Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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

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and nearer, and Philip was infinitely relieved to be free
from all supernatural anxieties, and to have merely to guard
against the wiles of a Popish priest, a being almost as fabu-
lously endowed in his imagination as poor little Berangere's
soul could be in that of the fisherman.

The drenching Atlantic mist had wetted them all to the
skin, and closed round them so like a solid wall, that they
had almost lost sight of each other, and had nothing but the
bell's voices to comfort them, till quite suddenly there was a
light upon the mist, a hazy reddish gleam — a window seemed
close to them. The guide, heartily thanking Our Lady and
St. Julian, knocked at a door, which opened at once into
a warm, bright, superior sort of kitchen, where a neatly
dressed elderly peasant woman exclaimed, " Welcome, poor
souls ! Enter, then. Here, good Father, are some bewil-
dered creatures. Eh ! wrecked are you, good folks, or lost
in the fog 1 "

At the same moment there came from behind the screen
that shut off the fire from the door, a benignant-looking,
hale old man in a cassock, with long white hair on his
shoulders, and a cheerful face, ruddy from sea-wind.

" Welcome, my friends," he said. " Thanks to the saints
who have guided you safely. You are drenched. Come to
the fire at once."

And as they moved on into the full light of the fire and
the rude iron lamp by which he had been reading, and he
saw the draggled plumes and other appurtenances that marked
the two youths as gentlemen, he added, " Are you wrecked,



Messieurs 1 We will do our poor best for your accommo-
dation;" and while both mechanically murmured a word
of thanks, and removed their soaked hats, the good man ex-
claimed, as he beheld Berenger's ashy face, with the sunken
eyes and deep scars, " Monsieur should come to bed at once.
He is aj)parently recovering from a severe wound. This
way, sir ; Jolitte shall make you^some hot tisane."

" Wait, sir," said Berenger, very slowly, and his voice
sounding hollow from exhaustion; " they say that you can
tell me of my child. Let me hear."

" Monsieur's child ! " exclaimed the bewildered curate,
looking from him to Philip, and then to the guide, who
poured out a whole stream of explanation before Philip had
arranged three words of French.

" You hear, sir," said Berenger, as the man finished : " I
came hither to seek my wife, the Lady of Eibaumont,"

" Eh ! " exclaimed the ctir^, " do I then see M. le Marquis
de md-de-Merle 1"

" Ko ! " cried Berenger ; " no, I am not that scelerat! I
am her true husband, the Baron de Eibaumont."

"The Baron de Eibaumont perished at the St. Bartho-
lomew," said the cure, fixing his eyes on him, as though to
confute an impostor.

" Ah, would that I had ! " said Berenger. " I was barely
saved with the life that is but misery now. I came to seek
her — I found what you know. They told me that you
saved the children. Ah, tell me where mine is 1 — all that is
left me."

"A few poor babes I was permitted to rescue, but very
few. But let me understand to whom I speak," he added,

much perplexed. " You, sir "

" I am her husband, married at five years old — contract
renewed last year. It was he whom you call JSTid-de-Merle


who fell on me, and left me for dead. A faithful servant
saved my life, but I have lain sick in England till now,
when her letter to my mother brought me to La Sablerie, to
find — to find this. Oh, sir, have pity on me ! Tell me if
you know anything of her, or if you can give me her
child 1 "

" The orphans I was able to save are — the boys at
nurse here, the girls with the good nuns at Lugon," said the
priest, with infinite pity in his look. " Should you know
it, sir?"

" I would — I should," said Eerenger. " But it is a girl.
Ah, would that it were here ! But you — ^you, sir — you
know more than these fellows. Is there no — no hope of

" Alas ! I fear I can give you none," said the priest ; " but
I will tell all I know ; only I would fain see you eat, rest,
and be dried."

