Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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

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If the good man had any cause of dissatisfaction, it was
with the Calvinistic tendencies of the Ambassador's house-
hold. Walsingham was always on the Puritanical side of
Elizabeth's court, and such an atmosphere as that of Paris,
where the Eoman Catholic system was at that time showing
more corruption than it has ever done before or since in any
other place, naturally threw him into sympathy with the
Eeformed. The reaction that half a century later filled the
Gallican Church with saintliness had not set in ; her eccle-
siastics were the tools of a wicked and bloodthirsty court,
who hated virtue as much as schism in the men whom they
persecuted. The Huguenots were for the most part men
whose instincts for truth and virtue had recoiled from the
popular system, and thus it was indeed as if piety and


morality -were arrayed on one side, and superstition and
debauchery on the other. Mr. Adderley thus found the
tone of the ambassador's chaplain that of far more complete
fellowship with the Eeformed pastors than he himself was
disposed to admit. There were a large number of these
gathered at Paris; for the lull in persecution that had
followed the battle of Moncontour had given hopes of a final
accommodation between the two parties, and many had come
up to consult with the numerous lay nobility who had con-
gregated to witness the King of Navarre's wedding. Among
them, Berenger met his father's old friend, Isaac Gardon,
who had come to Paris for the purpose of giving his only
surviving son in marriage to the daughter of a watchmaker
to whom he had for many years been betrothed. By him
the youth, with his innocent face and gracious respectful
manners, was watched with delight, as fulfilling the fairest
hopes of the poor Baron, but the old minister would have
been sorely disappointed had he known how little Berenger
felt inclined towards his party.

The royal one of course Berenger could not love, but the
rigid bareness, and, as he thought, irreverence of the Cal-
vinist, and the want of all forms, jarred upon one used to a
ritual which retained much of the ancient form. In the
early years of Elizabeth, every possible diversity prevailed
in parish churches, according to the predilections of rector
and squire ; from forms scarcely altered from those of old
times, down to the baldest, rudest neglect of all rites ; and
Berenger, in his country home, had been used to the first
extreme. He could not believe that what he heard and saw
among the Sacrementaires, as they were called, was what his
father had prized; and he greatly scandalised Sidney, the
pupil of Hubert Languet, by openly expressing his distaste
and dismay when he found their worshi, Ai^Mod by both



"Walsingham and Sidney as a model to which, the English
Protestants ought to be brought.

However, Sidney excused all this as mere boyish distaste
to sermons and love of externals, and Berenger himself
reflected little on the subject. The aspect of the venerable
Coligny, his father's friend, did far more towards making
him a Huguenot than any discussion of doctrine. The good
old Admiral received him affectionately, and talked to him
warmly of his father, and the grave, noble countenance and
kind manner won his heart. Great projects were on foot,
and were much relished by the young King, for raising an
army and striking a blow at Spain by aiding the Eeformed
in the Netherlands ; and Coligny was as ardent as a youth
in the cause, hoping at once to aid his brethren, to free the
young King from evil influences, and to strike one good
stroke against the old national enemy. He talked eagerly
to Sidney of alliances with England, and then lamented over
the loss of so promising a youth as young Ribaumont to the
Eeformed cause in France. If the marriage with the heiress
could have taken eff"ect, he would have obtained estates near
enough to some of the main Huguenot strongholds to be
very important, and these would now remain under the
power of N"arcisse de Eibaumont, a determined ally of the
Guise faction, It was a pity, but the Admiral could not
blame the youth for obeying the wish of his guardian grand-
father ; and he owned, with a sigh, that England was a more
peaceful land than his own beloved country. Berenger was
a little nettled at this implication, and began to talk of
joining the French standard in a campaign in the N'ether-
lands : but when the two young men returned to their
present home and described the conversation, Walsingham
said, —

" The Admiral's favourite project ! He would do wisely
not to brag of it so openly. The King of Spain has too


many in his interest in this place not to he warned, and to
he thus further egged on to compass the ruin of Coligny."

" I should have thought," said Sidney, " that nothing
could add to his hatred of the Eeformed."

" Scarcely," said Walsingham ; " save that it is they who
hinder the Duke of Guise from heing a good Frenchman,
and a foe to Spain."

