Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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

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stretch across'* country, they trusted to be able to reach the
lands of a dependant of the house of Montmorency, who
would not readily yield her up to a Guise's man. But,
whether instigated by Perrine, or by their own judgment,
the vassals declared that, though Madame should be con-
ducted wherever she desired, it was impossible to encumber
themselves with the infant. Concealment would be impos-
sible ; rough, hasty rides would be retarded, her difficulties
would be tenfold increased, and the little one would become
a means of tracing her. There was no choice but to leave it
with Simonette.

Angrily and haughtily did Eustacie always reject this
alternative, and send fresh commands back by her messenger,
to meet the same reply in another form. The strong will


and maternal instinct of the Lady was set against the shrewd,
practical resolution of the stout farmers, who were aljout to
make a terrible venture for her, and might reasonably think
they had a right to prescribe the terms that they thought
best. All this time Maitre Gardon felt it impossible to leave
her, still weak and convalescent, alone in the desolate ruin
with her young child ; though still her pride would not bend
again to seek the counsel that she had so much detested, nor
to ask for the instruction that was to make her " believe like
her husband." If she might not fight for the Eeformed, it
seemed as if she would none of their doctrine !

But, true lady that she was, she sunk the differences in
her intercourse with him. >She was always prettily and
affectionately grateful for every service that he rendered
her, and as graciously polite as though she had been keeping
house in the halls of Eibaumont. Then her intense love
for her child Avas so beautiful, and there was so much
sweetness in the cheerful patience with which she endured
the many hardships of her situation, that he could not
help being strongly interested in the wilful,* spirited little

And thus time passed, until one night, when Martin ven-
tured over to the farm with a report so serious that Eotrou,
at all risks, brought him up to communicate his own tidings.
Some one had given information, Yeronique he suspected,
and the two Chevaliers were certainly coming the next day
to search Avith fire the old buildings of the temple. It was
already dawning towards morning, and it would be impos-
sible to do more at present than to let Eotrou build up the
Lady in a vault, some little way off, Avhence, after the search
was over, she could be released, and join her vassals the
next night according to the original design.

As to the child, her presence in the vault Avas impossible.


and Martin Lad actually bronglit licr intended nurse,
Sinionette, to Eotrou's cottage to receive lier.

" Kever !" ^vas all Eustacie answered. " Save botbi of us,
or neither."

"Lady," said M. Garden as she looked towards him, "1
go my "way with my staff."

"And you — you more faithful than her vassals — will let
nie take her 1"

" Assuredly."

" Then, sir, even to the world's end will I go with you."

Martin would have argued, have asked, but she would not
listen to him. It was Maitre Gardon who made him under-
stand the project. There was what in later times has been
termed an underground railway amid the j)ersecuted Cal-
vinists, and M. Gardon knew his ground well enough to
have little doubt of being able to conduct the lady safely to
some town on the coast, whence she might reach her friends
in England. The plan highly satisfied IMartin. It relieved
him and his neighbours from the necessity of provoking
perilous wrath, and it was far safer for her herself than
endeavouring to force her way with an escort too large not
to attract notice, yet not warlike enough for efficient defence.
He offered no further opposition, but augured that after all
she would come back a fine lady, and right them all.

Eustacie, recovering from her anger, and recollecting his
services, gave him her hand to kiss, and bade him farewell
with a sudden effusion of gratitude and affection that warmed
the honest fellow's heart. Eewards could not be given,
lest they should become a clue for her uncle ; and perhaps
they would have Avounded both him and their kind hosts,
who did their best to assist her in their departure. A hasty
meal Avas provided by Xanon, and a basket so stored as to
obviate the need of entering a village, on that day at least,


to purcliase provisions ; Eustacie's money and jewels again
formed the nucleus of the bundle of clothes and spare
swaddling-bands of her babe ; her peasant dress was carefully-
arranged — a stout striped cloth skirt and black bodice, the
latter covered by a scarlet Chollet kerchief The winged
white cap entirely hid her hair ; a grey cloak with a hood
could either fold round her and her child or be strapped on
her shoulders. Her sabots were hung on her shoulder, for
she had learnt to go barefoot, and walked much more lightly
thus ; and her little bundle was slung on a staff on the back
of Maitre Gardon, who in his great peasant's hat and coat
looked so like a picture of St. Joseph, that Eustacie, as the
light of the rising sun fell on his white beard and hair, was
reminded of the Flight into Egypt, and came close to him,
saying shyly, " Our Blessed Lady will bless and feel for my
baby. She knows what this journey is."

