Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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

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populace to commit.


He found the palace 'become shambles — the King himself,
wrought up to frenzy, firing on the fugitives. And the next
day, while his brain still seemed frozen with horror, he was
called on to join in the procession of thanksgiving for the
King's deliverauce from a dangerous plot. Surely, if the
plot were genuine, he thought, the procession should have
savoured of penance and humiliation rather than of barbarous
exultation ! Yet these might be only the individual crimes
of the Queen-mother, and of the Guises seeking to mask
themselves under the semblance of zeal j and the infallible
head of the visible Church would disown the slaughter, and
cast it from the Church with loathing as a blood-stained
garment. Behold, Eome was full of rejoicing, and sent
sanction and commendation of the pious zeal of the King !.
Had the voice of Holy Church become indeed as the voice of
a bloodhound 1 Was this indeed her call ?

The young man, whose life from infancy had been marked
out for the service of the Church — so destined by his parents
as securing a wealthy provision for a younger son, but
educated by his good tutor with more real sense of his obliga-
tions — felt the question in its full import. He was under no
vows ; he had, indeed, received the tonsure, but was other-
wise unpledged, and he was bent on proving all things. The
gaieties in which he had at first mingled had become abhor-
rent to him, and he studied with the earnestness of a newly-
awakened mind in search of true light. The very fact of
study and inquiry, in one of such a family as that of his
brother the Duke de Mericour, was enough to excite suspicion
of Huguenot inclinations. The elder brother tried to quash
the folly of the younger, by insisting on his sharing the
debaucheries which, whether as priest or monk, or simply as
Christian man, it would be his duty to abjure ; and at length,
by way of bringing things to a test, insisted on his making


one of a party who were about to break up and destroy a
Huguenot assembly. Unable, in his present mood, to endure
the thought of further cruelty, the young Abbe fled, gave
secret warning to the endangered congregation, and hastened
to the old castle in Brittany, where he had been brought up,
to pour out his perplexities, and seek the counsel of the good
old chaplain who had educated him. Whether the kind,
learned, simple-hearted tutor could have settled his mind, he
had no time to discover, for he had scarcely unfolded his
troubles before warnings came down that he had better secure
himself — his brother, as head of the family, had obtained
the royal assent to the imprisonment of the rebellious junior,
so as to bring him to a better mind, and cure him of the
Huguenot inclinations, which in the poor lad were simply
undeveloped. But in all Catholic eyes, he was a tainted
man, and his almost inevitable course was to take refuge with
some Huguenot relations. There he was eagerly welcomed ;
instruction was poured in on him ; but as he showed a
disposition to inquire and examine, and needed time to look
into what they taught him, as one who feared to break his
link with the Church, and still longed to find her blameless
and glorious, the righteous nation that keepeth the truth,
they turned on him and regarded him as a traitor and a spy,
who had come among them on false pretences.

All the poor lad wanted was time to think, time to examine^
time to, consult authorities, living and dead. The Catholics
called this treason to the Church, the Huguenots called it
halting between two opinions ; and between them he was a
proscribed, distrusted vagabond, branded on one side as a
recreant, and on the other as a traitor. He had asked for a
few months of quiet, and where could they be had 1 His
grandmother had been the daughter of a Scottish nobleman
in the French service, and he had once seen a nephew of hers


■\vho had come to Paris during tlie time of Queen Mary's
residence tliere. He imagined that if lie were once out of
this distracted land of France, he might find respite for study,
for which he longed ; and utterly ignorant of the real state
of Scotland, he had determined to make his way to his
kindred there ; and he had struggled on the way to La Eo-
chelle, cheated out of the small remains of his money, selling
his last jewels and all the clotliing that was not indispen-
sahle, and becoming so utterly unable to pay his passage to
England, that he could only trust to Providence to find him
some means of reaching his present goal.

He had been listened to with kindness, and a sympathy
such as M. Garden's large mind enabled him to bestow, where
his brethren had been incapable of comprehending that a man
could sincerely doubt between them and Eome. When the
history was finished, Eustacie exclaimed, turning to Maitre
Gardon, " Ah ! sir, is not this just what we sought ? If
this gentleman would but convey a letter to my mother-in-
law "

M. Gardon smiled. "Scotland and England are by no
means the same place, Lady," he said.

" Whatever this Lady would command, wherever she would
send me, I am at her service," cried the Abbe, fervently.

