Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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

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We expected your coming. Welcome, mine old friend's

And as Eerenger bent low in reverent greeting, Sir Francis
took his hand and kissed his brow, saying, " Come in, my
young friend ; we are but sitting over our wine and comfits
after dinner. Have you dined ? "

Eerenger explained that he had dined at the inn, where he
had taken lodgings.

" Nay, but that must not be. My Lord Walwyn's grand-
son here, and not my guest ! You do me wrong, sir, in not
having ridden hither at once."

" Truly, my Lord, I ventured not. They sent me forth
with quite a company — my tutor and six grooms."

" Our chaplain will gladly welcome his reverend brother,"
said Sir Erancis ; " and as to the grooms, one of my fellows
shall go and bring them and their horses up. What ! "
rather gravely, as Eerenger still hesitated. " I have letters
for you here, which methinks will make your grandfether's
wish clear to you."

Eerenger saw the Ambassador was displeased with his


reluctance, and answered quickly, " In sooth, my Lord, I
"would esteem myself only too happy to be thus honoured,
but in sooth " he repeated himself, and faltered.

" In sooth, you expected more freedom tlian in my grave
house," said Walsingham, displeased.

"Not so, my Lord : it would be all that I could desire;
but I have done hastily. A kinsman of mine has come up
to Paris with, me, and I have made him my guest. I know
not how to break with him — the Chevalier de Eibaumont."

" What, the young ruffler in Monsieur's suite 1 "

" 'No, my Lord ; his father. He comes on my business.
He is an old man, and can ill bear the cost, and I could
scarce throw him over."

Berenger spoke with, such earnest, bright, open simplicity,
and look so boyish and confiding, that Sir Francis's heart
was won, and he smiled as he said, " Eight, lad, you are a
considerate youth. It were not well to cast oif your kins-
man ; but when you have read your letters, you may well
plead 3'our grandfather's desires, to say nothing of a hint
from her Grace to have an eye to you. And for the rest,
you can acquit yourself gracefully to the gentleman, by
asking him to occupy the lodging that you had taken."

Eerenger's face brightened up in a manner that spoke for
his sincerity ; and Sir Francis added, " And where be these
lodgings 1 "

" At the Croix de Lorraine."

" Ha ! your kinsman has taken you into a nest of Guisards.
But come, let me present you to my wife and my other
guests, then will I give you your letters, and you shall
return and make your excuses to Monsieur le Chevalier,"

Berenger seemed to himself to be on familiar ground again
as his host thus assumed the direction of him and ushered
him into a large dining-hall, where the table had been


forsaken in favour of a lesser table jtlaced in the ample
window, round which sat assembled some six or eight
persons, with fruit, wine, and conserves before them, a few
little dogs at their feet or on their laps, and a lute lying on
the knee of one of the young gentlemen. Sir Francis pre-
sented the young Lord de Ribaumont, their expected guest,
to Lady Walsingham, from Avhom he received a cordial
welcome, and her two young daughters, Frances and Eliza-
beth, and likewise to the gentleman with the lute, a youth
about a year older than Berenger, and of very striking and
prepossessing countenance, who was named as Mr. Sidney,
the son of the Lord Deputy of Ireland. A couple of gentle-
men who Avould in these times have been termed attacMs^
a couple of lady attendants upon Lady Walsingham, and the
chaplain made up the party, which on this day chanced only
to include, besides the household, the young traveller,
Sidney. Berenger was at once seated, and accepted a
welcoming-cup of wine {i.e. a long slender glass "with a
beautifully twisted stem), responded to friendly inquiries
about his relatives at home, and acknowledged the healths
that were drunk in honour of their names ; after which
Lady Walsingham begged that Mr. Sidney would sing the
madrigal he had before promised : afterwards a glee was
sung by Sidney, one of the gentlemen, and the two sisters ;
and it was discovered that M. de Eibaumont had a trained
ear, and the very voice that was wanting to the Italian song
they were practising. And so sped a happy hour, till a
booted and spurred messenger came in with letters for his
Excellency, who being thus roused from his dreamy enjoy-
ment of the m\isic, carried young Eibaumont off with him
to his cabinet, and there made over to him a packet, with
good news from home, and orders that made it clear that he
could do no other than accept the hospitality of the Embassy.


