Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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

. (page 18 of 23)
Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeThe chaplet of pearls; or, The white and black Ribaumont (Volume 1) → online text (page 18 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

up its station on a beam ahove the hay, and look down with
the hrightest, roundest eyes she had ever beheld. Let owls
and bats come where they would, she was happier than she
had been for months. Compassion for herself was plentiful
enough, but to have heard Berenger spoken of with love
and admiration seemed to quiet the worst ache of her lonely



" She wandered east, slie wandered west,
She wandered out and in ;
And at last into the very swine's stythe
The qnecn brought forth a son."

Pause Foodrage.

The morrow was Sunday, and in tlie old refectory, in the
late afternoon, a few Huguenots, warned by messages from
the farm, met to profit by one of their scanty secret oppor-
tunities for public worship. The hum of the prayer, and
discourse of the pastor, rose up through the broken vaulting
to Eustacie, still lying on her bed ; for she had been much
shaken by the fatigues of the day and alarm of the night,
and bitterly grieved, too, by a message which J^anon con-
veyed to her, that poor ]\Iartin was in no state to come for
her the next day ; both he and his wife having been seized
upon by jS'arcisse and his men, and so savagely beaten in
order to force from them a confession of her hiding-place,
that both were lying helpless on their bed ; and could
only send an entreaty by the trustworthy fool, that Eotrou
Avould find means of conveying Madame into Chollet in
some cart of hay or corn, in which she could bo taken past
the barriers.

Eut this was not to be. Good Nanon had sacrificed the
sermon to creep up to Eustacie, and when the congregation


were dispersing in the dusk, slie stole down tlie stairs to her
husband ; and a few seconds after he was hurrying as fast as
detours would allow him to Elaise's farm. An hour and a
half later, Dame Perrine, closely blindfolded for the last
mile, was dragged up the spiral staircase, and ere the bandage
was removed heard Eustacie's voice, with a certain cheeriness,
say, " Oh ! nurse ; my son will soon come ! "

The full moon gave her light, and the woman durst not
liave any other, save from the w^ood-fire that Nanon had
cautiously lighted and screened. The moonshine was still
supreme, when some time later a certain ominous silence and
half-whisper between the two women at the hearth made
Eustacie, with a low cry of terror, exclaim, " I^urse, nurse,
what means this 1 Oh ! He lives ! I know he lives !
Perrine, I command you tell me !"

" Living ! Oh, yes, my love, my Lady," answered Perrine,
returning towards her; "fair and perfect as the day. Be
not disquieted for a moment."

"I will — I will disquiet myself," panted Eustacie, " unless
you tell me what is amiss."

*' Nothing amiss," said Nanon gruffly. " Madame will
give thanks for this fair gift of a daughter."

It must be owned the words felt chill. She had never
thought of this ! It was as if the being for whom she had
dared and suffered so much, in the trust that he would be
Lerenger's representative and avenger, had failed her and
disappointed her. ISTo defender, no paladin, no son to be
proud of ! Her heart and courage sank down in her weak-
ness as they had never done before ; and, without speaking,
she turned her head away towards the darkness, feeling as
if all had been for nothing, and she might as well sink
away in her exhaustion. Mere Perrine was more angry with
!N"anon than conscious of her Lady's weakness. " Woman,


you speak as if you knew not tke blow' to this family, and
to all who hoped for better days. What, that my Lady, the
heiress, -who ought to be in a bed of state, with velvet cur-
tains, lace pillows, gold caudle-cups, should be here in a vile
ruin, among owls and bats, hke any beggar, and aU for the
sake, not of a young Lord to raise up the family, but of a
miserable little girl ! Had I known how it would turn out,
I had never meddled in this mad scheme."

Before Naaon could express her indignation, Eustacie had
turned her head, opened her eyes, and called out, " Miserable !
Oh! what do you mean? Oh, is it true, Nan on? is it well
with her 1 "

" As well as heart could wish," answered IS'anon, cheerily.
" Small, but a pjerfect little piece of sugar. There, Lady, she
shall speak for herself."

And as ]S'"anon laid the babe on the young mother's bosom,
the thrilling touch at once put an end to all the repinings of
the heiress, and awoke far other instincts.