And, after a little further debate, it was decided that it
might really be the best course, for him as well as for
Madame de Eibaumont, to become the bearer of a letter
and token from her, entreating her mother-in-law to
notify her pleasure whether she should bring her child to
England. She had means enough to advance a sufficient
sum to pay Mericour's joassage, and he accepted it most
punctiliously as a loan, intending, so soon as her despatches
were ready, to go on to La Eochelle, and make inquiry for a

THE whitp: and black eibaumont. 267

Chance, however, seemed unusually iiropitious, for the-
next day there was an apparition in the streets of La Sableric
of four or five weather-beaten, rollicking-looking men, their
dress profusely adorned Avith ribbons, and their language full
of strange oaths. They were well known at La Sablerie as
sailors belonging to a ship of the fleet of the Count de Mont-
gomery, the unfortunate knight whose lance had caused the
death of King Henry II., and who, proscribed by the mortal
hatred of Catherine de Medici, had become the admiral of a
piratical fleet in the Calvinist interest, so far winked at by
Queen Elizabeth that it had its head-quarters in the Channel
Islands, and thence was a most formidable foe to merchant
vessels on the northern and eastern coasts of France; and
often indulged in descents on the coast, when the sailors
— being in general the scum of the nation — were apt to com-
port themselves more like American buccaneers than like
champions of any form of religion.

La Sablerie was a Huguenot town, so they used no violence,
but only swaggered about, demanding from Bailli La Grasse,
in the name of their gallant Captain Latouche, contributions
and provisions, and giving him to understand that if he did
not comply to the uttermost it should be the worse for him.
Their shijD, it appeared, had been forced to put into the har-
bour, about two miles off, and Maitre Gardon and the young
Abbe decided on walking thither to see it, and to have an
interview with the captain, so as to secure a passage for
Mericour at least. Indeed, Maitre Gardon had, in consulta-
tion with Eustacie, resolved, if he found things suitable, to
arrange for their all going together. She would be far safer
out of France ; and, although the Abbe alone could not have
escorted her, yet Maitre Gardon would gladly have secured
for her the additional jDrotection of a young, strong, and
spirited man ; and Eustacie, who was no scribe, was abso-


]utely relieved to have the voyage set before her as an
alternative to the dreadful operation of composuig a letter
to the belle-mere, whom she had not seen since she had been
seven years old, and of whose present English name she had
the most indistinct ideas.

However, the first sight of the ship overthrew all such,
ideas. It was a wretched single-decked vessel, carrying far
more sail than experienced nautical eyes would have deemed
safe, and with no accommodation fit for a woman and child,
even had the aspect of captain or crew been more satisfactory
— for the ruffianly appearance and language of the former
fully rivalled that of his sailors. It would have been mere
madness to think of trusting the Lady in such hands j and,
without a word to each other, Gardon and Mericour resolved
to give no hint even that she and her jewels were in La
Sablerie. Mericour, however, made his bargain with the
captain, who undertook to transport him as far as Guernsey,
whence he might easily make his way to Dorsetshire, where
M. Gardon knew that Berenger's English home had been.

So Eustacie, with no small trouble and consideration^
indited her letter — telling of her escape, the birth of her
daughter, the dangers that threatened her child — and begging
that its grandmother would give it a safe home in England,
and love it for the sake of its father. An answer would
find her at the Widow I^oemi Laurent's, Kue des Trois
F^es, La Sablerie. She could not bring herself to speak of
the name of Esperance Gardon which had been saddled
upon her; and even M. de Mericour remained in ignorance
of her bearing this disguise. She recommended him to the
kindness of her mother-in-law; and M. Gardon added
another letter to the Lady, on behalf of the charge to whom
he promised to devote himself until he should see them safe
in friendly hands. Both letters were addressed, as best they


might be, between Eustacie's dim compreliension of tlie
word Tliistlevvood, and M, Gardon's notion of spelling.
"Jadis, Baronne de Eibaumont" was the securest part of
the direction.

And for a token, Eustacie looked over her jewels to find
one that would serve for a token ; but the only ones she
knew would be recognised, were the brooch that had fastened
the plume in Berenger's bloody cap, and the chaplet of
pearls. To part with the first, or to risk the second in the
pirate-ship, was impossible, but Eustacie at last decided upon
detaching the pear-shaped pearl which was nearest the clasp,
and which was so remarkable in form and tint that there
was no doubt of its being well known.