Thus armed with authority, he returned to the Croix de
Lorraine, where Mr. Adderley could not contain his joy at
the change to quarters not only so much more congenial,
but so much safer; and the Chevalier, after some polite
demur, consented to remain in possession of the rooms, being
in fact well satisfied with the arrangement.

"Let him steep himself up to the lips among the
English," said Tithonus to his son. '* Thus will he peace-
ably relinquish to you all that should have been yours from
the first, and at court will only be looked on as an overgrown
English page."

The change to the Ambassador's made Berenger happy at
once. He was not French enough in breeding, or even
constitution, to feel the society of the Croix de Lorraine
congenial ; and, kind as the Chevalier showed himself, it
was with a wonderful sense of relief that Berenger shook
himself free from both his fawning and his patronising.
There was a constant sense of not understanding the old
gentleman's aims, whereas in Walsingham's house all was as
clear, easy, and open as at home.

And though Berenger had been educated in the country,
it had been in the same tone as that of his new friends. He
was greatly approved by Sir Erancis as a stripling of parts
and modesty. Mr. Sidney made him a companion, and the
two young ladies treated him as neither lout nor lubber.
Yet he could not be at ease in his state between curiosity
and repulsion towards the wdfe who was to be discarded by
mutual consent. The sight of the scenes of his early child-
hood had stirred up warmer recollections of the pretty little
playful torment whom through the vista of years assumed
the air of a tricksy elf rather than the little vixen he used
to think her. His curiosity had been further stimulated by
the sight of his rival, Narcisse, whose effeminate ornaments.


small stature, and seat on horseback filled Sir Marmaduke's
pupil with inquisitive disdain as to the ■woman who could
prefer anything so unmanly.

Sidney was to be presented at the after-dinner reception
a.t the Louvre the next day, and Sir Francis proposed to
take young Ribaumont with him. Berenger coloured, and
spoke of his equipment, and Sidney good-naturedly offered
to come and inspect. That young gentleman was one of the
■daintiest in apparel of his day ; but he was amazed that the
suit in which Berenger had paid his devoir to Queen
Elizabeth should have been set aside — it was of pearl-grey
velvet, slashed with rose-coloured satin, and in shape and
fashion point-device — unless, as the Ambassador said good-
humouredly, " my young Lord Eibaumont wished to be one
of Monsieur's clique." Thus arrayed, then, and with the
chaplet of pearls bound round the small cap, with a heron-
plume that sat jauntily on one side of his fair curled head,
Berenger took his seat beside the hazel-eyed, brown-haired
■Sidney, in his white satin and crimson, and with the
Ambassador and his attendants were rolled off in the great
state-coach drawn by eight horses, which had no sinecure
in dragging the ponderous machine through the unsavoury
■debris of the streets.

Eoyalty fed in public. The sumptuous banqueting-room
contained a barrier, partitioning off a space where Charles IX.
sat alone at his table, as a State spectacle. He was a saUow,
unhealthy-looking, with large prominent dark eyes
and a melancholy dreaminess of expression, as if the whole
■ceremony, not to say the world itself, were distasteful. Now
and then, as though endeavouring to cast off the mood, he
would call to some gentleman and exchange a rough jest,
generally fortified with a tremendous oath, that startled
Berenger's innocent ears. He scarcely tasted what was put


on his plate, "but drank largely of sherbet, and seemed to he
trying to linger through the space allotted for the ceremony.

Silence was observed, hut not so ahsolute that Walsingham
could not point out to his young companions the notabilities
present. The lofty figure of Henri, Duke of Guise, towered
high above all around him, and his grand features, proud lip,
and stern eye claimed such natural superiority that Berenger
for a moment felt a glow on his cheek as he remembered his
challenge of his right to rival that splendid stature. And
yet Guise was very little older than himself ; but he walked,
a prince of men, among a crowd of gentlemen, attendants on
him rather than on the King. The elegant but indolent-
looking Duke de Montmorency had a much more attractive
air, and seemed to hold a kind of neutral ground between
Guise on the one hand, and the Eeformed, who mustered
at the other end of the apartment. Almost by intuition,
Berenger knew the fine calm features of the grey-haired
Admiral de Coligny before he heard him so addressed by the
King's loud, rough voice. When the King rose from table
the presentations took place, but as Charles heard the name
of the Baron de Eibaumont, he exclaimed, " Wliat, Monsieur,
are you presented here by our good sister's representative?"

