Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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

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"Did I not belong to you?" she said exultingly. "And
had not Sister Monique, yes, and M. le Baron striven hard to
make me good 1 Ah, how kind he was ! "

" My father 1 Yes, Eustacie, he loved you to the last.
He bade me, on his deathbed, give you his own Book of
Psalms, and tell you he had always loved and prayed for

" Ah ! his Psalms ! I shall love them ! Even at Bellaise,
when first we came there, we used to sing them, but the
Mother Abbess went out visiting, and when she came back



she said they were heretical. And Soeur Monique would not
let me sav the texts he tau<j;ht me, hut I ivoidd not forget
them. I say them often in my heart."

" Then," he cried joyfully, " you will willingly emhrace
my religion ? "

" Be a Huguenot !" she said distastefully.

" I am not precisely a Huguenot ; I do not love them," he
answered hastily, "hut all shall he made clear to you at my
home in England."

" England !" she said. " Must we live in England? Away
from every one 1 "

" Ah, they will love you so much ! I shall make you so
happy there," he answered. " There you will see what it is
to he true and trustworthy."

" I had rather live at Chateau Leurre, or my own Nid-de-
Merle," she replied. " There I should see Soeur Monique,
and my aunt, the Ahhess, and we would have the peasants
to dance in the castle-court. Oh ! if you could but see the
orchards at Le Bocage, you would never want to go away.
And we could come now and then to see my dear Queen."

" I am glad at least you would not live at Court."

" Oh, no, I have been more unhappy here than ever I
knew could he borne."

And a very few words fi'om him drew out all that had
happened to her since they j)arted. Her father had sent her
to Bellaise, a convent founded by the first of the Angevin
branch, which was presided over by his sister, and where
Diane was also educated. The good sister Monique had
been mistress of the pensiminaires, and had evidently taken
much pains to keep her charge innocent and devout. Diane
had been taken to Court about two years before, but Eustacie
had remained at the convent till some three montlis since^
when she had been appointed mail of honour to the recently-


married Queen ; and her uncle had fetched her from Anjou,
and had informed her at the same time that her young
husband had turned ]uiglishman and heretic, and that after
a few formalities had been complied with, she would become
the wife of her cousin Narcisse. N'ow there was no person
whom she so much dreaded as ISTarcisse, and when Berenger
spoke of him as a feeble fop, she shuddered as though she
knew him to have something of the tiger.

" Do you remember Benott 1" she said ; " poor Benoit, who
came to IsTormandy as my laquais ? When I went back to
Anjou he married a girl from Leurre, and went to aid his
father at the farm. The poor fellow had imbibed the Baron's
doctrine — he spread it. It was reported that there was a
nest of Huguenots on the estate. My cousin came to break
it up with his gens d'armes. Berenger, he would hear no
entreaties, he had no mercy ; he let them assemble on
Sunday, that they might be all together. He fired the
house ; shot down those who escaped ; if a prisoner were
made, gave him up to the Bishop's Court. Benoit, my poor
good Benoit, who used to lead my palfrey, was first wounded,
then tried, and burnt — burnt in the place at Lu^on ! I heard
Narcisse laugh — laugh as he talked of the cries of the poor
creatures in the conventicle. My own people, who loved
me ! I was but twelve years old, but even then the wretch
would pay me a half-mocking courtesy, as one destined to
him ; and the more I disdained him and said I belonged to
you, the more both he and my aunt, the Abbess, smiled, as
though they had their bird in a cage ; but they left me in
peace till my uncle brought me to Court, and then all began
again : and when they said you gave me up, I had no
hope, not even of a convent. But ah, it is all over now, and
I am so happy ! You are grown so gentle and so beautiful,
Berenger, and so much taller than I ever figured you to



myself, and you look as if you could take me up in your
arms, and let no harm Happen to me."

" E"ever, never shall it ! " said Berenger, feeling all man-
hood, strength, and love stir within him, and growing many
years in heart in that happy moment. "My sweet little
faithful wife, never fear again now you are mine."

Alas ! poor children. They were a good way from the
security they had hegun to fancy for themselves. Early the
next morning, Berenger went in his straightforward way to
the King, thanked him, and requested his sanction for at
once producing themselves to the Court as Monsieur le Baron
and Madame la Baronne de Eibaumont.