" How can I ? " gasped he, allowing himself, however, to
sink into a chair ; and the priest spoke :

" Perhaps you know, sir, that the poor Lady fled from her
friends, and threw herself upon the Huguenots. All trace
had been lost, when, at a banquet given by the mayor of
Lugon, there appeared some patisseries, which some eccle-
siastics, who had enjoyed the hospitality of Bellaise,
recognised as peculiar to the convent there, where she had
been brought up. They were presented to the mayor by his
friend, BaiLIi la Grasse, who had boasted of the excellent
■confitures of the heretic pastor's daughter that lodged in the
town of La Sablerie. The place was in disgrace for having
afforded shelter and supplies to Montgomery's pirate crews,
.and there were narrations of outrages committed on CathoHcs.
The army were enraged by their fadure before La EocheUe ;
in effect, it was resolved to make an example, when, on M. de


Md-de-Meiie's summons, all knowledge of the Lady was
denied. Is it possible that she was indeed not there ? "

Berenger shook his head. " She was indeed there," he
said, with an irrepressihle groan. " Was there no mercy —
none ? "

" Ask not, sir," said the compassionate priest ; " the flesh
shrinks, though there may be righteous justice. A pillaged
town, when men are enraged, is like a place of devils
unchained. I reached it only after it had been taken by
assault, when all was flame and blood. Ask me no more ; it
would be worse for you to hear, than me to tell," he con-
cluded, shuddering, but laying his hand kindly on Berenger's
arm. " At least it is ended now, and God is more merciful
than men. Many died by the bombs cast into the city, and
she for whom you ask certainly fell not alive into the hands
of those who sought her. Take comfort, sir ; there is One
who watches and takes count of our griefs. Sir," turning to
Philij), " this gentleman is too much spent with sorrow to
bear this cold and damp. Aid me, I entreat, to persuade
him to lie down."

Philip understood the priest's French far better than that
of the peasants, and added persuasions that Berenger was far
too much exhausted and stunned to resist. To spend a
night in a Popish priest's house would once have seemed to
Philip a shocking alternative, yet here he was, heartily
assisting in removing the wet garments in which his brother
had sat only too long, and was heartily relieved to lay him
down in the priest's own bed, even though there was an
image over the head, which, indeed, the boy never saw. He
only saw his brother turn away from the light with a low,
heavy moan, as if he would fain be left alone with his
sorrow and his crushed hopes.

Nothing could be kinder than Dom Colombeau, the priest


of Mssard. He saw to tlio whole of his guests heiBg put
into some sort of dry habiliments before they sat round his
table to eat of the savoury mess in the great x>ot-au-feu,
which had, since their arrival, received additional ingredient«,
and moreover sundry villagers had crept into the house.
Whenever the good Father supped at home, any of his flock
were welcome to drop in to enjoy his hospitality. After a
cup of hot cider round, they carried off the fisherman to
lodge in one of their cottages. Shake-downs were found for
the others, and Philip, wondering what was to become of
the good host himself, gathered that he meant to spend such
part of the night on the kitchen floor as he did not pass in
prayer in the church for the poor young gentleman, who was
in such affliction. Philip was not certain whether to resent
this as an impertinence or an attack on their Protestant
principles ; but he was not sure, either that the priest was
aware what was their religion, and was still less certain of
his own comprehension of these pious intentions : he decided
that, any way, it was better not to make a fool of himself.
Still, the notion of the mischievousness of priests was so
rooted in his head, that he consulted Humfrey on the expe-
dience of keeping watch all night, but was sagaciously
answered that " these French rogues don't do any hurt
unless they be brought up to it, and the place was as safe as
old Hurst."

In fact, Philip's vigilance would have been strongly against
nature. He never awoke till full daylight and morning sun
were streaming through the vine-leaves round the window,
and then, to his dismay, he saw that Berenger had left
his bed, and was gone. Suspicions of foul play coming over
him in full force as he gazed round on much that he con-
sidered as " Popish furniture," he threw on his clothes, and
hastened to open the door, when, to his great relief, he saw


Berenger hastily writing at a table under the window, and
Smithers standing by waiting for the billet.