" My child ! my little one, my poor little orp)han — all
cruel to her ! Oh, no welcome even from thy mother ! Babe,
babe, pardon me, I will make it up to thee ; indeed I will !
Oh ! let me see her ! Do not take her away, dear good
woman, only hold her in the moonlight ! "

The full rays of the moon, shining through the gable
window, streamed down very near where Eustacie lay, and
by a slight movement Dame Eotrou was able to render the
little face as distinctly visible to her as if it had been day-
light, save that the blanching light was somewhat embellish-
ing to the new-born complexion, and increased that curious
resemblance so often borne for the first few hours of life to
the future self. Eustacie's cry at once was, " Himself, him-
self — his very face ! Let me have her, my own moonbeam
— his child — my joy ! "


The tears, so long denied, ruslied down like summer rain
as slie clasped the child in her arms. Dame Perrine wan-
dered to and fro, like one beside herself, not only at her
Lady's wretched accommodations, but at the ill omens of the
moonlight illumination, of the owls who snapped and hissed
incessantly over the hay, and above all of the tears over
the babe's face. She tried to remonstrate with Eustacie,
but was answered only, " Let me weep ! Oh, let me
weep ! It eases my heart ! It cannot hurt my little one !
She cannot weep for her father herself, so I must weep
for her."

The weeping was gentle, not violent ; and Dame Eotrou
thought it did good rather than harm. She was chiefly
anxious to be quit of Perrine, who, however faithful to the
Lady of Elbaumont, must not be trusted to learn the way to
this Huguenot asylum, and must be escorted back by Eotrou
ere peejj of dawn. The old woman knew that her own
absence from home w^ould be suspicious, and with many
grumblings submitted ; but first she took the child from
Eusiacie's reluctant arms, promising to restore her in a few
moments, after finishing dressing her in the lace-edged
swaddling bands so carefully joreserved ever since Eustacie's
own babyhood. In these moments she had taken them all by
surprise by, without asking any questions, sprinkling the
babe with water, and baptizing her by the hereditary name
of Berangk'e, the feminine of the only name Eustacie had
always declared her son should bear. Such bajDtisms were
not unfrequently performed by French nurses, but Eustacie
exclaimed with a sound half dismay, half indignation.

^^Eh quoi/" BdA-di Perrine, "it is only onc7o?/ee. You can
have all the ceremonies if ever time shall fit ; but do you
think I could leave my Lady's child — mere girl though it
be — alone with o\\is, and follets, and revenants, and heretics,


and she iinbaptized. She would be a changelinc^ long ere
morning, I trow."

"Come, good woman," said Eotrou, from between the
trusses of hay at the entrance ; " you and I must begin our
Colin-Maillard again, or it may be the worse for us both."

And with the promise of being conducted to Eustacie again
in three nights' time, if she would meet her guide at the
cross-roads after dark, Perrine was forced to take her leave.
She had never suspected that all this time Maitre Garden
had been hidden in the refectory below, and still less did
she guess that soon after her departure the old man was
installed as her Lady's chief attendant. It was impossible
that K'anon should stay with Eustacie ; she had her day's
work to attend to, and her absence would have excited
suspicion. He, therefore, came partly up the stairs, and
calling to ISTanon, proffered himself to sit with " cette imuvre"
and make a signal in case Nanon should be wanted. The
good woman was thus relieved of a great care. She would
not have dared to ask it of him, but with a low reverence,
she owned that it was an act of great charity towards the
poor Lady, who, she hoped, was falling into a tranquil sleep,
but whom she would hardly have dared to leave. The
pastor, though hardships, battles, and persecutions had left
him childless, had been the father of a large family ; and
perhaps he was drawn the more strongly towards the mother
and child, because he almost felt as if, in fulfilling the
part of a father towards the widow of Berenger de Eibau-
mont, he was taking her in the stead of the widow of his
own Theodore.

Had the little Baronne de Eibaumont been lodged in a
tapestried chamber, between curtains of velvet and gold, with
a heauffet by her side glistening with gold and silver plate, as
would have befitted her station, instead of lying on a bed of