At this Charles swore a great oath, as one in perplexity,
and hade him not go so fast.

" See here," said he, with the rude expletives only too
hahitual with him ; " she is a pretty little girl, and she and
her lands are much better with an honest man like you than
with that pendard of a cousin ; hut you see he is bent on
having her, and he belongs to a cut-throat crew that halt at
nothing. I would not answer for your life, if you tempted
him so strongly to rid himself of you."

" My own sword. Sire, can guard my life."

" Plague upon your sword ! What does the foolish youth
think it would do against half-a-dozen poniards and pistols
in a lane black as hell's mouth 1 "

The foolish youth was thinking how could a king so full
of fiery words and strange oaths bear to make such an
avowal respecting his own capital and his own courtiers.
All he could do was to bow 'and reply, " ^Nevertheless, Sire,
at whatever risk, I cannot relinquish my wife ; I would take
her at once to the Ambassador's."

" How, sir ! " interrupted Charles, haughtily and angrily,
"if you forget that you are a French nobleman still, I


should rememLer. it ! The Ambassador may protect his OAvn
countrymen — none else."

" I entreat your Majesty's pardon," said Berenger, anxious
to retract his false step. "It was your goodness and the
gracious Queen's that made me hope for your sanction."

" All the sanction Charles de Valois can give is yours, and
welcome," said the King, hastily, " The sanction of the
King of France is another matter ! To say the truth, I
see no way out of the affair but an elopement."

" Sire ! " exclaimed the astonished Berenger, whose strictly-
disciplhied education had little prepared him for such counsel.

" Look you ! If I made you known as a wedded pair,
the Chevalier and his son would not only assassinate you,
but down on me would come my brother, and my mother,
-and M. de Guise, and all their crew, veritably for giving the
prize out of the mouth of their satellite, but nominally for
disregarding the Pope, favouring a heretical marriage, and I
know not what, but, as things go here, I should assuredly
get the worst of it ; and if you made safely off with your
prize, no one could gainsay you — I need know nothing about
it — and lady and lands would be yours without dispute.
You might ride off from the skirts of the forest ; I would
lead the hunt that way, and the three days' riding would
bring you to Normandy, for you had best cross to England
immediately. When she is once there, owned by your
kindred. Monsieur le cousin may gnash his teeth as he wUl,
he must make the best of it for the sake of the honour of
his house, and you can safely come back and raise her people
and yours to follow the Orillamme when it takes the field
against Spain. What ! you are still discontented I Speak
•out ! Plain speaking is a treat not often reserved for me."

" Sire, I am most grateful for your kindness, but I should
;greatly prefer going straightforward,"


" Peste ! "Well is it said that a blundering Englishman
goes always right before him ! There, then ! As your King
on the one hand, as the friend who has brought you and
your wife together, sir, it is my command that you do not
compromise me and embroil greater matters than you can
understand by publicly claiming this girl. Privately I will
aid you to the best of my ability ; publicly, I command you,
for my sake, if you heed not your own, to be silent !"

Berenger sought out Sidney, who smiled at his surprise.

"Do you not see," he said, " that the King is your friend,
and would be very glad to save the lady's lands from the
Guisards, but that he cannot say so ; be can only befriend a
Huguenot by stealth."

" I would not be such a king for worlds !"

However, Eustacie was enchanted. It was like a prince
and princess in Mere Perinne's fairy tales. Could they go
like a shepherd and shepherdess? She had no fears — no
scruples. Would she not be with her husband 1 It was
the most charming frolic in the world. So the King seemed
to think it, though he was determined to call it all the
Queen's doing — the first intrigue of her own, making her
like all the rest of us — the Queen's little comedy. He
undertook to lead the chase as far as possible in the direction
of ^Normandy, when the young pair might ride on to an inn,
meet fresh horses, and proceed to Chateau Leurre, and thence
to England. He would himself provide a safe conduct,
which, as Berenger suggested, would represent them as a
young Englishman taking home his young wife. Eustacie
wanted at least to masquerade as an Englishwoman, and
played off all the fragments of the language she had caught
as a child, but Berenger only laughed at her, and said they
just fitted the French bride. It was very pretty to laugh at
Eustacie ; she made such a droll pretence at pouting with