" I am sending Smithers on board, to ask Hobbs to bring
our cloak bags," said Berenger, as his brother entered. " "We
must go on to Lu^on."

He spoke briefly and decidedly, and Philip was satisfied
to see him quite calm and collected — white indeed, and with
the old haggard look, and the great scar very purple instead
of red, which was always a bad sign with him. He was not
disposed to answer questions ; he shortly said, " He had
slept not less than usual," which Philip knew meant very
little ; and he had evidently made up his mind, and was
resolved not to let himself give way. H his beacon of hope
had been so suddenly, frightfully quenched, he still was kept
from utter darkness by straining his eyes and forcing his
steps to follow the tiny, flickering spark that remained.

The priest was at his morning mass ; and so soon as
Berenger had given his note to Smithers, and sent him off
with a fisherman to the Throstle, he took up his hat, and
went out upon the beach, that lay glistening in the morning
sun, then turned straight towards the tall spire of the
church, which had been their last night's guide. Philip
caught his cloak.

" You are never going there, Berenger ? "

" Vex me not now," was all the reply he got. " There
the dead and Hving meet together."

"But, brother, they will take you for one of their own

"Let them."

Philip was right that it was neither a prudent nor con-
sistent proceeding, but Berenger had little power of reflection,
and his impulse at present bore him into the church belonging
to his native faith and land, without any defined feeling, save


tliat it was peace to kneel there among the scattered wor-
shippers, who came and went with their fish-baskets in their
hands, and to hear the low chant of the priest and his
assistant from within the screen.

Philip meantime marched up and down outside in much
annoyance, until the priest and his brother came out, when
the first thing he heard the good Colombeau say was, "I
would have called upon you before, my son, but that I feared
you were a Huguenot."

"lam an English Protestant," said Berenger j "but,
ah ! sir, I needed comfort too much to stay away from

Pere Colombeau looked at him in perplexity, thinking
perhaps that here might be a promising convert, if there were
only time to work on him ; but Berenger quitted the subject
at once, asking the distance to LuQon.

"A full day's journey," answered Pere Colombeau, and
added, "I am sorry you are indeed a Huguenot. It was
what I feared last night, but I feared to add to your grief.
The nuns are not permitted to deliver up children to Hugue-
not relations."

"I am her father !" exclaimed Berenger, indignantly.

" That goes for nothing, according to the rules of the
Church," said the priest. " The Church cannot yield her
children to heresy."

" But we in England are not Calvinists," cried Berenger.
" We are not like your Huguenots."

"The Church would make no difference," said the priest.
" Stay, sir," as Berenger struck his own forehead, and was
about to utter a fierce invective. " Eemember that if your
child lives, it is owing to the pity of the good nuns. You
seem not far from the bosom of the Church. Did you but
jeturn "


"It is vain to speak of that," said Berenger, quickly.
" Say, sir, would an order from the King avail to open
these doors V

" Of course it would, if you have the influence to obtain

" I have, I have," cried Berenger, eagerly. " The King
has been my good friend already. Moreover, my English
grandfather will deal with the Queen. The heiress of our
house cannot be left in a foreign nunnery. Say, sir," he
added, turning to the priest, " if I went to Lugon at once,
would they answer me and let me see my child 1 "

The priest considered a moment, and answered, " 'No, sir, I
think not. The Prioress is a holy woman, very strict, and
with a horror of heretics. She came from the convent of
Bellaise, and would therefore at once know your name, and
refuse all dealings with you."

" She could not do so, if I brought an order from the

" Certainly not."

"Then to Paris!" And laying his hand on Philip's
shoulder, he asked the boy whether he had understood, and
explained that he must go at once to Paris — riding post — and
obtain the order from the King.

