Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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

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party complete."

Elisabeth looked as if questioning with herself if this
"would possibly be the whole explanation. Monceaux was a
castle belonging to the Queen Dowager at no great distance
from Montpipeau, but there had been no intention of leaving


Paris before the wedding, whicli was fixed for the seventeenth
of August, and the bridegroom was daily expected. She
asked who was the party at Monceaux, and was told that
Madame de Nemours had gone thither the evening before,
with her son, M. de Guise, to make ready ; and that Monsieur
was escorting thither his two sisters, Madame de Lorraine
and Madame Marguerite. The Queen-mother had set out
before them very early in the morning.

" You must have made great speed," said Elisabeth ; " it
is scarcely two o'clock."

" Truly we did, Madame ; two of our horses even died
upon the road, but the Queen was anxious to find the King
ere he should set ofi" on one of his long chases."

Diane, at every spare moment, kept her eyes interro-
gatively fixed on her cousin, and evidently expected that the
taciturn Queen, to whom a long conversation, in any language
but Spanish, was always a grievance, would soon dismiss
them both ; and Eustacie did not know whether to be
thankful or impatient, as Elisabeth, with tardy, hesitating,
mentally-translated speech, inquired into every circumstance
of the death of the poor horses, and then into all the Court
gossip, which she was currently supposed neither to hear nor
understand ; and then bethought herself that this good
Mademoiselle de Eibaumont coiild teach her that embroidery
stitch she had so long wished to learn. Taking her arm,
she entered the hall, and produced her work, so as effectually
to prevent any communication between the cousins ; Eustacie,
meanwhile her heart clinging to her friend, felt her eyes
filling with tears at the thoughts of how unkind her morrow's
flight would seem without one word of farewell or of con-
fidence, and was already devising tokens of tenderness to be
left behind for Diane's consolation, when the door of the
cabinet opened, and Catherine sailed down the stairs, with


her peculiar gliding step and sweep of dignity. The King
followed her with a face of irresolution and distress. He
was evidently under her displeasure, hut she advanced to
the young Queen with much graciousness, and an air of
matronly solicitude.

" My daughter," she said, " I have just assured the King
that I cannot leave you in these damp forests. I could not
be responsible for the results of the exposure any longer.
It is for him to make his own arrangements, but I brought
my coach empty on purpose to transport you and your ladies
to Monceaux. The women may follow with the mails. You
can be ready as soon as the horses are harnessed."

Elisabeth was used to passiveness. She turned one in-
quiring look to her husband, but he looked sullen, and,
evidently cowed by his mother, uttered not a word. She
could only submit, and Catherine herseK added that there
was room for Madame de Sauve and Mademoiselle de Md-
de-Merle. Madame la Comtesse should follow ! It was
self-evident that propriety would not admit of the only
demoiselle being left behind among the gentlemen. Poor
Eustacie, she looked mvitely round as if she hoped to
escape ! What was the other unkindness to this 1 And
ever under the eyes of Diane too, who followed her to their
chamber, when she went to prepare, so that she could not
even leave a token for him where he would have been most
certain to find it. Moments were few ; but at the very last,
while the queens were being handed in the carriage, she
caught the eye of Philip Sidney. He saw the appealing
look, and came near. She tried to laugh. " Here is my
gage. Monsieur Sidney," she said, and held out a rose-
coloured knot of ribbon ; then, as he came near enough,
she whispered imploringly three of her few English words —

" Give to him."



" I take tlie gage as it is meant," said Sidney, putting a
knee to tlie ground, and kissing the trembling fingers, ere
lie handed her into the carriage. He smiled and waved his
hand as he met her earnest eyes. One bow contained a
scrap of paper pricked with needle-holes. Sidney would
not have made out those pricks for the whole world, even
had he been able to do more than hastily secure the token,
before the unhappy King, with a paroxysm of violent inter-
jections, demanded of him whether the Queen of England,
woman though she were, ever were so beset, and never
allowed a moment to herself; then, without giving time for
an answer, he flung away to his cabinet, and might be heard
pacing up and down there in a tempest of perplexity. He
came forth only to order his horse, and desire M. de Sauve
and a few grooms to be ready instantly to ride with him.
His face was full of pitiable perplexity — the smallest obstacle
was met with a savage oath ; and he was evidently in all
the misery of a weak yet passionate nature, struggling with
impotent violence against a yoke that evidently mastered it.