" The son of the Blessed Mary assuredly knows and
blesses," he answered.



" And round the baby fast and close
Her trembling grasp she folds,
And with a strong convulsive grasp
The little infant holds."


A WILD storm had raged all the afternoon, hail and rain
had careered on the wings of the wind along the narrow
street of the Three Fairies, at the little Huguenot bourg of
La Sahlerie ; torrents of rain had poached the unpaved
soil into a depth of mud, and thunder had reverberated over
the chimney-tops, and growled far away over the Atlantic,
whose angry waves were tossing on the low sandy coast
about two miles from the town.

The evening had closed in with a chill, misty drizzle,
and, almost May though it were, the Widow ]S"oemi Laurent
gladly closed the shutters of her unglazed window, where
small cakes and other delicate confections were displayed,
and felt the genial warmth of the little fire with which she
heated her tiny oven. She was the widow of a pastor who
had suffered for his faith in the last open persecution, and
being the daughter of a baker, the authorities of the town
had permitted her to support herself and her son by carrying
on a trade in the more delicate " subtUties " of the art, which


were greatly relished at the civic feasts. !N"ocini was a grave,
sad woman, very lonely ever since she had saved enough
to send her son to study for the ministry in Switzerland,
and with an aching heart that longed to be at rest from the
toil that she looked on as a steep ladder on her way to a
better home. She occupied two tiny rooms on the ground-
floor of a tall house ; and she had just arranged her few
articles of furniture with the utmost neatness, when there
was a low knock at her door, a knock that the persecuted
well understood, and as she lifted the latch, a voice she had
known of old spoke the scriptural salutation, "Peace be'
with this house."

'■'Eh quoi, Master Isaac, is it thou? Come in — in a good
hour — ah ! "

As, dripping all round his broad hat and from every
thread of his grey mantle, the aged traveller drew into the
house a female figure whom he had been supporting on his
other arm, muffled head and shoulders in a soaked cloak,
with a petticoat streaming with wet, and feet and ankles
covered with mire, " Here we are, my child," he said tenderly,
as he almost carried her to Noemi's chair. Noemi, with kind
exclamations of " Za imuvre I la pauvrette ! " helped the
trembling cold hand to open the wet cloak, and then cried
out with fresh surprise and pity at the sight of the fresh little
infant face, nestled warm and snug under ail the wrappings
in those weary arms.

" See," said the poor wanderer, looking up to the old man,
with a faint smile ; " she is well — she is warm — it hurts
her not."

" Can you take us in ? " added M. Gardon, hastily ; " have
you room 1 "

" Oh yes ; if you can sleep on the floor here, I will take
this poor dear to my own bed directly," said IS'oemi.


" Tenez," opening a chest; "you will find dry clotlies there,
of my husband's. And thou," helping Eustacie up with
her strong arm, and trying to take the little one, "let me
warm and dry thee within."

Too much worn out to make resistance, almost past
speaking, knowing merely that she had reached the goal
that had heen promised her throughout these weary days,
feeling warmth, and hearing kind tones, Eustacie submitted
to be led into the inner room ; and when the good widoAV
returned again, it was in haste to fetch some of the w\arm
potage she had already been cooking over the fire, ''and hastily
bade M. Garden help himself to the rest. She came back
again witli the babe, to wash and dress it in the warmth of
her oven fire, Mattre Gardon, in the black suit of a Cal-
vinist pastor, had eaten his lyotcuje, and was anxiously await-
ing her report, "Ah! la pauvre, Avith His blessing she
will sleep ; she [will do well. But how far did you come
to-day % "

" From Sainte Lucie. From the Grange du Temple since

" Ah ! is it possible 1 The poor child ! And this little
one — sure, it is scarce four weeks old 1 "

" Four weeks this coming Sunday,"

" Ah ! the poor thing. The blessing of Heaven must have
been with you to bear her through. And what a lovely in-
fant — how w^hite — what beauteous little limbs ! Truly, she
has sped well. Little did I think, good friend, that you had
this comfort left, or that our poor Theodore's young Avife had

" Alas ! no, JSToemi ; this is no child of Theodore's, His
wafe shared his martyrdom. It is I who am escaped alone to
tell thee. But, nevertheless, this babe is an orphan of that
same day. Her father was the son of the pious Baron de


Eibaumont, the patron of your husband, and of myself in
earlier days."

