive fatigue was upon her,
happily bringing slumberous oblivion instead of feverish
restlessness. She strove to repeat her accustomed orisons ;
but sleep was too strong for her, and she was soon lying
dreamlessly upon the clean homely couch prepared for her.

When she awoke, it was with a start. The moon was
shining in through the circular window, making strange
white shapes on the floor, all quivering with the shadows
of the ivy sprays. It looked strange and eerie enough at
the moment, but she understood it the next, and would
have been reassured if she had not become aware that there
was a low sound, a tramp, tramp, below her. " Gracious
saints ! The Templar ! Have mercy on me ! Oh ! I was


too sleepy to pray I Guard me from being driven wild by
fright!" She sat upright, with wide-spread eyes, and,
finding that she herself was in the moonlight, through some
opening in the roof, she took refuge in the darkest corner,
thoudi aware as she crouched there, that if this were indeed
the Templar, concealment would be vain, and remembering
suddenly that she was out of reach of the loophole-window.

And therewith there was a tired sound in the tread, as if
the Templar found his weird a very lengthy one ; then a long
heavy breath, with something so essentially human in its
sound, that the fluttering heart beat more steadily. If reason
told her that the living were more perilous to her than the
dead, yet feeling infinitely preferred them ! It might be
IsTanon Eotrou after all ; then hoAv foolish to be croiiching
there in a fright ! It Avas rustling through the hay. No —
no Kanon ; it is a male figure, it has a long cloak on.
Ah ! it is in the moonlight — silver hair — silver beard. The
Templar ! Fascinated with dismay, yet calling to mind that
no ghost has power unless addressed, she sat still, crossing
herself in silence, but unable to call to mind any prayer
or invocation save a continuous "Ave Mary," and trying
to restrain her gasping breath, lest, if he were not the
Templar after all, he might discover her presence.

He moved about, took off his cloak, laid it down near
the hay, then his cap, not a helmet after all, and there
was no fiery cross. He was in the gloom again, and
she heard him moving much as though he were pulling
down the hay to form a bed. Did ghosts ever do anything
so sensible 1 If he were an embodied spirit, would it be
possible to creep past him and escape while he lay asleep ?
She was almost becoming familiarised with the presence,
and the supernatural terror was passing off" into a considera-
tion of resources, when, behold, he was beginning to sing.


To sing was the very way the ghosts began ere they came to
their devilish outcries. " Our Lady keep it from bringing
frenzy. But hark ! hark ! " It was not one of the chants,
it was a tune and words heard in older times of her life ;
it was the evening hymn, that the little husband and wife
had been wont to sing to the Baron in the Chateau de Leurre
— Marot's version of the 4th Psalm.

" Plus de joie m'est donnee
Par ce moyen, Dieu Tres-Haut,
Que n'ont ceux qui ont grand anuee
De froment et bonne vmee,
D'huile et tout ce ixu'il leur fault."

If it had indeed been the ghostly chant, perhaps Eustacie
would not have been able to help joining it. As it was,
the familiar home words irresistibly impelled her to mingle
her voice, scarce knowing what she did, in the verse —

" Si qu'eu paix et surete bonne
Coucherai et reposerai ;
Car, Seigneur, ta bonte tout ordonne
Et elle seule espoir nie donne
Que sur et seiil regnant serai."

The hymn died away in its low cadence, and then, ere
Eustacie had had time to think of the consequences of thus
raising her voice, the new comer demanded :

" Is there then another wanderer here 1 "

" Ah ! sir, pardon me ! " she exclaimed. " I will not long
importune you, but only till morning light — only till the
Eermiere Eotrou comes."

" If Mattliieu and Anne Eotrou placed you here, then all
is well," replied the stranger. " Fear not, daughter, but tell
me. Are you one of my scattered flock, or one Avhose
parents are known to me 1 " Then, as she hesitated, " I am


Isaac Garden — escaped, alas ! alone, from the slaugliter of
the Bartlielemy."

" Master Gardon ! " cried Eustacie. " Oh, I know !
sir, my husband loved and honoured you."

" Your husband 1 "

" Yes, sir, le Baron de Eibaumont."

" That fair and godly youth ! My dear old patron's son !
You — you ! But—" with a shade of doubt, almost of dis-
may, " the boy was wedded — wedded to the heiress "

" Yes, yes, I am that unhappy one ! We were to have
fled together on that dreadful night. He came to meet me
to the Louvre — to his doom ! " she gasped out, nearer to
tears than she had ever been since that time, such a novelty
was it to her to hear Berenger spoken of in kind or tender
terms ; and in her warmth of feeling, she came out of her
corner, and held oi;t her hand to him.

" Alas ! poor thing ! " said the minister, compassionately,
" Heaven has tried you sorely. Had I known of your
presence here, I would not have entered ; but I have been
absent long, and stole into my lair here without disturbing
the good people below. Forgive the intrusion, Madame."

" Xo, sir, it is I who have to ask pardon. Were I not a
desolate fugitive, with nowhere to hide myself, I would not
incommode you."

The minister replied warmly that surely persecution w\as a
brotherhood, even had she not been the widow of one he
had loved and lamented.

"Ah ! sir, it does me good to hear you say so."

And therewith Eustacie remembered the hospitalities of
her loft. She perceived by the tones of the old man's voice
that he was tired, and probably fasting, and she felt about
for the milk and bread with which she had been supplied.
It was a most welcome refreshment, though he only partook


sparingly; and while he ate, the two, so strangely met, came
to a fuller knowledge of one another's circumstances.

Master Isaac Gardon had, it appeared, been residing at
Paris, in the house of the watchmaker whose daughter had
been newly married to his son ; but on the fatal eve of St.
Bartholomew, he had been sent for to pray w-ith a sick
person in another quarter of the city. The Catholic friends
of the invalid were humane, and when the horrors began, not
only concealed their kinsman, but almost forcibly shut up
the minister in the same cellar with him. And thus, most
reluctantly, had he been spared from the fate that overtook
his son and daughter-in-law. A lone and well-nigh broken-
hearted man, he had been smuggled out of the city, and had
since that time been wandering from one to another of the
many scattered settlements of Huguenots in the northern
part of France, who, being left pastorless, welcomed visits
from the minister of their religion, and passed him on from
one place to another, as his stay in each began to be suspected
by the authorities. He was now on his way along the west
side of France, with no fixed purpose, except so far as, since
Heaven had spared his life when all that made it dear had
been taken from him, he resigned himself to believe that
there w\as yet some duty left for him to fulfil.

Meantime the old man was wearied out ; and after due
courtesies had passed between him and the Lady in the dark,
he prayed long and fervently, as Eustacie could judge from
the intensity of the low murmurs she heard ; and then she
heard him, with a heavy irrepressible sigh, lie down on the
couch of hay he had already prepared for himself, and soon his
regular breathings announced his sound slumbers. ' She was
already on the bed she had so precipitately quitted, and not
a thought more did she give to the Templars, living or dead,
oven though she heard an extraordinary snapping and hissing,


and in the dawn of the mornincc saw a wliito weird thin"
like a huge moth, flit in through the circular window, take

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeThe chaplet of pearls; or, The white and black Ribaumont (Volume 1) → online text (page 17 of 23)