" illstress Jean was making tlie eMer-flower wine —
' ^nd wliat brings the Laird at sic a lite time ? ' "

Lady Xatrx, Tlic Laird of Cockpcn.

SoEMEE was nearly ended, and Lucy Thistle wood was pre-
siding in the great Mtchen of the ^anor-honse, standing
under tlie latticed window near the large oak-table, a white
apron over her dress, presiding over the collecting of elder-
berries for the brew of household-wine for the winter. The
maids stood round her with an array of beechen bowls or
red and yellow crocks, while barefooted, bareheaded children
came thronging in with rush or wicker baskets of the
crimson fruit, which the maids poured in sanguine cascades
into their earthenware ; and Lucy requited with substantial
slices of bread and cheese, and stout homely garments
mostly of her own sewing.

Lucy was altogether an inmate of her father's house. She
had not even been at Hurst TValwyn for many months ; for
her stepmother's reiterated hopes that Berenger would make
her his consolation for aU he had suffered from his French
spouse rendered it impossible to her to meet him with
sisterly unconsciousness; and she therefore kept out of the
way, and made herseK so useful at home, that Dame Annora
only wondered how it had been possible to spare her so long.


and always woimd up iter praises by saying, that Berenger
would learn in time how lucky he had been to lose the
French puppet, and win the good English housewife.

If only tidings would have come that the puppet was safe
married. That was the crisis which all the family desired
yet feared for Berenger, since nothing else they saw would so
detach his thoughts from the past as to leave him free to
begin life again. The relapse brought on by the cruel reply
to Osberfs message had been very formidable : he was long
insensible or delirious, and then came a state of annihilated
thought, then of frightfully sensitive organs, when light,
sound, movement, or scent were alike agony ; and when he
slowly revived, it was with such sunken spirits, that his
silence was as much from depression as from difficulty of
speech. His braiu was weak, his limbs feeble, the wound
in his mouth never painless ; and all this necessarily added
to his listless indiiference and weariness, as thoucrh all
youthftd hope and pleasure were extinct in h^m. He had
ceased to refer to the past. Perhaps he had tbought it over,
and seen that the deferred escape, the request for the pearls,
the tryst at the palace, and the detention from the king's
chamber, made an uglier case against Eustacie than he could
endure to own even to himself If his heart trusted, his
mind could not argue out her defence, and his tongue would
not serve him for discussion with, his grand&ther, the only
person who could act for him. Perhaps the stunned condi-
tion of his mind made the suspense just within the bounds
of endurance, while trust in his wife's innocence rendered
his inability to come to her aid weU-nigh intolerable; and
doubt of her seemed both profanity and misery unspeakable.
He could do nothing. He had shot his only shaft by
sending Landry Osbert, and had found that to endeavour to
induce his grandfather to use further measures was worse-


than useless, and was treated as mere infatuation. He knew
that all he had to do was to endeavour for what patience he
could win from Cecily's sweet influence and guidance, and to
wait till either certainty should come — that dreadful, mise-
rable certainty that all looked for, and his very helplessness
might be bringing about — or till he should regain strength
to be again effective.

And miserably slow work was this recovery. IN'o one had
surgical skill to deal with so severe a wound as that which
Narcisse had inflicted ; and the daily pain and inconvenience
it caused led to innumerable drawbacks that often — even
after he had come as far as the garden — brought him back to
his bed in a dark room, to blood-letting, and to speech-
lessness. No one knew much of his mind — Cecily perhaps
the most ; and next to her, Philip — who, from the time he
had been admitted to his step-brother's presence, had been
most assiduous in tending him — seemed to understand his
least sign, and to lay aside aU his boisterous roughness in his
eager desire to do him service. The lads had loved each
other from the moment they had met as children, but never
so apparently as now, when all the rude horse-play of
healthy youths was over — and one was dependent, the other
considerate. And if Berenger had made no one else believe
in Eustacie, he had taught Philip to view her as the
" Queen's men " viewed Mary of Scotland. Philip had told
Lucy the rough but wholesome truth, that " Mother talks
mere folly. Eustacie is no more to be spoken of with you
than a pheasant with old brown Partlet ; and Berry waits
but to be well to bring her off from all her foes. And I'll
go with him."