Politics had not developed themselves in Berenger's mind,
and he listened inattentively while Walsingham talked over
Avitli Sidney the state of parties in France, where natural
national enmity to Spain was balanced by the need felt by
the Queen-mother of the support of that great Roman
Catholic power against the Huguenots ; whom Walsingham
believed her to dread and hate less for their own sake than
from the fear of loss of influence over her son. He believed
Charles IX. himself to have much leaning towards the
Eeformed, but the late victories had thrown the whole court
entirely into the power of the Guises, the truly unscrupulous
partisans of Eome, They were further inflamed against the
Huguenots by the assassination of the last Duke of Guise, and
by the violences that had been committed by some of the
Eeformed party, in especial a massacre of prisoners at Kerac.

Sidney exclaimed that the Huguenots had suffered far
worse cruelties.

" That is true," replied Sir Francis, " but, my young
friend, you will find, in. all matters of reprisals, that a party
has no memory for what it may commit, only for what it
may receive."

The conversation was interrupted by an invitation to the
ambassador's family and guests to a tilting-match and subse-
ijuent ball at the Louvre. In the first Berenger did his part
with credit; to the second he went feeling full of that
strange attraction of repulsion. He knew gentlemen enough
in Coligny's suite for it to be likely that he might remain


unperceivecl among them, and he knew this wonhl bo
prudent, but he found himself unexpectedly near the ranks
of ladies, and smile and gesture absolutely drew him towards
his semi-spouse, so that he had no alternative but to lead her
out to dance.

The stately measure was trod in silence as usual, but he
felt the dark eyes stiidying him all the time. However, he
could bear it better now that the deed was done, and she had
voluntarily made him less to her than any gallant parading
or mincing about the room."

" So you bear the pearls, sir*?" she said, as the dance finished.

•' The only heirloom I shall take with me," he said.

" Is a look at them too great a favour to ask from their
jealous guardian 1 " she asked.

He smiled, half ashamed of his own annoyance at being
obliged to place them in her hands. He was sure she would
trj"- to cajole him out of them, and by way of asserting his
property in them he did not detach them from the band of
his black velvet cap, but gave it with them into her hand.
She looked at each one, and counted them wistfully.

" Seventeen ! " she said ; " and how beautiful ! I never
saw them so near before. They are so becoming to that fair
cheek that I suppose no offer from my — my uncle, on our
behalf, would induce you to part with them 1 "

An impulse of open-handed gallantry would have made
him answer, " N"o offer from your uncle, but a simple request
from you ; " but he thought in time of the absurdity of
returning without them, and merely answered, " I have no
right to yield them, fair lady. They are the witness to my
forefather's fame and prowess."

" Yes, sir, and to those of mine also," she replied. "And
you would take them over to the enemy from whom that
prowess extorted them 1 "


" The country which honoured and rewarded that prowess !"
replied Berenger.

She looked at him with an interrogative glance of surprise
at the readiness of his answer ; then, with half a sigh, said,
" There are your pearls, sir ; I cannot establish our right,
though I verily believe it was the cause of our last quarrel ; "
and she smiled archly.

" I believe it was," he said, gravely ; but added, in the
moment of relief at recovering the precious heirloom, " though
it was Diane who inspired you to seize upon them."

" Ah ! poor Diane ! you sometimes recollect her then ?
If I remember right, you used to agree with her better than
with your little spouse, cousin ! "

" If I quarrelled with her less, I liked her less," answered
Berenger — who, since the act of separation, had not been so
guarded in his demeanour, and began to give way to his
natural frankness.

" Indeed ! Diane would be less gratified than I ought to
be. And why, may I ask ? " ,

" Diane was more caressing, but she had no truth."

" Truth ! that was what feu M. le Baron ever talked of ;
what Huguenots weary one with."

" And the only thing worth seeking, the real pearl," said
Berenger, "without which all else is worthless."

" Ah ! " she said, " who would have thought that soft,
youthful face could be so severe ! You would never forgive
a deceit 1 "

" ISTever," he said, with the crystal hardness of youth ; " or
rather I might forgive ; I could never esteem."

" "What a bare, rude world yours must be," she said,
shivering. " And no weak ones in it ! Only the strong can
dare to be true."

" Truth is strength ! " said Berenger. " For example : I


see yonder a face -without bodily strength, perhaps, but with
perfect candour."