He flung a word to his guests that he should return ere'
night, and they thus perceived that he did not intend their

" Poor youth," said Coligny, mildly, " he will be another
being when we have him in our camp with the King of
I^avarre for his companion."

And then the Admiral repaired to his chamber to write
one of his many fond letters to the young wife of his old age ;
whQe his son-in-law and Philip Sidney agreed to ride on, so
as to meet poor young Eibaumont, and prepare him for the
blow that had befallen him personally, while they anxiously
debated what this sudden descent of the Queen-moiher
might portend. Teligny was ready to believe in any evil
intention on her part, but he thought himself certain of the

THE wiiitp: and black kibaumont. 99

King's real sentiments, and in truth Charles had never
treated any man with such confidence as this young Huguenot
noble, to whom he had told his opinion of each of his
counsellors, and his complete distrust of all. That pitying
affection which clings to those who cling to it, as well as a
true French loyalty of heart, made Teligny fully believe
that however Catherine might struggle to regain her ascen-
dency, and whatever apparent relapses might be caused by
Charles's habitual subjection to her, yet the high aspirations
and strong sense of justice inherent in the King were
asserting themselves as his yonth was passing into manhood ;
and that the much desired war would enable him to develop
all his higher qualities. Sidney listened, partially agreed,
talked of caution, and mused within himself whether violence
might not sometimes be mistaken for vigour.

Ere long, the merry cadence of an old English song fell
with a homelike sound upon Sidney's ear, and in another
moment they were in sight of Berenger, trotting joyously
along, with a bouquet of crimson and white heather blossoms
in his hand, and his bright young face full of exultation in
his arrangements. He shouted gaily as he saw them, calling
out, " I thought I should meet you ! but I wondered not to
have heard the King's bugle-horn. Where are the rest of
the hunters?"

" Unfortunately we have had another sort of hunt to-day,"
•said Sidney, who had ridden forward to meet him; " and
one that, I fear, will disquiet you greatly."

*' How ! Kot her uncle?" exclaimed Berenger.

" IS'o, cheer up, my friend, it was not she who was the
object of the chase; it was this unlucky King," he added,
speaking English, " who has been run to earth by his

" IS!"ay, but what is that to me?" said Berenger, with

h2 ^


impatient superiority to- the affairs of the nation. " Ho\r
does it touch us?"

Sidney related the ahstraction of the young Queen and'
her ladies, and then handed over the rose-coloured token,
which Berenger took with vehement ardour, then his
features quivered as he read the needle-pricked words —
two that he had playfully insisted on her speaking and
spelling after him in his adopted tongue, then not vulgarized,
but the tenderest in the language, " Sweet heart." That
was all, but to him they conveyed constancy to him and
his, whatever might betide, and an entreaty not to leave her
to her fate.

^' My dearest ! never ! " he muttered ; then turning hastily
as he put the precious token into his bosom, he exclaimed,
" Are their women yet gone 1 " and being assured that they
were not departed when the two friends had set out, he
pushed his horse on at speed, so as to be able to send a reply
by Yeronique. He was barely in time : the clumsy wagon-
like conveyance of the waiting-women stood at the door of
the castle, in course of being packed with the Queen's ward-
robe, amid the j anglings of lackeys, and expostulating cries
of femmes de chambre, all in the worst possible humour at
being crowded up with their natural enemies, the household
of the Queen-mother.

Veronique, a round-faced Angevin girl — who, like her lady,
had not parted with all her rustic simplicity and honesty, and
who had been necessarily taken into their confidence — was
standing apart from the whirl of confusion, holding the
leashes of two or three little dogs that had been confided to
her care, that their keepers might with more ease throw
themselves into the melee. Her face lighted up as she saw
the Baron de Ribaumont arrive.

"Ah, sir, Madame will be so happy that I have seeui


Monsieur once more," she exclaimed under her breath, as he
approached her.