straw, with no hangings to the walls save cobwebs and hay,
no curtains to her nnglazed windows but dancing ivy-sprays
and wall-flowers, no beauffet but the old rickety table, no
attendants but Nanon and ]\L Gardon, no visitors but the
two while owls, no provisions save the homely fare that
rustic mothers lived upon — neither she nor her babe could
have thriven better, and probably not half so well. She had
been used to a hardy, out-of-door life, like the peasant
women ; and she was young and strong, so that she
recovered as they did. If the April shower beat in at the
window, or the hole in the roof, they made a screen of
canvas, covered her with cloaks, and heaped them with hay,
and she took no harm ; and the pure open air that blew in
was soft with all the southern sweetness of early spring-tide,
and the little one throve in it like the puff-ball owlets in the
hayloft, or the little ring-doves in the ivy, whose parent's
cooing voice was Eustacie's favourite music. Almost as good
as these her fellow-nestlings was the little Moonbeam, la
petite Rayonette, as Eustacie fondly called this light that had
<;ome back to her from the sunshine she had lost. Had she
cried or been heard, the sounds would probably have passed
for the wailings of the ghostly victims of the Templars,
but she exercised an exemplary forbearance in that respect,
for which Eustacie thought she could not be sufficiently

Like the child she was, Eustacie seemed to have put care
from her, and to be solely taken up with the baby, and the
amusement of watching the owl family.

There was a lull in the search at this moment, for the
Chevalier had been recalled to Paris by the fatal illness of
his son-in-law, M. de Selinville, The old soldier, after living
half his life on bread and salad, that he might keep up a
grand appearance at Paris, had, on coming into the wealth of



the family, and marrying a beautiful wife, returned to the
hixuries he had been wont only to enjoy for a few weeks
at a time, when in military occupation of some Italian town.
Three months of festivities had been enough, to cause his
death ; and the Chevalier was summoned to assist his
daughter in providing for his obsequies, and in taking pos-
session of the huge endowments which, as the last of his
race, he had been able to bequeath to her. Such was the
news brought by the old nurse Perrine, who took advantage
of the slackening vigilance of the enemy to come to see
Eustacie. The old woman was highly satisfied; for one of
the peasants' wives had — as if on purpose to oblige her
Lady — given birth to twins, one of whom had died almost
immediately ; and the parents had consented to conceal their
loss, and at once take the little Demoiselle de Eibaumont as
their own — guarding the secret till her mother should be
able to claim her. It was so entirely the practice, under
the most favourable circumstances, for French mothers to
send their infants to be nursed in cottages, that Perrine was
amazed by the cry of angry refusal that burst from Eustacie,
" Part with my child ! Leave her to her enemies ! — never !
never ! Hold your tongue, Perrine ! I will not hear of
such a thing ! "

"But, Madame, hear reason. She will jDass for one of
Simonette's ! "

" She shall pass for none but mine ! — I part with thee,
indeed ! All that is left me of thy father ! — the poor little
orphaned innocent, that no one loves but her mother ! "

" Madame — Mademoiselle, this is not common sense !
Why, hoAv can you hide yourself ? how travel with a baby on
your neck, whose crying may betray you ! "

" She never cries — never, never ! And better I were
betrayed than she."


" If it were a boy " began Perrine.

" If it were a boy, there would be plenty to care for it.
I sbould not care for it half so much. As for my poor little
lonely girl, whom every one wishes away but her mother —
ah ! yes, baby, thy mother will go through fire and water for
thee yet. I!^ever fear, thou shalt not leave her ! "

" ]^o nurse can go with Madame. Simonette could not
leave her home."

" What needs a nurse when she has me 1 "
" But, Madame," proceeded the old woman, out of patience,
"you are beside yourself! "VVliat noble lady ever nursed
her babe 1 "

" I don't care for noble ladies — I care for my child," said
the vehement, petulant little thing.

" And how — what good will Madame's caring for it do 1
"What knows she of infants 1 How can she take care of it 1 "
" Our Lady will teach me," said Eustacie, still pressing the
child passionately to her heart ; " and see — the owl — the
ring-dove — can take care of their little ones ; the good God
shows them how — He will tell me how ! "

Perrine regarded her Lady much as if she Avere in a
naughty fit, refusing unreasonably to part with a new toy,
and i^anon Kotroa was much of the same mind ; but it
was evident that if at the moment they attempted to carry
off the babe, the mother would put herself into an agony of
passion, that they durst not call forth ; and they found it
needful to do their best to soothe her out of the deluge of
agitated tears that fell from her eyes, as she grasped the child
so convulsively that she might almost have stifled it at once.
They assured her that they would not take it away now —
not now, at any rate ; and when the latent meaning made
her fiercely insist that it was to leave her neither now nor
ever, Perrine made pacifying declarations that it should be



just as she pleased — promises tliat slie knew well, when in
that coaxing voice, meant nothing at all. Nothing calmed
her till Perrino had been conducted away ; and even then
Nanon could not hush, her into anything like repose, and at
last called in the minister, in despair.