** Ah ! some Huguenot girl of Madame Catherine's, no
doubt — from the depths of Languedoc, and dressed like a

" No, no ; the young girl behind the pale, yellow-haired lady. ' '

" Comment, Monsieur. Do you not yet know the younc;
Queen ? "

" But who is the young demoiselle ! — she with the superb
black eyes, and the ruby rose in her black hair ?"

" Take care, sir, do you not know I have still a right
to be jealous ? " she said, blushing, bridling, and laughing.

But this pull on the cords made him the more resolved ;
he would not be turned from his purpose. " "Who is she 1 "
he repeated, " have I ever seen her before ? I am sure I
remember that innocent look of espieglerie." ^

" You may see it on any child's face fresh out of the
convent ; it does not last a month ! " was the still displeased;,
rather jealous answer. " That little thing — I believe they
call her Nid- de-Merle — she has only just been brought from
her nunnery to wait on the young Queen. Ah ! your gaze
was perilous, it is bringing on you one of the jests of
Madame Marguerite."

With laughter and gaiety, a troop of gentlemen descended
on M. de Eibaumont, and told him that Madame Marguerite
desired that he should be presented to her. The princess
was standing by her pale sister-in-law, Elizabeth of Austria,
who looked grave and annoyed at the mischievous mirth
flashing in Marguerite's dark eyes.

" M. de Eibaumont," said the latter, her very neck heaving
with suppressed fun, " I see I cannot do you a greater favour
than by giving you Mademoiselle de Nid-de-Merle for your


Berenger was covered with confusion to find that lie had
Taeen guilty of such a fixed stare as to bring all this upon the
poor girl. He feared that his vague sense of recognition had
made his gaze more open than he knew, and he was really
and deeply ashamed of this as his worst act of provincial

Poor little convent maid, with crimson cheeks, flashing
€yes, panting bosom, and a neck evidently aching with proud
dignity and passion, she received his low bow with a sweep-
ing curtsey? , as lofty as her little person would permit.

His cheeks burnt like fire, and he would have found words
to apologize, but she cut him short by saying, hastily and
low, " ^ot a word, Monsieur ! Let us go through it at once.
Ko one shall make game of us."

He hardly durst look at her again ; but as he went through
his own elaborate paces he knew that the little creature
opposite was swimming, bending, turning, bounding with the
fluttering fierceness of an angry little bird, and that the
superb eyes were casting flashes on him that seemed to carry
him back to days of early boyhood.

Once he caught a mortified, pleading, wistful glance that
made him feel as if he had inflicted a cruel injury by his
thoughtless gaze, and he resolved to plead the sense of recog-
nition in excuse ; but no sooner was the performance over
than she prevented aU conversation by saying, " Lead me
back at once to the Queen, sir ; she is about to retire."
They were already so near that there was not time to say
anything ; he could only hold as lightly as possible the tiny
fingers that he felt burning and quivering in his hand, and
then, after bringing her to the side of the chair of state, he
was forced to release her with the mere whisper of " Pardon,
Mademoiselle ;" and the request was not replied to, save by
the additional stateliness of her curtsey.


It was already late, and the party was breaking up ; but
his head and heart were still in a whirl when he found
himself seated in the ambassadorial coach, hearing Lady
Walsingham's well-pleased rehearsal of all the compliments
she had received on the distinguished appearance of both
her young guests. Sidney, as the betrothed of her daughter,
was property of her own ; but she also exulted in the praise&
of the young Lord de Eibaumont, as proving the excellence
of the masters whom she had recommended to remove the
rustic clo'wnishness of which he had been accused.

" Nay," said Sir Francis; " whoever called him too clowTiish
for court spake with design."

The brief sentence added to Berenger's confused sense of
being in a mist of false play. Could his kinsman be bent on
keeping him from court 1 Could IS'arcisse be jealous of him 1
Mademoiselle de Eibaumont was evidently inclined to seek
him, and her cousin might easily think her lands safer in his
absence. He would have been willing to hold aloof as much
as his uncle and cousin could wish, save for an angry dislike
to being duped and cajoled ; and, moreover, a strong curiosity
to hear and see more of that little passionate bu'd, fresh from
the convent cage. Her gesture and her eyes irresistibly
carried him back to old times, though whether to an angr}-
blackbird in the yew-tree alleys at Leurre, or to the eager
face that had warned him to save his father, he could not
remember with any distinctness. At any rate, he was sur-
prised to find himself thinking so little in comparison about
the splendid beauty and winning manners of his discarded
spouse, though he quite believed that, now her captive was
beyond her grasp, she was disposed to catch at him again,
and try to retain him, or, as his titillated vanity might
whisper, his personal graces might make her regret the famih'
resolution which she had obeved.



