Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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

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wood, which entirely hid the bottom. Eeranger guided his
pony to a winding path that led down the steep side of the


valley, already hearing the cadence of a loud, chanting
voice, throwing out its sounds over the assemhly, whence
arose assenting hums over an undercurrent of sobs, as
though the excitable French assembly were strongly

The thicket was so close that Beranger was almost among
•the congregation before he could see more than a passing
glimpse of a sea of heads. Stout, ruddy, ISTorman peasants,
and high white-capped, women, mingled with a few soberly-
clad townsfolk, almost all with the grave, stedfast cast of
countenance imj^arted by unresisted ]3ersecution, stood
gathered round the green mound that served as a natural
pulpit for a Calvinist minister, who wore the dress of a
burgher, but entirely black. To Bcranger's despair, he was
in the act of inviting his hearers to join with him in singing
one of Marot's psalms ; and the boy, eager to lose not a
moment, grasped the skirt of the outermost of the crowd.
The man, an absorbed-looking stranger, merely said, " Im-
portune me not, child."

" Listen !" said Beranger ; " it imports "

" Peace," was the stern answer ; but a Xorman farmer
looked round at that moment, and Beranger exclaimed, "Stop
the singing! The gens d'armes !^' The psalm broke off;
the whisper circulated; the words " from Leurre " were next
<;onveyed from lip to li]), and, as it were in a moment, the
dense human mass had broken up and vanished, stealing
through the numerous paths in the brushwood, or along the
brook, as it descended through tall sedges and bulrushes.
The valley was soon as lonely as it had been populous ; the
pulpit remained a mere mossy bank, more suggestive of fairy
dances than of Calvinist sermons, and no one remained on
the scene save Beranger with his pony, Jacques the groom,
a stout farmer, the preacher, and a tall thin figure in the


plainest dark cloth dress that could be worn by a gentleman,
a hawk on his wrist.

" Thou here, my boy ! " he exclaimed, as B(5ranger came to
his side ; and as the little fellow replied in a few brief words,
he took him by the hand, and said to the minister, " Good
Master Isaac, let me present my young son to you, who
under Heaven hath been the means of saving many lives
this day."

Maitre Isaac Gardon, a noted preacher, looked kindly at
the boy's fair face, and said, " Bless thee, young sir. As thou
hast been already a chosen instrument to save life, so may est
thou be ever after a champion of the truth."

" Monsieur le Baron," interposed Jacques, " it were best ta
look to yourself I abeady hear sounds upon the wind."

" And you, good sir 1 " said the Baron.

" I will see to him," said the farmer, grasping him as a
sort of property. " M. le Baron had best keep up the beck.
Out on the moor there he may fly the hawk, and that will
best divert suspicion."

" JFarewell, then," said the Baron, wringing the minister's
hand, and adding, almost to himself, " Alas ! I am weary of
these shifts ! " and weary indeed he seemed, for as the ground
became so steep that the beck danced noisily down its
channel, he could not keep up the needful speed, but
paused, gasping for breath, with his hand on his side.
Beranger was off his pony in an instant, assuring Follet
that it ought to be proud to be ridden by his father, and
exhaling his own exultant feelings in caresses to the animal
as it gallantly breasted the hill. The little boy had never
been so commended before ! He loved his father exceed-
ingly ; but the Baron, while ever just towards him, was
grave and strict to a degree that the ideas even of the
sixteenth century regarded as severe. Little Eustacie with


her lovely face, her irrepressible saucy grace and audacious
coaxing, was the only creature to whom he ever showed
much indulgence and tenderness, and even that seemed
almost against his will and conscience. His son was always
under rule, often blamed, and scarcely ever praised ; but
it was a hardy vigorous nature, and respectful love throve
under the system that would have crushed or alienated a
different disposition. It was not till the party had emerged
from the wood upon a stubble held, Avhere a covey of
partridges flew up, and to Beranger's rapturous delight
furnished a victim for Ysonde, that M. de Pdbaumont dis-
mounted from the pony, and walking towards home, called
his son to his side, and asked him how he had learnt the
intentions of the Count and the Chevalier. Beranger ex-
jjlained how Eustacie had come to warn him, and also told
what she had said of Diane de Eibaumont, who had lately,
by her father's request, spent a few weeks at the chateau
with her cousins.