"Alas ! there is not a moment to write," he said, looking
at the vehicle, already fast filling, " but give her these
flowers ; they were gathered for her ; give her ten thousand
thanks for her token. Tell her to hold firm, and that neither
king nor queen, bolt nor bar, shall keep me from her. Tell
her, our watchword is lio-peP

The sharp eyes of the duenna of the Queen's household, a
rigid Spanish dame, were already searching for stray members
of her flock, and Veronique had to hurry to her place, while
Berenger remained to hatch new plans, each wilder than the
last, and torment himself with guesses whether his project
had been discovered. Indeed, there were moments when he
fancied the frustration of his purpose the special object of
Queen Catherine's journey, but he had the wisdom to keep
any such suggestion to himself.

The King came back by supper-time, looking no longer
in a state of indecision, but pale and morose. He spoke
to no one as he entered, and afterwards took his place
at the head of the supper- table in silence, which he did
not break till the meal was nearly over. Then he said
abruptly, " Gentlemen, our party has been broken up, and I
imagine that after our great hunt to-morrow, no one will
have any objection to return to Paris. We shall have
merrier sport at Fontainebleau when this most troublesome
of weddings is over."

There was nothing to be done but to bow acquiescence,
and the King again became grimly silent. After supper he
challenged Coligny to a game of chess, and not a word passed
during the protracted contest, either from the combatants or
any other person in the hall. It was as if the light had
suddenly gone out to others besides the disappointed and


anxious Berenger, and a dull shadow had fallen on the place-
only yesterday so lively, joyous, and hopeful.

Berenger, chained by the etiquette of the royal presence,
sat like a statue, his back against the wall, his arms crossed
on his breast, his eyes fixed, chewing the cud of the memories
of his dream of bliss, or striving to frame the future to his
will, and to decide what was the next reasonable step he
could take, or whether his irrepressible longing to ride
straight off to Monceaux, claim his wife, and take her on
horseback behind him, were a mere impracticable vision.

The King, having been checkmated twice out of three
times by the Admiral, too honest a man not truly to accept
his declaration of not wanting courtly play, pushed away the
board, and was attended by them all to his coucher, which
was usually made in public ; and the Queen being absent,
the gentlemen were required to stand around him till he was
ready to fall asleep. He did not seem disposed to talk, but
begged Sidney to fetch his lute, and sing to him some
English airs that had taken his fancy much when sung by
Sidney and Berenger together.

Berenger felt as if they would choke him in his present
turbid state of resentful uncertainty ; but even as the un-
happy young King spoke, it was with a heavy, restless groan,
as he added, "If you know any lullaby that will give rest to-
a wretch, tormented beyond bearing, let us have it."

" Alas, Sire ! " said the Admiral, seeing that no perilous
ears remained in the room ; " there are better and more
soothing words than any mundane melody."

" Peste ! My good father," said the King petulantly, "has
not old Phlipote, my nurse, rocked me to the sound of your
Marot's Psalms, and crooned her texts over me. I tell you
I do not want to think. I want what will drive thought
away — to dull "


" Alas ! what dulls slays," said the Admiral,

" Let it. Nothing can be worse than the present," said the
wretched Charles ; then, as if wishing to break away from
Coligny, he threw himself round towards Bcrenger, and said,
" Here ; stoop down, Kibaumont ; a word with you. Your
matters have gone up the mountains, as the Italians say, with
mine. But never fear. Keep silence, and you shall have
the bird in your hand, only you must be patient. Hold ! I
will make you and JMonsieur Sidney gentlemen of my bed-
chamber, which will give you the entree of the Louvre ; and
if you cannot get her out of it without an edat^ then you
must be a much duUer fellow than half my Court. Only
that it is not their own wives that they abstract."

With this Berenger must needs content himself ; and the
certainty of the poor King's good will did enable him to do
his part with Sidney in the songs that endeavoured to soothe
the torments of the evil spirit which had on that day effected
a fresh lodgment in that weak, unwilling heart.

It was not till the memoirs of the secret actors in this
tragedy were brought to light that the key to these doings
was discovered. M. de Sauve, Charles's secretary, had dis-
closed his proceedings to his wife ; she, flattered by the
attentions of the Duke of Anjou, betrayed them to him ; and
the Queen-mother, terrified at the change of policy, and the
loss of the power she had enjoyed for so many years, had
hurried to the spot.