" Ah ! sir, you are a wise man ; can you find how to quiet
the poor little thing 1 Her nurse has nearly driven her
distracted with talking of the foster-parents she has found
for the child."

"Not found!" cried Eustacie. " N'o, for she shall
never go ! "

" There ! " lamented IlTanon — " so she agitates herself,
when it is but spoken of. And surely she had better make
up her mind, for there is no other choice."

"!N"ay, Nanon," said M. Gardon, "wherefore should she
part with the charge that God has laid on her 1 "

Eustacie gave a little cry of grateful joy. " Oh, sir, come
nearer ! Do you, indeed, say that they have no right to
tear her from me 1"

" Surely not. Lady. It is you Avhose duty it is to shield
and guard her."

" Oh, sir, tell me again ! Yours is the right religion.
Oh, you are the minister for me ! If you will tell me I
ought to keep my child, then I will believe everything else.
I will do just as you tell me." And she stretched out both
hands to him, with vehement eagerness.

" Poor thing ! This is no matter of one religion or
another," said the minister ; " it is rather the duty that the
Almighty hath imposed, and that He hath made an eternal


" Truly," said N'anon, ashamed at having taken the other
side : " the good pasteur says what is according to nature.
It would have gone hard with me if any one had wished to


part me from Eobin or Sara ; but these fine ladies, and, for
that matter, bourgeois too, always do put out their babes ;
and it seemed to me that Madame would find it hard to
contrive for herself — let alone the little one."

" Ah ! but what would be the use of contriving for myseK,
without her 1 " said Eustacie.

If all had gone well and prosperously with Madame de
Eibaumont, probably she would have surrendered an infant
born in purple and in pall to the ordinary lot of its con-
temporaries ; but the exertions and suffering she had under-
gone on behalf of her child, its orphanhood, her own loneli-
ness, and even the general disappointment in its sex, had
given it a hold on her vehement, determined heart, that
intensified to the utmost the instincts of motherhood ; and
she listened as if to an angel's voice as Maitre Gardon replied
to Nanon —

" I say not that it is not the custom ; nay, that my blessed
Avife and myseK have not followed it ; but we have so oft
had cause to repent the necessity, that far be it from me ever
to bid a Avoman forsake her sucking child."

" Is that Scriptvire 1" asked Eustacie. "Ah ! sir, sir, tell
me more ! You are giving me all — all — my child ! I will
be — I am — a Huguenot like her father ! and, when my
vassals come, I will make them ride with you to La Eochelle,
and fight in your cause ! "

" Xay," said Maitre Gardon, taken by surprise; "but.
Lady, your vassals are Catholic."

" AVhat matters it 1 In my cause they shall fight !" said
the feudal Lady, " for me and my daughter ! "

And as the pastor uttered a sound of interrogative
astonishment, she continued —

" As soon as I am well enough, Blaise will send out
messages, and they will meet me at midnight at the cross-

246 thf: chaplet of peauls; on,

roads, Martin and all, for dear good Martin is quite well
now, and we shall ride across coimtr^^, avoiding towns,
wherever I choose to lead them. I had thought of Chan-
tilly, for I know M. de Montmorency would stand my friend
against a Guisard ; hut now, now I know you, sir, let me
escort you to La Eochelle, and do your cause service worthy
of Nid-de-Merle and Eibaumont !" And as she sat up on
her bed, she held up her little proud head, and waved her
right hand yith the grace and dignity of a queen offering an
alliance of her realm.

Maitre Gardon, who had hitherto seen her as a childish
though cheerful and patient sufferer, was greatly amazed, but
he could not regard her project as practicable, or in his
conscience approve it ; and after a moment's consideration he
answered, " I am a man of peace, Lady, and seldom side
with armed men, nor would I lightly make one of those who
enrol themselves against the King."

" Not after all the Queen-mother has done ! " cried Eustacie.

" Martyrdom is better than rebellion," quietly answered
the old man, folding his hands. Then he added, " Far be it
from me to blame those who have drawn the sword for the
faith ; yet, Lady, it would not be even thus with your
peasants ; they might not follow you."