'^Ah!" exclaimed Xoemi, startled. '-Then the poor
yonng mother — is she — can she be the lost Demoiselle de

" Is the thing known here 1 The will of Heaven be done ;
but I had trusted that here the poor child might rest a while,
ere she can send to her husband's kindred in England."

" She might rest safely enough, if others beside myself
believed in her being your son's widow," said Xoemi.
" Wherefore should she not be thought so ? "

" Poor Esperance ! She would willingly have lent her
name to guard another," said ^Master Gardon, thoughtfully ;
" and, for the sake of the child, my little Lady may endure
it. Ah ! there is the making of a faithful and noble woman
in that poor young thing. Bravely, patiently, cheerfully,
hath she plodded this weary way; and, verily, she hath
grown like my own daughter to me— as I never thought to
love earthly thing again; and had this been indeed my
Theodore's child, I could hardly care for it more."

And as he related how he had fallen in with the forlorn
Lady of Eibaumont, and all that she had dared, done, and
left imdone for the sake of her little daughter, good ]S"oemi
Laurent wept, and agreed with him that a special Providence
must have directed them to his care, and that some good work
must await one who had been carried through so much. His
project was to remain here for a short time, to visit the iiock
who had lost their pastor on the day of the massacre, and to
recruit his own strength ; for he, too, had suffered severely
from the long travelling, and the exposure during many
nights, especially since all that was warm and sheltered had
been devoted to Eustacie. And after this he proposed to go
to La Eochelle, and make inquiries for a trusty messenger


who could be sent to England to seek out the family of the
Baron de Eibaumont, or, mayhap, a sufficient escort with
whom the Lady could travel ; though he had nearly made
up his mind that he would not relinquish the care of her
until he had safely delivered her to her husband's mother.

Health and life were very vigorous in Eustacie; and
though at first she had been completely worn out, a few
days of comfort, entire rest, and good nursing restored her.
!N'oemi dressed her much like herself, in a black gown, prim
little white starched ruff, and white cap, — a thorough Cal-
vinist dress, and befitting a minister's widow. Eustacie
winced a little at hearing of the character that had been
fastened upon her ; she disliked for her child, still more than
for herself to take this bourgeois name of Gardon ; but there
was no help for it, since, though the chief personages of the
town were Huguenot, there could be no safety for her if the
report were once allowed to arise that the Baronne de Eibau-
mont had taken refuge there.

It was best that she should be as little noticed as possible ;
nor, indeed, had good ^N'oemi many visitors. The sad and
sorrowful woman had always shut herself up with her Bible
and her meditations, and sought no sympathy from her
neighbours, nor encouraged gossip ia her shop. In the first
days, when purchasers lingered to ask if it were true that
Maitre Gardon had brought his daughter-in-law and grand-
child, her stern-faced, almost grim answer, that "^a pauvre
was ill at ease," sUenced them, and forced them to carry off
their curiosity unsatisfied ; but it became less easy to arrange
when Eustacie herself was on foot again — refreshed, active,
and with an irrepressible spring of energy and eagerness that
could hardly be caged down in the "Widow Laurent's tiny
rooms. Poor child, had she not been iU and prostrate at
first, and fastened herself on the tender side of the good

VOL. I. s


woman's lieart by tlie sweetness of an unselfish and buoyant
nature in illness, ISTocmi could bardly have endured such
an inmate, not even half a Huguenot, full of little Catholic
observances like second nature to her ; listening indeed to
the Bible for a short time, but always, Avhen it was ex-
pounded, either asleep, or finding some amusement indis-
pensable for her baby ; eager for the least variety, and above
all spoilt by Maitre Gardon to a degree absolutely perplexing
to the grave woman.