"My son," said the Baron, "it is hard to ask of babes
caution and secrecy ; but I must know from thee what thy
cousin may have heard of our doings V

"I cannot tell, father," rei^lied Beranger; "we played
more than we talked. Yet, Monsieur, you will not be
angry with Eustacie if I tell you what she said to me
to-day V

"Assuredly not, my son."

" She said that her father would take her away if he knew
what M. le Baron read, and what he sung."

" Thou hast done well to tell me, my son. Thinkest thou
that this comes from Diane, or from one of the servants ? "

" Oh, from Diane, my father ; none of the servants would
dare to say such a thing."

" It is as I suspected then," said the Baron. " That child


was sent amongst us as a spy. Tell me, Bcranger, bad slie
any knowledge of our intended journey to England?"

" To England ! But no, father, I did not even know it
was intended. To England — to that Walwyn wliicli my
mother takes such pains to make us speak rightly. Are we,
then, going 1 "

" Listen, my son. Thou hast to-day proved thyself worthy
of trust, and thou shalt hear. My son, ere yet I knew the
truth I was a reckless disobedient youth, and I bore thy
mother from her parents in England without their consent.
Since, by Heaven's grace, I have come to a better mind, we
have asked and obtained their forgiveness, and it has long
been their desire to see again their daughter and her son.
Moreover, since the accession of the present Queen, it has
been a land where the light is free to shine forth ; and
though I verily believe what Maitre Gardon says, that per-
secution is a blessed means of grace, yet it is grievous to
expose one's dearest thereto when they are in no state to
count the cost. Therefore would I thither convey you all,
and there amid thy mother's family would we openly
abjure the errors in which we have been nurtured. I have
already sent to Paris to obtain from the Queen-mother the
necessary permission to take my family to visit thy grand-
father, and it must now be our endeavour to start imme-
diately on the receipt of the reply, before the Chevalier's
information can lead to any hindrance or detention of

"Then Eustacie will go with us, Monsieur?"
" Certainly. ^N'othing is more important than that her
faith should be the same as yours ! But discretion, my son :
not a word to the little one."

"And Landry, father? I had rather Landry went than
Eustacie. And Follet, dear father, pray take him."


After M. de Eihaumont's grave confidence to Lis son and
heir, he Avas a little scandalized at the comparative value that
the boy's voice indicated for wife, foster-brother, and pony,
and therefore received it in perfect silence, which silence con-
tinued until they reached the chateau, where the lady met
them at the door with a burst of exclamations.

" Ah, there you are, safe, my dear Baron. I have been
in despair. Here were the Count and his brother come to
call on you to join them in dispersing a meeting of those
poor Huguenots, and they would not permit me to send
out to call you in ! I verily think they suspected that you
were aware of it."

M. de Eibaumont made no answer, but sat wearily down
and asked for his little Eustacie.

" Little vixen ! " exclaimed the Baroness, "she is gone;
her father took her away with him." And as her husband
looked extremely displeased, she added that Eustacie had
been meddling with her jewel cabinet and had been put
in penitence. Her first impulse on seeing her father had
been to cling to him and pour out her complaints, whereupon
he had declared that he should take her away with him at
once, and had in effect caused her pony to be saddled, and
he had ridden away with her to his old tower, leaving
his brother, the Chevalier, to conduct the attack on the
Huguenot conventicle.

" He had no power or right to remove her," said the Baron.
" How could you let him do so in my absence ? He had made
over her wardship to me, and has no right to resume it !"

" Well, perhaps I might have insisted on his waiting till
your return ; but, you see, the children have never done any-
thing but quarrel and fight, and always by Eustacie's fault ;
and if ever they are to endure each other, it must be by
being separated now."


" Madame," said tlie Baron gravely, " you have done your
utmost to ruin your son's chances of happiness."