It was on Philip's arm that Berenger first crept round the
bowling-green, and with Philip at his rein that he first
endured to ride along the avenue on Lord Walwyn's smooth-


paced palfrey; and it was Philip who interrupted Lucy's
household cares by rushing in and shouting, " Sister, here !
I have wiled him to ride over the down, and he is sitting
under the Avalnut-tree quite spent, and the three little
wenches are standing in a row, weeping like so many little
mermaids. Come, I say ! "

Lucy at once followed him through the house, through the
deep porch to the court, which was shaded by a noble
walnut-tree, where Sir Marmaduke loved to sit among his
dogs. There now sat Berenger, resting against the trunk,
overcome by the heat and exertion of his. ride. His cloak
and hat lay on the ground; the dogs fawned round him,
eager for the wonted caress, and his three little sisters stood
a little aloof, clinging to one another and crying piteously.

It was their first sight of him ; and it seemed to them as
if he were behind a frightful mask. Even Lucy was not
without a sensation of the kind, of this effect in the change
from the girlish, rosy complexion to extreme paleness, on
which was visible, in ghastly red and purple, the great scar
left by Karcisse, from the temple on the one side to the ear
on the other.

The far more serious wound on the cheek was covered
with a black patch, and the hair had almost entirely dis-
appeared from the head, only a few light brown locks still
hanging round the neck and temples, so that the bald brow
gave a strange look of age ; and the disfigurement was
terrible, enhanced as it was by the wasting effect of nearly a
year of sickness. Lucy was so much shocked, that she could
hardly steady her voice to chide the children for not giving
a better welcome to their brother. They would have clung
round her, but she shook them off, and sent Annora in
haste for her mother's fan; while Philip arriving with a
slice of diet-bread and a cup of sack, the one fanned him,



and the other fed him with morsels of the cake soaked in
the wine, till he revived, looked up with eyes that were
unchanged, and thanked them with a few faltering words,
scarcely intelligible to Lucy. The little girls came nearer,
and curiously regarded him ; but when he held out his hand
to his favourite Dolly, she shrank back in reluctance.

" Do not chide her," he said wearily. " May she never
become used to such marks !"

""What, would you have her live among cowards?" ex-
claimed Philip ; but Berenger, instead of answering, looked
up at the front of the house, one of those fine Tudor facades
that seem all carved timber and glass lattice, and asked, so
abruptly that Lucy doubted whether she heard him aright, —
" How many windows are there in this front 1"

*' I never counted," said Philip.

" I have," said Annora ; " there are seven and thirty,
besides the two little ones in the porch.'*

" K'one shall make them afraid," he muttered. " "Who
would dare build such a defenceless house over yonder 1 " —
pointing south.

" Our hearts are guards enow," said Philip, proudly.
Berenger half smiled, as he was wont to do when he meant
more than he could conveniently utter, and presently he
asked, in the same languid, musing tone, " Lucy, were you
ever really affrighted V

Lucy questioned whether he could be really in his right
mind, as if the bewilderment of his brain was again return-
ing ; and while she paused, Annora exclaimed, " Yes, when
we were gathering cowslips, and the brindled cow ran at us,
and Lucy could not run because she had Dolly in her arms.
Oh ! we were frightened then, till you came, brother."

" Yes," added Bessie ; " and last winter too, when the owl
shrieked at the window "


" And," added Lerenger, *' sister, what was your greatest
time of revelry 1 "

Annora again put in her word. "I know, brother; you
remember the fair-day, when my Lady Grandame was angered
because you and Lucy went on dancing when we and all the
gentry had ceased. And when Lucy said she had not seen
that you were left alone. Aunt Cecily said it was because the
eyes of discretion were lacking." ,

" Oh, the Christmas feast was far grander," said Bessie.
" Then Lucy had her first satin farthingale, and three gallants,
besides my brother, wanted to dance with her."

Blushing deeply, Lucy tried to hush the little ones, much
perplexed by the questions, and confused by the answers.
Could he be contrasting the life where a vicious cow had
been the most alarming object, a greensward dance -with a
step-brother the greatest gaiety, the dye of the elder juice the
deepest stain, with the temptations and perils that had beset
one equally young ? Resting his head on his hand, his
elbow on his knee, he seemed to be musing in a reverie that
he could hardly brook, as his young brow was knitted by
care and despondency.