her rosebud lips, and her merry velvety eyes belied them so

Such was to be the Queen's pastoral ; but when Elisabeth
found the responsibility so entirely thrown on her, she began
to look grave and frightened. It was no doubt much more
than she had intended when she brought about the meeting
between the young people, and the King, who had planned
the elopement, seemed still resolved to make all appear her
affair. She looked all day more like the grave, spiritless
being she was at Court than like the bright young rural
queen of the evening before, and she was long in her little
oratory chapel in the evening. Berenger, who was waiting
in the hall with the other Huguenot gentlemen, thought her
devotions interminable since they delayed all her ladies. At
length, however, a page came up to him, and said in a low
voice, " The Queen desires the presence of M. le Baron de

He followed the messenger, and found himself in the little
chapel, before a gaily-adorned altar, and numerous little
shrines and niches round. Sidney would have dreaded a
surreptitious attempt to make him conform, but Berenger
had no notion of such perils, — he only saw that Eustacie was
standing by the Queen's chair; the King sat carelessly, perhaps
a little sullenly, in another chair, and a kindly-looking Austrian
priest, the Queen's confessor, held a book in his hand.

The Queen came to meet him. " For my sake," she said,
with all her sweetness, " to ease my mind, I should like to
see my little Eustacie made entirely your own ere you go.
Father Meinhard tells me it is safer that, when the parties
were under twelve years old, the troth should be again
exchanged. No other ceremonj is needed."

" I desire nothing but to have her made indissolubly my
own," said Berenger, bowing.


" And the King permits," added Elisabeth.

The King growled out, "It is your comedy, Madame ; I
meddle not."

The Austrian priest had no common language with
Berenger but Latin. He asked a few questions, and on
hearing the answers, declared that the sacrament of marriage
had been complete, but that — as was often done in such
cases — he would once more hear the troth-plight of the
young pair. The brief formula was therefore at once
exchanged — the King, when the Queen looked entreatingly
at him, rousing himself to make the bride over to Berenger.
As soon as the vows had been made, in the briefest manner,
the King broke in boisterously : " There, you are twice
married, to please Madame there ; but hold your tongues all
of you about this scene in the play."

Then almost pushing Eustacie over to Berenger, he added,
'•There she is ! take your wife, sir: but mind, she was as
much yours before as she is now."

But for all Berenger had said about " his wife," it was
only now that he xeallj felt her his own, and became hus-
band rather than lover — man instead of boy. She was
entirely his own now, and he only desired to be away with
her ; but some days' delay was necessary. A chase on the
scale of the one that was to favour their evasion could not
be got up without some notice ; and, moreover, it was
necessary to procure money, for neither Sidney nor Eibau-
niont had more than enough with them for the needful
liberalities to the King's servants and huntsmen. Indeed
Berenger had spent all that remained in his purse upon the
wares of an Italian pedlar whom he and Eustacie met in the
woods, and whose gloves " as, sweet as fragrant posies," fans,
scent-boxes, pocket mirrors, Genoa wire, Venice chains, and
other toys, afforded him the means of making up the gifts


tliat he wished to carry home to his sisters ; and Eustacie's
counsel was merrily given in the choice. And when the
vendor began with a meaning smile to recommend to the
young pair themselves a little silver-netted heart as a love-
token, and it turned out that all Berenger's money was gone,
so that it could not be bought without giving up the scented
casket destined for Lucy, Eustacie turned with her sweetest
proudest smile, and said, " No, no ; I will not have it ; what
do we two want with love-tokens now ? "

Sidney had taken the youthful and romantic view of the
■case, and considered himself to be taking the best possible
■care of his young friend, by enabling him to deal honourably
Avith so charming a little wife as Eustacie. Ambassador and
tutor would doubtless be very angry ; but Sidney could
judge for himself of the lady, and he therefore threw himself
into her interests, and sent his servant back to Paris to procure
the necessary sum for the journey of Master Henry Berenger
and Mistress Mary, his wife. Sidney was, on his return
alone to Paris, to explain all to the elders, and pacify them
as best lie could ; and his servant was already the bearer of
a letter from Berenger that was to be sent at once to
England with Walsingham's despatches, to prepare Lord
Walwyn for the arrival of the runaways. The poor boy
laboured to be impressively calm and reasonable in his
explanation of the misrepresentation, and of his strong
grounds for assuming his rights, with his persuasion that
his wife would readily join the English Church — a consi-
deration that he knew would greatly smooth the way for her.
Indeed, his own position was imj)regnable : nobody could
blame him for taking his own wife to himself, and he was so
sure of her charms, that he troubled himself very little
about the impression she might make on his kindred. If
they loved her, it was all right ; if not, he could take her