Walsingham answered for him, alluding to the negotiations
for Queen Elizabeth's marriage with one of the French
princes — " Sire, in the present happy conjuncture, it needs
not be a less loyal Frenchman to have an inheritance in the
lands of my royal mistress."

" What say you. Monsieur?" sharply demanded the King ;
" are you come here to renounce your country, religion — and
love, as I have been told? "

" I hope, Sire, never to be unfaithful where I owe faith,"
said Berenger, heated, startled, and driven to extremity.

" ISTot ill-answered for the English giant," said Charles


aside to an attendant : then turning eagerly to Sidney,
whose transcendant accomplishments had already become
renowned, Charles welcomed him to court, and began to
discuss Eonsard's last sonnet, showing no small taste and
knowledge of poetry. Greatly attracted by Sidney, the King
detained the whole English party by an invitation to Wal-
singham to hear music in the Queen-mother's apartments ;
and Berenger, following in the wake of his friends, found
himself in a spacious hall, with a raised gallery at one end
for the musicians, the walls decorated with the glorious
paintings collected by FranQois I., Greek and Eoman statues
clustered at the angles, and cabinets with gems and antiques
disposed at intervals. N'ot that Berenger beheld much of
this: he was absolutely dazzled with the brilliant assembly
into which he was admitted. There moved the most beau-
tiful women in France, in every lovely-coloured tint that
dress could assume : their bosoms, arms, and hair sparklmg
with jewels ; their gossamer ruflfs surrounding their necks
like fairy wings ; their light laugh mingling with the
music, as they sat, stood, or walked in graceful attitudes
conversing with one another or with the cavaliers, whose
brilliant velvet and jewels fitly mixed with their bright
array. These were the sirens he had heard of, the " squa-
dron of the Queen-mother," the dangerous beings against
whom he was to steel himself. And which of them
was the child he had played with, to whom his vows had
been plighted ? It was like some of the enchanting dreams
of romance merely to look at these fair creatures ; and he
stood as if gazing into a magic-glass till Sir Francis Wal-
singham, looking round for him, said, " Come, then, my
young friend, you must do your devoirs to the Queens.
Sidney, I see, is as usual in his element j the King has
seized upon him. •


Catherine de Medicis was seated on a large velvet chair,
conversing with the German ambassador. I^ever beautiful,
she appeared to more advantage in her mature years than in
her girlhood, and there was all the dignity of a Kfetime of
rule in her demeanour and gestures, the bearing of her head,
and motion of her exquisite hands. Her eyes were like her
son's, prominent, and gave the sense of seeing all round at
once, and her smile was to the highest degree engaging. She
received the young Baron de Eibaumont far more graciously
than Charles had done, held out her hand to be kissed, and
observed " that the young gentleman was like Madame sa
mere whom she well remembered as much admired. "Was it
true that she was married in England 1 "

Berenger bowed assent.

"Ah! you English make good spouses," she said, with a
smile. " Ever satisfied with home ! But, your Excellency,"
added she, turning to Walsingham, "what stones would
best please my good sister for the setting of the jewel my
son would send her with his portrait ? He is all for emeralds
for the hue of hope ; but I call it the colour of jealousy."

"Walsingham made a sign that Berenger had better retreat
from hearing the solemn coquetting carried on by the maiden
Queen through her gravest ambassadors. He fell back, and
remained watching the brilliant throng, trying in vain to
discover the bright merry eyes and velvet cheek he
remembered of old. Presently a kindly salutation inter-
rupted him, and a gentleman who perceived him to be a
stranger began to try to set him at ease, pointed out to
him the handsome, foppishly-dressed Dulce of Aujou, and his
ugly, spiteful little brother of Alengon, then designated as
Queen Elizabeth's future husband, who was saying some-
thing to a lady that made her colour and bite her lips. " Is
that the younger Queen?" asked Berenger, as his eye fell on


a sallow, dark-complexioned, sad-looking little creature in
deep mourning, and with three or four such stately-looking,
black-robed, Spanish-looking duennas round her as to prove
her to be a person of high consequence,

'' That 1 Oh no ; that is Madame Catherine of !N"avarre,
who has resided here ever since her mother's death, awaiting
her brother, our royal bridegroom. See, here is the bride,
Madame Marguerite, conversing with M. de Guise."