Suddenly, the sounds in the village rose from the quiet
sleepy summer hum into a fierce yell of derisive vituperation,
causing Philip at once to leap up, and run across the court
to the entrance-gate, while Lucy called after him some vain
sisterly warning against mingling in a fray.

It seemed as if his interposition had a good effect, for the
uproar lulled almost as soon as he had hurried to the scene
of action ; and presently he reappeared, eager and breathless.
" I told them to bring him up here," he said ; " they would
have flogged him at the cart's-tail, the rogues, just because my
father is out of the way. I could not make out his jargon, but
you can, brother ; and make that rascal Spinks let him go."



" "What slaould I have to do with it ? " said Berenger,
shrinking from the sudden exposure of his scarred face and
maimed speech. " I am no magistrate."

" But you can understand him ; he is French, the poor
rogue — yes, French, I tell you ! He shrieked out piteously
to me something about a letter, and wanting to ask his way.
Ah ! I thought that would touch you, and it will cost you
little pains," added Philip, as Berenger snatched up his
hroad Spanish hat, and slouching it over his face, rose, and,
leaning upon Annora's shoulder, stepped forward, just as the
big burly blacksmith-constable and small shrivelled cobbler
advanced, dragging along, by a cord round the wrists, a
slight figure with a red woollen sailor's shirt, ragged black
hosen, bare head, and almost bare feet.

Doffing their caps, the men began an awkward salutation
to the young Lord on his recovery, but he only touched his
beaver in return, and demanded, " How now ! what have
you bound him for ?"

"You see, my Lord," began the constable, "there have
been a sort of vagrants of late, and I'll be bound 'twas no
four-legged fox as took Gaffer Shepherd's lamb."

The peroration was broken off, for with a start as if he
had been shot, Berenger cried aloud, " Mericour ! the
Abb^ !"

" Ah, Monsieur, if you know me," cried the young man^
raising his head, " free me from this shame — aid me in my
mission ! "

" Loose him, fellows," shouted Berenger ; " Philip, a
knife — Lucy, those scissors."

"'Tis my duty, my Lord," said Spinks gruffly. "AH
vagabonds to be apprehended and flogged at the cart's-tail,
by her Grace's special commands. How is it to be answered
to his Honour, Sir Marmaduke ? "


" Oaf !" cried Philip, " you durst not liave used such
violence had my father been at home ! Don't you see my
brother knows him?"

"With hands trembling with haste, Berenger had seized
the scissors that, house-wife like, hung at Lucy's waist, and
was cutting the rope, exclaiming in French, " Pardon, pardon,
friend, for so shameful a reception."

" Sir," was the reply, without a sign of recognition, " if,
indeed, you know my name, I entreat you to direct me to
the chateau of Le Sieur Tistefote, whose lady was once
Baronne de Eibaumont."

" ]\Iy mother ! Ah, my friend, my friend ! what would
you 1 " he cried in a tone of tremulous hope and fear, laying
one hand on Mericour's shoulder, and about to embrace him.

Mericour retreated from the embrace with surprise and
almost horror. " Is it indeed you, M. le Baron ? But no,
my message is to no such person."

"A message — from her — speak!" gasjDed Berenger, start-
ing forward as though to rend it from him ; but the high-
spirited young man crossed his arms on his breast, and
gazing at the group with indignant scorn, made answer,
" My message is from her who deems herseK a widow, to
the mother of the husband whom she little imagines to be
not only alive, but consoled."

"Faithful! faithful!" burst out Berenger, with a wild,
exultant, strangely-ringing shout. " Woe, woe to those who
would have had me doubt her ! PhiHp — Lucy — hear ! Her
truth is clear to all the world ! " Then changing back again
to French, " Ten thousand blessings on you, Mericour ! You
have seen her ! Where — how 1 "

Mericour still spoke with frigid politeness. " I had the
honour to part with Madame la Baronne de Eibaumont in
the town of La Sablerie, among humble. Huguenot guardians,

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeThe chaplet of pearls; or, The white and black Ribaumont (Volume 1) → online text (page 20 of 23)