"To Paris — to be murdered again!" said Philip, in

"They do not spend their time there in murder," said
Berenger. " And now is the time, while the savage villain
INarcisse is with his master in Poland. I cannot but go,
Philip ; we both waste words. You shall take home a letter
to my Lord."

" I — I go not home without you," said Philip, doggedly.

" I cannot take you, Phil ; I have no warrant."

"I have warrant for going, though. My father said he


•was easier about you with me at your side. Where you go,
I go."

The brothers understood each other's ways so well, that
Eerenger knew the intonation in Philip's voice that meant
that nothing should make him give way. He persuaded no
more, only took measures for the journey, in which the kind
priest gave him friendly advice. There was no doubt that
the good man pitied him sincerely, and wished him success
more than perhaps he strictly ought to have done, unless as a
possible convert. Of money for the journey there was no
lack, for Eerenger had brought a considerable sum, intending
to reward all who had befriended Eustacie, as well as to fit
her out for the voyage ; and this, perhaps, with his papers,
he had brought ashore to facilitate his entrance into La
Sablerie, — that entrance which, alas ! he had found only too
easy. He had therefore only to obtain horses and a guide,
and this could be done at La Motte-Achard, where the party
could easily be guided on foot, or conveyed in a boat if the
fog should not set in again, but all the coast-line of ISTissard
was dangerous in autumn and winter ; nay, even this very
August an old man, with his daughter, her infant, and a
donkey, had been found bewildered between the creeks
on a sandbank, where they stood still and patient, like a
picture of the Flight into Egypt, when an old fisherman
found them, and brought them to the beneficent shelter of
the Presbytere.

Stories of this kind were told at the meal that was some-
thing partaking of the nature of both breakfast and early
dinner, but where Eerenger ate little and spoke less. Philip
watched him anxiously; the boy thought the journey a
perilous experiment every way, but, boyishly, was resolved
neither to own his fears of it nor to leave his brother. Ex-
ternal perils he was -quite ready to face, and he fancied that


Ms EBglish "birth would give him some power of protecting
Berenger, but he was more reasonably in dread of the present
shock bringing on such an illness as the last relapse ; and if
Berenger lost his senses again, what should they do 1 He
even ventured to hint at this danger, but Berenger answered,
^'That will scarce happen again. My head is stronger now.
Besides, it was doing nothing, and hearing her truth profaned,
that crazed me. No one at least will do that again. But if
you wish to drive me frantic again, the way would be to let
Hobbs carry me home without seeking her child."

Philip bore this in mind when, with flood-tide. Master
Hobbs landed, and showed himself utterly dismayed at the
turn affairs had taken. He saw the needlessness of going to
Lugon without royal authority ; indeed, he thought it possible
that the very application there might give the alarm, and
cause all tokens of the child's identity to be destroyed, in
order to save her from her heretic relations. But he did not
at all approve of the young gentlemen going off to Paris at
once. It was against his orders. He felt bound to take
them home as he had brought them, and they might then
make a fresh start if it so pleased them ; but how could he
return to my Lord and Sir Duke without them ? " Mr.
Eibaumont might be right — it was not for him to say a
father ought not to look after his child — yet he was but a
-stripling himself, and my Lord had said, ' Master Hobbs, I
trust him to you.'" He would clearly have liked to have
called in a boat's crew, mastered the young gentlemen, and
carried them on board as captives; but as this was out of his
power, he was obliged to yield the point. He disconsolately
accepted the letters in which Berenger had explained all, and
in which he promised to go at once to Sir Francis Walsing-
ham's at Paris, to run into no needless danger, and to watch
carefully over Philip; and craved pardon, in a respectful but


yet manly and determined tone, for placing his duty to his
lost, deserted child above his submission to his grandfather.
Then engaging to look out for a signal on the coast if he
should sail to Bordeaux in January, to touch and take the
passengers off. Captain Hobbs took leave, and the brothers
■were left to their own resources.







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