/' I was the more deceived." — Hamlet.

The unhappy Charles IX, had a disposition that in good
hands might have achieved great nobleness ; and though
cruelly bound and trained to evil, was no sooner allowed to
follow its natural bent than it reached out eagerly towards
excellence. At this moment, it was his mother's poKcy to
appear to leave the ascendency to the Huguenot party, and
he was therefore allowed to contract friendships which
deceived the intended victims the more completely, because
his admiration and attachment were spontaneous and siacere.
Philip Sidney's varied accomplishments and pure lofty cha-
racter greatly attracted the young King, who had leant on
his arm conversing during great part of the ball, and the
next morning sent a royal messenger to invite the two
young gentlemen to a party at pall-mall in the Tuileries

Pall-mall was either croquet or its nearest relative, and
was so much the fashion that games were given in order to
keep up political influence, perhaps, because the freedom of
a garden pastime among groves and bowers afibrded oppor-
tunities for those seductive arts on which Queen Catherine
placed so much dependence. The formal gardens, with their


squares of level turf and clipped alleys, afforded excellent
scope both, for players and spectators, and numerous games
had been set on foot, from all of which, however, Berenger
contrived to exclude himself, in his restless determination to
find out the little Demoiselle de Nid-de-Merle, or, at least, to
discover whether any intercourse in early youth accounted
for his undefined sense of remembrance.

He interrogated the first disengaged person he could find,
but it was only the young Abbe de Mericour, who had been
newly brought up from Dauphine by his elder brother to
solicit a benefice, and who knew nobody. To him, ladies
were only bright phantoms such as his books had taught
bim to regard like the temptations of St. Anthony, but
whom he actually saw treated with as free admiration by
the ecclesiastic as by the layman.

Suddenly a clamour of voices arose on the other side of
the closely-clipped wall of limes by which the two youths
were walking. There were the clear tones of a young maiden
expostulating in indignant distress, and the bantering, indo-
lent determination of a male annoy er.

" Hark !" exclaimed Berenger ; " this must be seen to."

" Have a care," returned Mericour ; " I have heard that a
man needs look twice ere meddling."

Scarcely hearing, Berenger strode on as he had done at the
last village wake, when he had rescued Cis of the Down
from the impertinence of a Dorchester scrivener. It was a
like case, he saw, when breaking through the arch of clipped
limes he beheld the little Demoiselle de I^id-de-Merle, driven
into a corner and standing at bay, with glowing cheeks, flash-
ing eyes, and hands clasped over her breast, while a young
man, dressed in the extreme of foppery, was assuring her that
she was the only lady who had not granted him a token —
that he could not allow such 2^^'>'>'Sionnaire airs, and that now


he had caught her he would have his revenge, and win her
rose-coloured breastknot. Another gentleman stood by,
laughing, and keeping guard in the walk that led to the
more frequented part of the gardens.

*' Hold !" thundered Berenger.

The assailant had just mastered the poor girl's hand, hut-
she took advantage of his surprise to wrench it away and
gather herself up as for a spring, but the Abbe in dismay,
the attendant in anger, cried out, " Stay — it is Monsieur."

" Monsieur ; be he who he may," exclaimed Berenger, " no
honest man can see a lady insulted."

"Are you mad?" It is Monsieur the Duke of Anjou,"
said Mericour, pouncing on his arm.

"Shall we have him to the guardhouse?" added the
attendant, coming up on the other side ; but Henri de Valois
waved them both back, and burst into a derisive laush.
" N'o, no ; do you not see who it is 1 Monsieur the English
Baron still holds the end of the halter. His sale is not yet
made. Come away, D'O, he will soon have enough on his
hands without us. Farewell, fair lady, another time you
will be free of your jealous giant."

So saying, the Duke of Anjou strolled off, feigning indif-
ference and contempt, and scarcely heeding that he had been
traversed in one of the malicious adventures which he
delighted to recount in public before the discomfited victim
herself, often with shameful exaggeration.