back to his own castle, and win fame and honour under the
banner of France > in the Low Countries. As to Lucy
Thistlewood she was far too discreet to feel any disappoint-
ment or displeasure ; or if she should, it was her own fault
and that of his mother, for all her life she had known him to
be married. So he finished his letter with a message that the
bells should be ready to ring, and that when Philip heard
three guns fired on the coast, he might light the big beacon
pile above the Combe.

Meantime " the Queen's Pastoral " was much relished by
all the spectators. The state of things was only avowed to
Charles, Elisabeth, and Pliilip Sidney, and even the last did
not know of the renewed troth which the King chose to
treat as such a secret ; but no one had any doubt of the
mutual relations of M. de Eibaumont and Mdlle. de Iv^id-de-
Merle, and their dream of bliss was like a pastoral for the
special diversion of the holiday of Montpipeau. The trans-
parency of their indifference in company, their meeting eyes,
their trysts with the secrecy of an ostrich, were the subjects
of constant amusement to the elders, more especially as the
shyness, blushes, and caution were much more on the side of
the young husband than on that of the lady. Presh from
her convent, simple with childishness and innocence, it was
to her only the natural completion of her life to be altogether
Berenger's, and the brief coucealment of their full union
added a certain romantic enchantment, which added to her
exultation in her victory over her cruel kindred. She had
been upon her own mind, poor child, for her few weeks of
Court life, but not long enough to make her grow older, though
just so long as to make the sense of having her own protector
with her doubly precious. He, on the other hand, though
full of happiness, did also feel constantly deepening on him
the sense of the charge and responsibility he had assumed,


hardly knowing how. The more dear Eustacie became to
him, the more she rested on him and became entirely his,
the more his boyhood and insouciance drifted away behind
him ; and while he could hardly bear to have his darling a
moment out of his sight, the less he could endure any remark
or jest upon his affection for her. His home had been a
refined one, where Cecily's convent purity seemed to diffuse
an atmosphere of modest reserve such as did not prevail in
the Court of the Maiden Queen herself, and the lad of
eighteen had not seen enough of the outer world to have
rubbed off any of that grace. His seniority to his little wife
seemed to show itself chiefly in his being put out of counte-
nance for her, when she was too innocent and too proud of
her secret matronhood to understand or resent the wit.

Little did he know that this was the ballet-like interlude
in a great and terrible tragedy, whose first act was being
played out on the stage where they schemed and sported,
like their own little drama, which was all the world to them,
and nothing to the others. Berenger knew indeed that the
Admiral was greatly rejoiced that the Md-de-Merle estates
should go into Protestant hands, and that the old gentleman
lost no opportunity of impressing on him that they were a
heavy trust, to be used for the benefit of " the Eeligion,"
and for the support of the King in his better mind. But it
may be feared that he did not give a very attentive ear to
all this. He did not like to think of those estates ; he would
gladly have left them all to Karcisse, so that he might have
their lady, and though quite willing to win his spurs under
Charles and Coligny against the Spaniard, his heart and
head were far too full to take in the web of politics. Sooth
to say, the elopement in prospect seemed to him infinitely
more important than Pope or Spaniard, Guise or Huguenot,
and Coligny observed with a sigh to Teligny that he was a


good boy, Lilt nothing but the merest boy, with eyes open
only to himself.