" Then," said Eustacie, with flashing eyes, " they would
be traitors."

" l!fot to the King," said the pastor, gently. " Also, Lady,
how will it be with their homes and families — the hearths
that have given you such faithful shelter ?"

" The women would take to the woods," readily answered
she ; " it is summer time, and they should be willing to bear
something for my sake. I should grieve indeed," she added,
" if my uncle misused them. They have been very good to
me, but then they belong to me."


" All ! Lady, put from you tliat hardening belief of
seigneurs. Think what their fidelity deserves from their

" I will be good to them ! I do love them ! I will be
their very good mistress," said Eustacie, her eyes filling.

" The question is rather of forbearing than of doing," said
the minister.

"But what would you have me do?" asked Eustacie,

" This, Lady. I gather that you would not return to your

" J^ever ! never ! They would rend my babe from me ;
they would kill her, or at least hide her for ever in a convent
■ — they Avould force me into this abhorrent marriage. Ko —
no — no — my child and I would die a hundred deaths together
rather than fall into the hands of ITarcisse."

''Calm yourself, Lady; there is no present fear, but I
deem that the safest course for the little one would be to
place her in England. She must be hehess to lands and
estates there ; is she not 1 "

" Yes ; and in ISTormandy."

"And your husband's mother lives? Wherefore then
should you not take me for your guide, and make your way
— more secretly than would be possible with a peasant escort
— to one of our Huguenot towns on the coast, whence you
could escape with the child to England ? "

" My belle-mere has re-married 1 She has children ! I
would not bring the daughter of Eibaumont as a suppliant
to be scorned!" said Eustacie, pouting. "She has lands
enough of her own."

" There is no need to discuss the question now," said M.
Gardon, gravely ; for a most kind offer, involving much peril
and inconvenience to himself, was thus petulantly flouted.


" Madame will tliink at her leisure of wliat would have been
the wishes of Monsieur le Baron for his child."

He then held himself aloof, knowing that it was not well
for her health, mental or bodily, to talk any more, and a
good deal perplexed himself by the moods of his strange
little impetuous convert, if convert she could be termed.
He himself was a deeply learned scholar, who had studied all
the bearings of the controversy ; and, though bound to the
French Huguenots by long service and persecution in their
cause, he belonged to that class of the French Eeformers who
woul'd gladly have come to terms with the Catholics at the
Conference of Plassy, and regretted the more decided Cal-
vinism that his party had since professed, and in which the
Day of St. Bartholomew confirmed them. He had a strong
sense of the grievous losses they suffered by their disunion
from the Church. The Eeformed were less and less what
his ardent youthful hopes had trusted to see them ; and in
his old age he was a sorrow-stricken man, as much for the
cause of religion as for personal bereavements. He had little
desire to win proselytes, but rather laid his hand to build up
true religion where he found it suffering shocks in these
unsettled, neglected times ; and his present wish was rather
to form and guide this little wilful warm-hearted mother —
whom he could not help regarding with as much affection as
pity — to find a home in the Church that had been her
husband's, than to gain her to his own party. And most
assuredly he would never let her involve herself, as she was
ready to do, in the civil war, without even knowing the
doctrine which grave and earnest men had preferred to their

He could hear her murmuring to her baby, " Xo, no, little
one, we are not fallen so low as to beg our bread among
strangers." To live upon her own vassals had seemed to hey


only claiming her just rights, but it galled her to think of
heing behoklen to stranger Huguenots ; and England and
her mother-in-law, M-ithout Berenger, were ntterl}^ foreign and
distasteful to her.

Her mood was variable. Messages from Blaise and jNIartin
came and Avent, and it became known that her intended
shelter at Chollet, together with all the adjacent houses, had
been closely searched by the younger Eibaumont in con-
junction Avith the governor ; so that it was plain that some
treachery must exist, and that she only owed her present
freedom to her detention in the ruined tem^ile ; and it would
be necessary to leave that as soon as it was possible for her
to attempt the journey.

The plan that seemed most feasible to the vassals was,
that liotrou should convey her in a cart of fagots as far as
possible on the road to Paris ; that there his men should
meet her by different roads, riding their farm-horses — and
Martin even hoped to be able to convey her own palfrey to
her from the monastery stables ; and thence, taking a long

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 18 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeThe chaplet of pearls; or, The white and black Ribaumont (Volume 1) → online text (page 18 of 23)