The girl clasped her hands over her brow with a gesture
of dismay, and cried, " Oh ! if you have only not touched
your sword."

" Let me have the honour of reconducting you. Mademoi-
selle," said Berenger, offering his hand ; but after the first
sigh of relief, a tempestuous access seized her. She seemed
about to dash away his hand, her bosom swelled with resent-

THE whitp: and black eibaumont. 65

ment, and with a voice striving for dignity, though choked
with strangled tears, she exclaimed, " No, indeed ! Had not
M. le Baron forsaken me, I had never been thus treated!"
and her eyes flashed through their moisture.
"Eustacie ! You are Eustacie !"

" Whom would you have me to be otherwise 1 I have the
honour to wish M. le Baron a good morning."

" Eustacie ! Stay ! Hear me ! It concerns my honour.
I see it is you — but whom have I seen t Who was she 1 "
he cried, half wild with dismay and confusion. " Was it

" You have seen and danced with Diane de Ribaumont,"
answered Eustacie, still coldly ; " but what of that 1 Let
me go. Monsieur ; you have cast me off already."
" I ! when all this has been of your owa seeking 1"
" Mine?" cried Eustacie, panting with the struggle between
her dignity and her passionate teaps. '* I meddled not. I
heard that M. le Baron was gone to a strange land, and had
written to break off old ties." Her face was in a flame, and
her efforts for composure absolute pain.

"I!" again exclaimed Berenger. "The first letter came
from your uncle, declaring that it was your wish !" And as
her face changed rapidly, " Then it was not true ! He has
not had your consent 1"

" What ! would I hold to one who despised me — who
came here and never even asked to see this hated spouse !"

" I did ! I entreated to see you. I would not sign the
application till — Oh, there has been treachery ! And have
they made you too sign it 1 "

" When they showed me your name they were welcome to

Berenger struck his forehead with wrath and perplexit}-,
then cried, joyfully, " It wiU not stand for a moment. So



foul a cheat can be at once exposed. Eustacie, you know —
you understand, that it was not you but Diane whom I saw
and detested ; and no wonder, when she was acting such a
cruel treason !"

" Oh. no, Diane would never so treat me," cried Eustacie.
" I see how it was ! You did not know that my father was
latterly called Marquis de jSTid-de-Merle, and when they
brought me here, they would call me after him : they said
a maid of honour must be Demoiselle, and my uncle said
there was only one way in which I could remain Madame de
Eibaumont ! And the name must bave deceived you. Thou
wast always a great dull boy," she added, with a sudden
asstimption of childish intimacy that annihilated the nine
years since their parting.

" Had I seen thee, I had not mistaken for an instant.
This little face stirred my heart; hers repelled me. And she
deceived me wittingly, Eustacie, for I asked after her by name."

" Ah, she wished to spare my embarrassment. And then
her brother must have dealt with her."

" I see," exclaimed Eerenger, " I am to be palmed off thus
that thou mayest be reserved for Narcisse. Tell me, Eustacie,
wast thou willing 1 "

" I hate ISTarcisse ! " she cried. " But oh, I am lingering
too lonar. Monsieur will make some hateful tale ! I never
fell into his way before, my Queen and Madame la Comtesse
are so careful. Only to-day, as I was attending her alone,
the King came and gave her his arm, and I had to drop
behind. I must find her ; I shall be missed," she added, in
sudden alarm. " Oh, what will they sayf

" 1^0 blame for being with thy husband," he answered,
clasping her hand. " Thou art mine henceforth. I will
soon cut our way out of tlie web thy treacherous kindred
have woven. Meantime "


" Hush ! There are voices," cried Eustacie in terror, and,
guided by something he could not discern, she fled with
the swiftness of a bird down the alley. Following, with the
utmost speed that might not bear the appearance of pursuit,
he found that on coming to the turn she had moderated her
pace, and was more tranquilly advancing to a bevy of ladies,
who sat perched on the stone steps like great butterflies
sunning themselves, watching the game, and receiving the
attentions of their cavaliers. He saw her absorbed into the
group, and then began to prowl round it, in the alleys, in a
tumult of amazement and indignation. He had been shame-

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeThe chaplet of pearls; or, The white and black Ribaumont (Volume 1) → online text (page 5 of 23)