^\^hen Charles undertook to rehearse their escape with
them, and the Queen drove out in a little high-wheeled litter
with Mme. la Comtesse, while Mme. de Sauve and Eustacie
were mounted on gay palfreys with the pommelled side-
saddle lately invented by the Queen-mother, Berenger, as
he watched the fearless horsemanship and graceful bearing
of his newly-won wife, had no speculations to spend on the
thoughtful face of the Admii-al. And when at the outskirts
of the wood the King's bewildering hunting-horn — sounding
as it were now here, now there, now low, now high — called
every attendant to basten to its summons, leaving the young
squire and damsel errant with a long winding high-banked
lane before them, they reckoned the dispersion to be all for
their sakes, and did not note, as did Sidney's clear eye, that
when the entire company had come straggling home, it was
the King who came up with Mme, de Sauve almost the last ;
and a short space after, as if not to appear to have been
with him, appeared the Admiral and his son-in-law.

Sidney also missed one of the Admiral's most trusted
attendants, and from this and other sym]3toms he formed
his conclusions that the King had scattered his followers as
much for the sake of an unobserved conference with Coligny
as for the convenience of the lovers, and that letters had
been despatched in consequence of that meeting.

Those letters were indeed of a kind to change the face
of affairs in France. Marshal Strozzi, then commanding in
the south-west, was bidden to embark at La Eochelle in
the last week of August, to hasten to the succour of the
Prince of Orange against Spain, and letters were despatched
by Coligny to all the Huguenot jDartisans bidding them
assemble at Melun on the 3d of September, when they


would be in the immediate neighbourhood of the Court,
which was bound for Fontainebleau. Was the star of the
Guises indeed waning 1 Was Charles about to escape from
their hands, and commit himself to an honest, high-minded
policy, in which he might have been able to purify his
national Church, and win back to her those Avhom her
corruptions had driven to seek truth and morality beyond
her pale 1

Alas ! there was a bright pair of eyes that saw more than
Philip Sidney's, a pair of ears that heard more, a tongue
and pen less faithful to guard a secret.


"le brouillon."

" But never more the same two sister pearls
Ran down the silken thread to kiss each other."


Berenger was obliged to crave permission from the King to
spend some hours in riding with Osbert to the first hostel
on their way, to make arrangements for the relay of horses
that was to meet them there, and for the reception of Vero-
nique, Eustacie's maid, who was to be sent off very early
in the morning on a pillion behind Osbert, taking with her
the articles of dress that would be wanted to change her
mistress from the huntress maid of honour to the Eno-lish

It was not long after he had been gone that a sound of
wheels and trampling horses was heard in one of the forest
drives. Charles, who was amusing himself with shooting at
a mark together with Sidney and Teligny, handed his weapon
to an attendant, and came up with looks of restless anxiety to
his Queen, who was placed in her chair under the tree, with
the Admiral and her ladies round her, as judges of the prize.

" Here is le hrouillon," he muttered. " I thought we
had been left in peace too long."

Elisabeth, who Brantome says was water, while her husband
was fire, tried to murmur some hopeful suggestion ; and poor


little Eustacie, clasping her hands, could scarcely refrain
from uttering the cry, " Oh, it is my uncle ! Do not let
him take me !"

The next minute there appeared four horses greatly heated
and jaded, drawing one of the Court coaches ; and as it
stopped at the castle gate, two ladies hecame visible within
it — the portly form of Queen Catherine, and on the hack
seat the graceful figure of Diane de Eibaumont.

Charles swore a great oath under his breath. He made a
step forward, but then his glance falling on Eustacie's face,
which had flushed to the rosiest hue of the carnation, he
put his finger upon his lip with a menacing air, and then
advanced to greet his mother, followed by his gentlemen.

" Fear not, my dear child," said the young Queen, taking
Eustacie's arm as she rose for the same purpose. " Obey
the King, and he will take care that all goes well."

The gentle Elisabeth was, however, the least regarded
member of the royal family. Her mother-in-law had not
even waited to greet her, but had hurried the King into his
cabinet, with precipitation that made the young Queen's
tender heart conclude that some dreadful disaster had
occurred, and before Mademoiselle de Eibaumont had had
time to make her reverence, she exclaimed, breathlessly,
" Oh, is it ill news ? Not from Vienna 1"

" No, no, Madame ; reassure yourself," replied Diane ;
** it is merely that her Majesty being on the way to Monceaux
•with Mesdames turned out of her road to make a flying visit
to your graces, and endeavour to persuade you to make her

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeThe chaplet of pearls; or, The white and black Ribaumont (Volume 1) → online text (page 7 of 23)