Her influence over her son resembled the fascination of a
snake : once within her reach he was unable to resist her ;
and when in their tete-a-tete she reproached him with ill-faith
towards her, prophesied the overthrow of the Church, the
desertion of his allies, the ruin of his throne, and finally
announced her intention of hiding her head in her own
hereditary estates in Auvergne, begging, as a last favour, that


he would give his brother time to quit France instead of
involving him in his own ruin, the poor young man's whole
soxil was in commotion. His mother knew her strength, left
the poison to work, and withdrew in displeasure to Monceaux,
sure that, as in effect happened, he woiild not be long in
following her, imploring her not to abandon him, and making
an unconditional surrender of himself, his conscience, and
his friends into her hands. Duplicity was so entirely the
element of the Court, that, even while thus yielding himself,
it was as one checked, but continuing the game ; he still con-
tinued his connexion with the Huguenots, hoping to succeed
in his aims by some future counter-intrigue ; and his real
hatred of the Court policy, and the genuine desire to make
common cause with them, served his mother's purpose com-
pletely, since his cajolery thus became sincere. Her purpose
was, probably, not yet formed. It was power that she loved,
and hoped to secure by the intrigues she had played off all
her life ; but she herself was in the hands of an infinitely
more bloodthirsty and zealous faction, who could easily ac-
complish their ends by working on the womanly terrors of
an unscrupulous mind.



" A nd trust me not at all or all in all."


So extensive was the Louvre, so widely separated the dif-
ferent suites of apartments, that Diane and Eustacie had
not met after the pall-mall party till they sat opposite to
their several queens in the coach driving through the woods,
the elder cousin curiously watching the eyes of the younger,
so wistfully gazing at the window, and now and then rapidly
winking as though to force back a rebellious tear.

The cousins had been bred up together in the convent at
Bellaise, and had only been separated by Diane's having
been brought to Court two years sooner than Eustacie.
They had always been on very kindly, affectionate terms :
Diane treating her little cousin with the patronage of an
elder sister, and greatly contributing to shield her from the
temptations of the Court. The elder cousin was so much
the more handsome, brilliant, and admired, that no notion of
rivalry had crossed her mind ; and Eustacie' s inheritance
■was regarded by her as reserved for her brother, and the
means of aggrandizement and prosperity for herself and her
father. She looked upon the child as a sort of piece of
property of the family, to be guarded and watched over
for her brother; and when she had first discovered the


error that the young baron was making between the two
daughters of the house, it Avas partly in kindness to Eustacie,
partly to carry out her father's plans, and partly from her
own pleasure in conversing with anything so candid and
fresh as Berenger, that she had maintained the delusion.
Her father believed himself to have placed Berenger so
entirely in the background, that he would hardly be at
Court long enough to discover the imposition ; and Diane
was not devoid of a strong hope of winning his affection
and bending his will so as to induce him to become her
husband, and become a French courtier for her sake — a wild
dream, but a better castle in the air than she had ever
yet indulged in.

This arrangement was, however, disconcerted by the King's
passion for Sidney's society, which brought young Eibau-
mont also to Court ; and at the time of the mischievous
introduction by Madame Marguerite, Diane had perceived
that the mistake would soon be found out, and that she
should no longer be able to amuse herself with the fresh-
coloured, open-faced boy who was so unlike all her former
acquaintance ; but the magnetism that shows a woman when
she produces an effect had been experienced by her, and she
had been sure that a few efforts more would warm and
mould the wax in her fingers. That he should prefer a
little brown thing, whose beauty was so inferior to her own,
had never crossed her mind ; she did not even know that he
was invited to the pall-mall party, and was greatly taken by
surprise when her father sought an interview with her,
accused her of betraying their interests, and told her that
this foolish young fellow declared that he had been mistaken,
and having now discovered his veritable wife, protested
against resigning her.