Berenger paid but little heed to Marguerite's showy but
already rather coarse beauty, and still asked where was the
young Queen Elizabeth of Austria. She was unwell, and
not in presence. *' Ah ! then," he said, " her ladies will not
be here."

*' That is not certain. Are you wishing to see any one of
them 1 "

" I would like to see " He could not help colouring

till his cheeks rivalled the colour of his sword-knot. " I
want just to know if she is here. I know not if she be
called Madame or Mademoiselle de Eibaumont."

" The fair Eibaumont ! Assuredly ; see, she is looking at
you. Shall I present you ] "

A pair of exceedingly brilliant dark eyes were fixed on
Berenger with a sort of haughty curiosity and half-recog-
nition. The face was handsome and brilliant, but he felt
indignant at not perceiving a particle of a blush at
encountering him, indeed rather a look of amusement at the
deep glow which his fair complexion rendered so apparent.
He would fain have escaped from so public an interview,
but her eye was upon him, and there was no avoiding
the meeting. As he moved nearer he saw what a beautiful
person she was, her rich primrose-coloured dress setting off
her brunette complexion and her stately presence. She
looked older than he had expected ; but this was a hotbed


where every one grew up early, and the expression and
manner made him feel that an old intimacy was here renewed,
and that they were no strangers.

"We need no introduction, cousin," she said, giving a
hand to be saluted. " I knew you instantly. It is the old
face of Chateau Leurre, only gone up so high and become so

'•' Cousins," thou.ght he. " Well, it makes things easier !
but what audacity to be so much at her ease, when Lucy
would have sunk into the earth with shame." His bow had
saved him the necessity of answering in words, and the lady
continued :

'* And Madame voire mere. Is she well ? She was very
good to me."

Eerenger did not think that kindness to Eustacie had
been her chief perfection, but he answered that she was well
and sent her commendations, which the young lady acknow-
ledged by a magnificent curtsey. "And as beautiful as ever?"
she asked.

" Quite as beautiful," he said, " only somewhat more

"Ah!" she said, smiling graciously, and raising her
splendid eyes to his face, " I understand better what that
famous beauty was now, and the fairness that caused her to
be called the Swan."

It was so personal that the colour rushed again into his
cheek. iNTo one had ever so presumed to admire him ; and
with a degree gratified and surprised, and sensible more and
more of the extreme beauty of the lady, there was a sort of
alarm about him as if this were the very fascination he had
been warned against, and as if she were casting a net about
him, which, wife as she was, it would be impossible to him
to break.


"Nay, Monsieur," slie laughed, "is a word from one so
near too much for your modesty 1 Is it possible that no one
has yet told you of your good mien 1 Or do they not appre-
ciate Greek noses and blue eyes in the land of fat Englishmen 1
How have you ever lived en piwince ? Our princes are ready
to hang themselves at the thought of being in such banish-
ment, even at court — indeed. Monsieur has contrived to
transfer the noose to M. d'Alen9on. Have you been at
court, cousin 1"

" I have been presented to the Queen."
She then proceeded to ask questions about the chief
personages with a rapid intelligence that surprised him as
well as alarmed him, for he felt more and more in the power
of a very clever as well as beautiful woman, and the attraction
she exercised made him long the more to escape ; but she
smiled and signed away several cavaliers who would have
gained her attention. She spoke of Queen Mary of Scotland,
then in the fifth year of her captivity, and asked if he did
not feel bound to her service b}^ having been once her
partner. Did not he remember that dance 1
* " I have heard my mother speak of it far too often to
forget it," said Berenger, glowing again for her who could
speak of that occasion without a blush.

"You wish to gloss over your first inconstancy, sir," she
said, archly ; but he was spared from further reply by Philip
Sidney's coming to tell him that the Ambassador was ready
to return home. He took leave with an alacrity that
redoubled his courtesy so much that he desired to be com-
mended to his cousin Diane, whom he had not seen.
" To Diane 1 " said the lady, inquiringly.
"To Mademoiselle Diane de Eibaumont," he corrected
himself, ashamed of his English rusticity. " I beg pardon
if I spoke too familiarly of her."

VC)I.. J. K


" She should be flattered by M. le Baron's slightest
recollection," said the lady, with an ironical tone that there
was no time to analyse, and with a mutual gesture of courtesy
he followed Sidney to where Sir Francis awaited them.

"Well, what think you of the French court 1" asked
Sidney, so soon as the young men were in private.