He would not bid her lay aside the observances that, to
ISTocmi, seemed almost worship of the beast. He rather
reverted to the piety which originated them ; and argued
with his old friend that it Avas better to build than to de-
stroy, and that, before the fabric of truth, superstition would
crumble away of itself. The little he taught her sounded to
JSTocmi's puzzled ears mere Christianity instead of controver-
sial Calvinism. And, moreover, he never blamed her for
wicked worldliness when she yawned ; but even devised
opportunities for taking her out for a walk, to see as much
life as might be on a market-day. He could certainly not
forget — as much as would have been prudent — that she was
a high-born Lady ; and even seemed taken aback when he
found her with her sleeves turned up over her shapely-
delicate arms, and a thick apron before her, with her hands
in Veuve Laurent's flour, showing her some of those special
mysterious arts of confectionery in Avhich she had been
initiated by Soeur Bernardine, when, not three years ago,
she had been the pet of the convent at Bellaise. At first it
was half sport and the desire of occupation, but the produce
of her manipidations was so excellent as to excite quite a
sensation in La Sablerie, and the echevins and baillis sent in
quite considerable orders for the cakes and patties of Maitre
Garden's Paris-bred daughter-in-law.

Maitre Gardon hesitated. Noemi Laurent told him she


cared littlo for the gain — Heaven knew it was nothing to
her — but that she thought it wrong and inconsistent in him
to wish to spare the poor child's pride, which was unchristian
enough ah-eady. " J^ay," he said sadly, " niortifi''cations from
without do little to tame pride ; nor did I mean to bring her
here that she should turn cook and confectioner to pamper
the appetite of Bailli La Grasse."

But Eustacie's first view was a bright pleasure in the
triumph of her skill; and when her considerate guardian
endeavoured to impress on her that there was no necessity
for vexing herself Avith the task, she turned round on him
with the exclamation, " l!^ay, dear father, do you not see it is
my great satisfaction to be able to do something for our good
hostess, so that my daughter and I be not a burden to her 1"

"Well spoken, my Lady," said the pastor; "there is real
nobility in that way of thinking. Yet, remember, Noemi is
not without means; she feels not the burden. And the
flock contribute enough for the shepherd's support, and
yours likewise."

" Then let her give it to the poor creatures who so often
come in begging, and saying they have been burned out of
house and home by one party or the other," said Eustacie.
" Let me have my way, dear sir ; Sceur Bernardino always
said I should be a prime menagere. I like it so much "

And Madame de Eibaumont mixed sugar and dough, and
twisted quaint shapes, and felt important and almost light-
hearted, and sang over her work and over her child songs
that were not always ]\Iarot's psalms ; and that gave the
more umbrage to Noemi, because she feared that Maitre
Garden actually liked to hear them, though, should their echo
reach the street, why it would be a peril, and stiU. worse, a
horrible scandal that out of that sober, afflicted household
should proceed profane tunes such as court ladies sang.




" By day and niglit her sorrows fall
Where miscreant hands and rude

Have stained her pure, ethereal pall
"With many a martyr's blood.

And yearns not her maternal heart
To hear their secret sighs,

Upon whose doubting way apart

Bewildering shadows rise ? "


It was in the summer twiliglit that Eustacie, sitting on the
doorstep between the two rooms, with her haby on her knees,
was dreamily humming to her a tune, without even words,
but one that she loved, because she had first learnt to sing it
with Berenger and his friend Sidney to the lute of the latter;
and its notes always brought before her eyes the woods of
Montpipeau. Then it was that, low and soft as was the
voice, that befell which Noemi had feared : a worn, ragged-
looking young man, who had been bargaining at the door for
a morsel of bread in exchange for a handkerchief, started at
the sound, and moved so as to look into the house.

E'oemi was at the moment not attending, being absorbed
in the study of the handkerchief, which was of such fine,
delicate texture that an idea of its having been stolen pos-
sessed her ; and she sought the corner where, as she ex-


pected, a coat-of-arms was embroidered. Just as she was
looking up to demand exj)lanation, the stranger, with a
sudden cry of " Good heavens, it is she ! " pushed past her
into the house, and falling on his knee before Eustacie,
exclaimed, " Lady, Lady, is it thus that I see you ? "

Eustacie had started up in dismay, crying out, " Ah ! M.
I'Abbe, as you are a gentleman, betray me not. Oh ! have
they sent you to find me 1 Have pity on us ! You loved
my husband ! "

" You have nothing to fear from me. Lady," said the
young man, still kneeling ; " if you are indeed a distressed
fugitive — so am I. If you have shelter and friends — I have

"Is it indeed so?" said Eustacie, wistfully, yet scarce re-
assured. " You are truly not come from my uncle. Indeed,
Monsieur, I would not doubt you, but you see I have so
much at stake. I have my little one here, and they mean so
cruelly by her."