That same evening arrived the King's passport permitting
the Baron de Eibaumont and his family to pay a visit to his
wife's friends in England. The next morning the Baron was
summoned to speak to one of his farmers, a Huguenot, who
had come to inform him that, through the network of intelli-
gence kept up by the members of the persecuted faith, it had
become known that the Chevalier de Eibaumont had set
off for court that night, and there was little doubt that his
interference would lead to an immediate revocation of the
sanction to the journey, if to no severer measures. At best,
the Baron knew that if his own absence were permitted, it
would be only on condition of leaving his son in the custody
of either the Queen-mother or the Count. It had become
impossible to reclaim Eustacie. Her father would at once
have pleaded that she was being bred up in Huguenot
errors. All that could be done was to hasten the departure
ere the royal mandate could arrive. A little Norman sail-
ing vessel was moored two evenings after in a lonely creek on
the coast, and into it stepped M. de Eibaumont, with his
Bible, Marot's Psalter, and Calvin's works, Beranger still
tenderly kissing a lock of Follet's mane, and Madame mourn*
ing for the pearls, which her husband deemed too sacred an
heirloom to carry away to a foreign land. Poor little Eustacie,
with her cousin Diane, was in the convent of Bellaise in
Anjou. If any one lamented her absence, it was her father-




" He counsels a divorce."

Shakspeaee, Kimj Henry VIII.

In the spring of the year 1573, a family council was assembled
in Hurst Walwyn Hall. The scene was a wainscoted oriel
chamber closed off" by a screen from the great hall, and fitted
on two sides by presses of books, surmounted the one by a
terrestrial, the other by a celestial globe, the first " with the
addition of the Indies" in very eccentric geography, the
second with enormous stars studding highly grotesque figures,
regarded with great awe by most beholders.

A solid oaken table stood in the midst, laden with
books and papers, and in a corner, near the open hearth, a
carved desk, bearing on one slope the largest copy of the
"Bishops' Bible;" on the other, one of the Prayer-book.
The ornaments of the oaken mantelpiece cidminated in
a shield bearing a cross houtonnee, i.e. with trefoil termi-
nations. It was supported between a merman with a whelk
shell and a mermaid with a comb, and another like Siren
curled her tail on the top of the gaping baronial helmet
above the shield, while two more upheld the main weight of
the chimney-piece on either side of the glowing wood 6re.

In the seat of honour was an old gentleman, white-haired,
and feeble of limb, but with noble features and a keen, acute


eye. This Avas Sir "William, Baron of Hurst Walwyn, a
valiant knight at Guingate and Boulogne, a statesman of
whom Wolsey had been jealous, and a ripe scholar who had
shared the friendship of More and Erasmus. The lady who
sat opposite to him was several years younger, still upright,
brisk and active, though her hair was milk-white ; but her
eyes were of undimmed azure, and her complexion still re-
tained a beauteous pink and white. She was highly edu-
cated, and had been the friend of Margaret Eoper and her
sisters, often sharing their walks in the bright Chelsea
garden. Indeed, the musk-rose in her own favourite nook
at Hurst Walwyn was cherished as the gift of Sir Thomas

Near her sat her sister, Cecily St. John, a professed nun
at Eomsey till her twenty-eighth year, when, in the disper-
sion of convents, her sister's home had received her. There
had she continued, never exposed to tests of opinion, but
pursuing her quiet course according to her Benedictine rule,
faithfully keeping her vows, and following the guidance of
the chaplain, a college friend of Bishop Eidley, and rejoicing
in the use of the vernacular prayers and Scriptures. When
Queen Mary had sent for her to consider of the revival of
convents, her views had been found to have so far diverf^ed
from those of the Queen that Lord Walwyn was thankful
to have her safe at home again ; and yet she fancied herself
firm to old Eomsey doctrine. She was not learned, like Lady
Walwyn, but her knowledge in all needlework and confec-
tioner}' was consummate, so that half the ladies in Dorset and
Wilts longed to send their daughters to be educated at Hurst
Walwyn. Her small figure and soft cheeks had the gentle
contour of a dove's form, nor had she lost the conventual
serenity of expression ; indeed it was curious that, let Lady
Walwyn array her as she would, Avhatever she wore bore a

c 2


nimlike air. Her silken farthingales hung like serge robes,
her ruffs looked like mufflers, her coifs like hoods, even
necklaces seemed rosaries, and her scrupulous neatness
enhanced the pure unearthly air of all belonging to her.

Eager and lively, fair and handsome, sat the Baronne de
Ribaumont, or rather, since the higher title had been laid
aside. Dame Annora This tie wood. The health of M. de
Ribaumont had been shattered at St. Quentin, and an in-
clement night of crossing the Channel had brought on an
attack on the lungs, from which he only rallied enough to
amaze his English friends at finding the gay dissipated young
Frenchman they remembered, infinitely more strict and rigid
than themselves. He was never able to leave the house again
after his first arrival at Hurst Walwyn, and sank under the
cold winds of the next spring, rejoicing to leave his wife
and son, not indeed among such strict Puritans as he pre-
ferred, but at least where the pure faith could be openly
avowed without danger.