*' I only know that you may bless your good fortune that
you stand in no danger from a wife from thence."

"Ha!" cried Sidney, laughing, "you found your lawful
owner. Why did you not present me 1 "

" I was ashamed of her bold visage."

" What ! — was she the beauteous demoiselle I found you
gallanting," said Philip Sidney, a good deal entertained,
" who was gazing at you with such visible admiration in her
languishing black eyes ? "

" The foul fiend seize their impudence ! "

" Fie ! for shame ! thus to speak of your own wife," said
the mischievous Sidney, "and the fairest "

" Go to, Sidney. Were she fairer than Venus, with a
kingdom to her dower, I woidd none of a woman without a

" What in converse with her wedded husband," said
Sidney. " Were not that over-shamefastness ? "

" Nay, now, Sidney, in good sooth give me your opinion.
Should she set her fancy on me, even in this hour, am I
bound in honour to hold by this accursed wedlock — lock, as
it may well be called ? "

"I know no remedy," said Sidney, gravely, "save the two
enchanted founts of love and hate. They cannot be far away,
since it was at the siege of Paris that Kinaldo and Orlando
drank thereof."

Another question that Berenger would fain have asked
Sidney, but could not for very shame and dread of mockery,


was, Avhether he himself were so dangerously handsome as
the lady had given him to understand. With a sense of
shame, he caught up the little mirror in his casket, and could
not but allow to himself that the features he there saw were
symmetrical — the eyes azure, the complexion of a delicate
fairness, such as he had not seen equalled, except in those
splendid Lorraine princes ; nor could he judge of the further
effect of his open-faced frank simplicity and sweetness of
expression — contemptible, perhaps, to the astute, but most
winning to the world-weary. He shook his head at the fair
reflection, smiled as he saw the colour rising at his own
sensation of being a fool, and then threw it aside, vexed
with himself for being unable not to feel attracted by the
first woman who had shown herself struck by his personal
graces, and yet aware that this was the very thing he had
been warned against, and determined to make all the
resistance in his power to a creature whose very beauty and
enchantment gave him a sense of discomfort.

E 2



" Young knight, whatever that dost armes professe,
And through long labours huntest after fame,
Beware of fraud, beware of ficklenesse,
In choice and change of thy beloved dame. "

Spenser, Faery Queene.

Berenger's mind was relieved, even while his vanity was
mortified, when the Chevalier and his son came the next
day to hring him the formal letter requesting the Pope's
annulment of his marriage. After he had signed it, it was
to be taken to Eustacie, and, so soon as he should attain his
twenty-first year he was to dispose of Chateau Leurre, as
well as of his claim to the ancestral castle in Picardy, to his
cousin I^arcisse, and thus become entirely free to transfer his
allegiance to the Queen of England.

It was a very good thing — that he well knew ; and he had
a strong sense of virtue and obedience, as he formed with his
pen the words in all their fulness, Henri Beranger Eustache,
Baron de Ribaumont et Seigneur de Leurre. He could not
help wondering whether the lady who looked at him so
admiringly really preferred such a mean-looking little fop as
Narcisse, whether she were afraid of his English home and
breeding, or whether all this open coquetry were really the
court manners of ladies towards gentlemen, and he had been


an absolute simpleton to be flattered. Any way, sbe would
have been a most undesirable wife, and be was well quit of
her ; but be did feel a certain lurking desire that, since the
bonds were cut and he was no longer in danger from her, he
might see her again, carry home a mental inventory of the
splendid beauties he had renounced, and decide what was the
motive that actuated her in rejecting his own handsome self.
Meantime, he proceeded to enjoy the amusements and advan-
tage of his sojourn at Paris, of which by no means the least
was the society of Philip Sidney, and the charm his brilliant
genius imparted to every pursuit they shared. Books at the
University, fencing and dancing from the best professors,
Italian poetry, French sonnets, Latin epigrams ; nothing
came amiss to Sidney, the flower of English youth : and
Berenger had taste, intelligence, and cultivation enough to
enter into all in which Sidney led the way. The good tutor,
after all his miseries on the journey, was delighted to write
to Lord "Walwyn, that, far from being a risk and temptation,
this visit was a school in all that was virtuous and comely.

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeThe chaplet of pearls; or, The white and black Ribaumont (Volume 1) → online text (page 4 of 23)