" Madame, I swear by the honour of a nobleman — nay, by
all that is sacred — that I know notliing of your uncle. I
have been a wanderer for many weeks past ; proscribed and
hunted down because I wished to seek into the truth."

" Ah ! " said Eustacie, with a sound of relief, and of apo-
logy, '* pardon me, sir ; indeed, I know you were good. You
loved my husband ;" and she reached out her hand to raise
him, when he kissed it reverently. Little hourgeoise and
worn mendicant as they were in dress, the air of the Louvre
breathed round them; and there was all its grace and dignity
as the Lady turned round to her astonished hosts, saying,
" Good sir, kind mother, this gentleman is, indeed, what you
took me for, a fugitive for the truth. Permit me to present
to you. Monsieur I'Abbe de Mericour — at least, so he was,
when last I had the honour to see him."


The last time he bad seen her, poor Eustacie had been
incapable of seeing anything save that bloody j^ool at the foot
of the stairs.

Mericour now turned and explained. " Good friends," he
said courteously, but with the fierete of the noble not quite
out of his tone, " I beg your grace. I would not have used
so little ceremony, if I had not been out of myself at recog-
nising a voice and a tune that could belong to none but
Madame "

"Sit down, sir," said Koemi, a little coldly and stiffly— for
Mericour was a terrible name to Huguenot ears; "a true
friend to this Lady must needs be welcome, above all if he
comes in Heaven's name."

"Sit down and eat, sir," added Gardon, much more
lieartily ; " and forgive us for not having been more hospit-
able — but the times have taught us to be cautious, and in
that Lady we have a precious charge. Eest ; for you look
both weary and hungry."

Eustacie added an invitation, understanding that he would
not sit without her permission, and then, as he dropped into
a chair, she exclaimed, "Ah ! sir, you are faint, but you are

" It will pass," he said ; "I have not eaten to-day."

Instantly a meal was set before him, and ere long he
revived ; and as the shutters were closed, and shelter for the
night promised to him by a Huguenot family lodging in the
same house, he began to answer Eustacie's anxious questions,
as weE as to learn from her in return, what had brought her
into her present situation.

Then it was that she recollected that it had been he who,
at her cousin Diane's call, had seized her when she was rush-
ing out of the palace in her first frenzy of grief, and had
carried her back to the women's apartments.


" It was that day wliicli brouglit me here," he said.

And he told how, bred up in his own distant province, by
a pious and excellent tutor, he had devoutly believed in the
extreme wickedness of the Eeformers ; but in his seclusion
he had been trained to such purity of faith and morals, that,
when his brother summoned him to court to solicit a benefice,
lie had been appalled at the aspect of vice, and had, at the
same time, been struck by the pure lives of the Huguenots ;
for truly, as things then were at the French court, crime
seemed to have arrayed itself on the side of the orthodox
party, all virtue on that of the schismatics.

De Mericour consulted spiritual advisers, who told him
that none but Catholics could be truly holy, and that what
he admired were merely heathen virtues that the devil per-
mitted the Huguenots to display in order to delude the
unwary. With this explanation he had striven to be satisfied,
though eyes unblinded by guilt and a pure heart continued
to be revolted at the practices which his Church, scared at
the evil times, and forgetful of her own true strength, left
Tindenounced in her partisans. And the more that the
Huguenot gentlemen thronged the court, and the young
Abbe was thrown into intercourse with them, the more he
perplexed himself how the truth, the faith, the uprightness,
th.e forbearance, the purity that they evinced could indeed
"be wanting in the zeal that made them acceptable. Then
came the frightful morning when carnage reigned in every
street, and the men who had been treated as favourite boon
companions were hunted down like wild beasts in every street.
He had endeavoured to save life, but would have speedily been
slaughtered himself except for his soutane ; and in all good
faith he had hurried to the Louvre, to inform royalty of the
horrors that, as he thought, a fanatic passion was causing the

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeThe chaplet of pearls; or, The white and black Ribaumont (Volume 1) → online text (page 19 of 23)