Sir Marmaduke Thistlewood, the husband to whom Annora
Walwyn had been destined before M. de Ribaumont had
crossed her path, was about the same time left a widower
with one son and daughter, and as soon as a suitable interval
had passed, she became a far happier wife than she had been
in either the Baron's gay or grave days. Her son had con-
tinued under the roof of his grandfather, to whose charge
his father had specially committed him, and thus had been
scarcely separated from his mother, since Combe Manor was
not above three miles across the downs from Hurst Walwyn,
and there was almost daily intercourse between the families.
Lucy Thistlewood had been brought to Hurst Walwyn to
be something between a maid of honour and a pupil to
the ladies there, and her brother Philip, so soon as he was
old enough, daily rode thither to share with Bevenger the


instructions of the chaplain, Mr. Adderley, who on the
present occasion formed one of the conclave, sitting a little
apart as not quite familiar, though highly esteemed.

With an elbow on the table, and one hand toying with
his long riding- whip, sat, booted and spurred, the jovial
figure of Sir Marmaduke, who called out, in his hearty
voice, "A good riddance of an outlandish Papist, say 1 1
Eead the letter, Berenger lad. 'No, no, no ! English it ! I
know nothing of your mincing French ! 'Tis the worst
fault I know in you, boy, to be half a Frenchman, and have
a French name " — a fault that good Sir Marmaduke did his
best to remedy by always terming his step-son Eerenger or
Berry Eibmount, and we will so far follow his example as
henceforth to give the youth the English form of his
Christian name. He was by this time a tall lad of eighteen,
with straight features, honest deep blue eyes, very fair hair
cut short and brushed up to a crest upon the middle of his
head, a complexion of red and white that all the air of the
downs and the sea failed to embrown, and that peculiar
openness and candour of expression which seems so much
an English birthright, that the only trace of his French
origin was, that he betrayed no unbecoming awkwardness in
the somewhat embarrassing position in which he was placed,
literally standing, according to the respectful discipline of
the time, as the sitbject of discussion, before the circle of his
elders. His colour was, indeed, deepened, but his attitude
was easy and graceful, and he used no stiff rigidity nor rest-
less movements to mask his anxiety. At Sir Marmaduke's
desire, he could not but redden a good deal mpre, but with a
clear, unhesitating voice, he translated the letter that he had
received from the Chevalier de Eibaumont, who, by the
Count's death, had become Eustacie's guardian. It was a
request in the name of Eustacie and her deceased father


that Monsieur le Baron de Eibaumont — who, it was under-
stood, had embraced the English heresy — would concur with
his spouse in demanding from his Holiness the Pope a
decree annulling the childish marriage, which could easily be
declared void, both on account of the consanguinity of the
parties and the discrepancy of their faith ; and which would
leave each of them free to marry again.

" Nothing can be better," exclaimed his mother. "How
I have longed to free him from that little shrew, whose tricks
were the plague of my life ! jSTow there is nothing between
him and a worthy match ! "

" We can make an Englishman of him now to the back-
bone," added Sir Marmaduke, " and it is well that it should
be the lady herself who wants first to be off with it, so that
none can say he has played her a scurvy trick."

"What say you, Berenger?" said Lord Walwyn. "Listen
to me, fair nephew. You know that all my remnant of hope
is fixed upon you, and that I have looked to setting you in
the room of a son of my own ; and I think that under our
good Queen you will find it easier to lead a quiet God-fearing
life than in your father's vexed country, where the Eeformed
religion lies under persecution. Natheless, being a born
liegeman of the King of France, and heir to estates in his
kingdom, meseemeth that before you are come to years of
discretion it were well that you should visit them, and be-
come better able to judge for youself how to deal in this
matter when you shall have attained full age, and may be
able to dispose of them by sale, thus freeing yourself from
allegiance to a foreign prince. And at the same time you
can take measures, in concert with this young lady, for
loosing the wedlock so unhappily contracted."

" sir, sir ! " cried Lady Thistlewood, " send him not to
France to be burnt by the Papists ! "


" Peace, daugliter," returned her mother. " Know you
not that there is friendship between the court party and the
Huguenots, and that the peace is to be sealed by the mar-
riage of the King's sister with the King of Xavarre 1 This is
the most suitable time at which he could go."