By that time the whole pai'ty were gone to IMontpipeau^


but that the Baron was among them was not known at the
Louvre until Queen Catherine, who had always treated
Diane as rather a favoured, quick-witted protegee, com-
manded her attendance, and on her way let her know that
Madame de Sauve liad reported that, among all the follies
that were being perpetrated at the hunting-seat, the young
Queen was absolutely throwing the little Nid-de-Merle into
the arms of her Huguenot husband, and that if measures
were not promptly taken all the great estates in the Bocage
would be lost to the young Chevalier, and be carried over to
the Huguenot interest.

Still Diane could not believe that it was so much a matter
of love as that the youth had begun to relish Court favour
and to value the inheritance, and she could quite believe her
little cousin had been flattered by a few attentions that had
no meaning in them. She was not prepared to find that
Eustacie shrank from her, and tried to avoid a private
interview. In truth, the poor child had received such
injunctions from the Queen, and so stern a warning look
from the King, that she durst not utter a syllable of the
evening that had sealed her lot, and was so happy with her
secret, so used to tell everything to Diane, so longing to talk
of her husband, that she was afraid of betraying herself if
once they were alone together. Yet Diane, knowing that
her father trusted to her to learn how far things had gone,
and piqued at seeing the transparent little creature, now
glowing and smiling with inward bliss, now pale, pensive,
sighing, and anxious, and scorning her as too childish for
the love that she seemed to affect, was resolved on obtaining
confidence from her.

And when the whole female Court had sat down to the
silk embroidery in which Catherine de Medicis excelled,
Diane seated herself in the recess of a window and beckoned


her cousin to her side, so that it was not possible to

" Little one," she said, " why have you cast off your poor
■cousin 1 There, sit down " — for Eustacie stood, with her
silk in her hand, as if meaning instantly to return to her
former place ; and now, her cheeks in a flame, she answered
in an indignant whisper, "You know, Diane ! How could
jou try to keep him from me 1 "

" Because it was better for thee, my child, than to be pes-
tered with an adventurer," she said, smiling, though bitterly.

" ]\Iy husband ! " returned Eustacie proudly.

" Bah ! You know better than that ! " Then, as Eustacie
■was about to speak, but checked herself, Diane added, "Yes,
my poor friend, he has a something engaging about him, and
we all would have hindered you from the pain and embarass-
anent of a meeting with him."

Eustacie smiled a little saucy smile, as though infinitely
superior to them all.

" Pauvre xjetite" said Diane, nettled ; " she actually
believes in his love."

" I will not hear a word against my husband ! " said
Eustacie, stepping back, as if to return to her place, but
Diane rose and laid her hand on hers. " My dear," she said,
" we must not part thus. I only wish to know what
touches my darling so nearly. I thought she loved and
•clung to us ; why should she have turned from me for the
sake of one who forgot her for half his life? What can he
have done to master this silly little heart % "

"I cannot tell you, Diane," said Eustacie simply; and
though she looked down, the colour on her face was more of
a happy glow than a conscious blush. " I love him too
much ; only we understand each other now, and it is of no
use to try to separate us."


" Ah, poor little thing, so she thinks," said Diane, and as
Eustacie again smiled as one incapable of being shaken in
her conviction, she added, " And how do you know that he
loves you 1 "

Diane was startled by the bright eyes that flashed on her
and the bright colour that made Eustacie perfectly beautiful,
as she answered, " Because I am his wife ! That is enough ! "
Then, before her cousin could speak again, " But, Diane, I
promised not to speak of it, I know he would despise me
if I broke my word, so I will not talk to you till I have
leave to tell you all, and I am going back to help Gabrielle
de Limeuil with her shepherdess."

Mademoiselle de Eibaumont felt her attempt most unsatis-
factory, but she knew of old that Eustacie was very deter-
mined — all Bellaise knew that to oppose the tiny Baronne
was to make her headstrong in her resolution ; and if she
suspected that she was coaxed, she only became more
obstinate. To make any discoveries, Diane must take the
line of most cautious caresses, such as to throw her cousin
off her guard ; and this she was forced to confess to her
father when he sought an interview with her on the day of
her return to Paris. He shook his head. " She must be
on the watch," he said, and get quickly into the silly girl's
confidence. What! had she not found out that the young
villain had been on the point of eloping with her ? If such

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeThe chaplet of pearls; or, The white and black Ribaumont (Volume 1) → online text (page 8 of 23)