" Then, madam," proceeded the lady, " he "will be running
about to all the preachings on every bleak moor and wet
morass he can find, catching his death with rheums, like his
poor father."

There was a general smile, and Sir Marmaduke laughed

" Xay, dame," he said, "have you marked such a greed of
sermons in our Berry that you should fear his so untowardly
running after them ? "

" Tilly- vally. Sir Duke," quoth Dame Annora, with a flirt
of her fan, learnt at the French court. " Men will run after
a preacher in a marshy bog out of pure frowardness, when
they will nod at a godly homily on a well-stuffed bench
between four walls."

"I shall commit that matter to Mr. Adderley, who is good
enough to accompany him," said Lord "VValwyn, " and by
whose counsel I trust that he will steer the middle course
between the Pope and Calvin."

Mr. Adderley bowed in answer, saying he hoped that he
should be enabled to keep his pupd's mind clear between the
allurements of Popery and the errors of the Reformed ; but
meanwhile Lady Thistlewood's mind had taken a leap, and
she exclaimed, —

"And, son, whatever you do, bring home the chaplet of
pearls ! I know they have set their minds upon it. They
wanted me to deck Eustacie with it on that unlucky bridal-
day, but I would not hear of trusting her with it, and now
will it rarely become our Lucy on your real wedding-day."


"You trarel sAviftly, daughter," said Lord Walwyn. "Xor
have "we yet heard the thoughts of one -who ever thinks
■wisely. Sister," he added, turning to Cecily St, John, " hold
not you with us in this matter 1 "

" I scarce comprehend it, my Lord," was the gentle reply.
"I knew not that it was possible to dissolve the tie of

" The Pope's decree will suffice," said Lord "Walwyn.

"Yet, sir," still said the ex-nun, "methought you had
shown me that the Holy Father exceeded his power in the
annulling of vows."

"Using mine own lessons against me, sweet sister?" said
Lord TTalwyn, smiling ; " yet, remember, the contract was
rashly made between two ignorant babes ; and, bred up as
they have severally been, it were surely best for them to
be set free from vows made without their true will or

"And yet," said Cecily, perplexed, "when I saw my niece
here wedded to Sir !Marmaduke, was it not with the words,
' What God hath joined let no man put asunder ?'"

" Good lack ! aunt," cried Lady Thistlewood, " you would
not have that poor lad wedded to a pert, saucy, ill-tempered
little moppet, bred up at that den of iniquity, Queen Cathe-
rine's court, where my poor Baron never trusted me after he
fell in with the religion, and had heard of King Antony's
calling me the Swan of England."

At that moment there was a loud shriek, haK-laugh, half-
fright, coming through the window, and Lady Thistlewood,
starting up, exclaimed, " The child will be drowned ! Box
their ears, Berenger, and bring them in directly."

Berenger, at her bidding, hurried out of the room into the
hall, and thence down a flight of steps leading into a square
walled garden, with a couple of stone male and female marine


divinities accommodating their fishy extremities as best they
might on the comers of the wall. The square contained
a bowling-green of exquisitely-kept turf, that looked as if cut
out of green velvet, and was edged on its four sides by a
raised broad-paved walk, with a trimming of flower-beds,
"where the earliest blossoms were showincc themselves. In the
centre of each side another paved path intersected the green
lawn, and the meeting of these two diameters was at a circular
stone basin, presided over by another merman, blowing a
conch on the top of a pile of rocks. On the gravelled margin
stood two distressed little damsels of seven and six years old,
remonstrating with all their might against the proceedings of
a roguish -looking boy of fourteen or fifteen, who had perched
their junior — a fat, fair, kitten-like element of mischief, aged
about five — en croupe on the merman, and was about, accord-
ing to her delighted request, to make her a bower of water,
by extracting the plug and setting the fountain to play ; but
as the fountain had been still aU the winter, the plug was
hard of extraction, especially to a young gentleman who stood
insecurely, with his feet wide apart upon pointed and slippery
points of rock-work ; and Berenger had time to hurry up,
exclaiming, " Giddy pate ! Dolly would be drenched to the

*' And she has on her best blue, made out of mother's-

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeThe chaplet of pearls; or, The white and black Ribaumont (Volume 1) → online text (page 2 of 23)