Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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

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a thing as that should succeed, the whole family was lost,
and she was the only person who could prevent it. He
trusted to her.

The Chevalier had evidently come to regard his niece as
his son's lawful property, and the Baron as the troublesome
meddler ; and Diane had much the same feeling, enhanced
by sore jealousy at Eustacie's triumph over her, and curiosity
as to whether it could be indeed well founded. She had an


opportunity of judging the same evening — mere habit always
caused Eustacie to keep under her wing, if she could not be
near the Queen, whenever there was a reception, and to that
reception of course Berenger came, armed with his right as
gentleman of the bedchamber. Eustacie was colouring and
fluttering, as if by the instinct of his presence, even before
the tall fair head became visible, moving forward as well as
the crowd would permit, and seeking about with anxious
eyes. The glances of the blue and the black eyes met at
last, and a satisfied radiance illuminated each young face ;
then the young man steered his way through the throng, but
was caught midway by Coligny, and led up to be presented
to a hook-nosed, dark-haired, lively-looking young man, in a
suit of black richly laced with silver. It was the King of
^Navarre, the royal bridegroom, who had entered Paris in
state that afternoon. Eustacie tried to be proud of the pre-
ferment, but oh ! she thought it mistimed, and was gratified
to mark certain wanderings of the eye even while the
gracious King was speaking. Then the Admiral said some-
thing that brought the girlish rosy flush up to the very
roots of the short curls of flaxen hair, and made the young
King's white teeth flash out in a mirthful, good-natured
laugh, and thereupon the way opened, and Berenger was
beside the two ladies, kissing Eustacie's hand, but merely
bowing to Diane.

She was ready to take the initiative.

" My cousins deem me unpardonable," she said ; " yet I
am going to purchase their pardon. See this cabinet of
porcelain a la Reine, and Italian vases and gems, behind
this curtain. There is all the siege of Troy, which M. la
Baron will no doubt explain to Mademoiselle, while I shall
sit on this cushion, and endure the siege of St. Quentin from
the hon Sieur de Selinville."


Monsieur de Selinville was the Court bore, who had been
in every battle from Pavia to Montcontour, and gave as full
memoirs of each as did Blaise de Monluc, only viva voce
instead of in writing. Diane was rather a favourite of his ;
she knew her way through all his adventures. So soon as
she had heard the description of the King of Navarre's
entry into Paris that afternoon, and the old gentleman's
lamentation that his own two nephews were among the three
hundred Huguenot gentlemen who had formed the escort,
she had only to observe whether his reminiscences had gone
to Italy or to Flanders in order to be able to put in the
appropriate remarks at each pause, while she listened all the
while to the murmurs behind the curtain. Yet it Avas not
easy, with all her Court-breeding, to appear indifferent, and
solely absorbed in hearing of the bad lodgings that had
fallen to the share of the royal troops at Brescia, when such
sounds were reaching her. It was not so much the actual
words she heard, though these were the phrases — "mon ange,
my heart, my love ; " those were common, and Diane had
lived, in the Queen-mother's squadron long enough to despise
those who uttered them only less than those who believed
them. It was the full depth of tenderness and earnestness,
in the subdued tones of the voice, that gave her a sense of
quiet force and reality beyond all she had ever known. She
had heard and overheard men pour out frantic ravings of
passion, but never had listened to anything like the sweet
protecting tenderness of voice that seemed to embrace and
shelter its object. Diane had no doubts now ; he had never
so spoken to her; nay, perhaps he had had no such cadences
in his voice before. It was quite certain that Eustacie was
everything to him, she herself nothing; she who might
have had any gallant in the Court at her feet, but had never
seen one whom she could, believe in, whose sense of esteem


had been first awakened by this stranger lad who despised
her. Surely he was loving this foolish child simply as hia
duty ; his belonging, as his right he might struggle hard for
her, and if he gained her, be greatly disappointed ; for how
could Eustacie appreciate him, little empty-headed, siUy
thing, who would be amused and satisfied by any Court
flatterer 1

However, Diane held out and played her part, caught
scraps of the conversation, and pieced them together, yet
avoided all appearance of inattention to M. de Selinville,
and finally dismissed him, and manoeuvred first Eustacie,
and after a safe interval Berenger, out of the cabinet. The
latter bowed as he bade her good night, and said, with the
most open and cordial of smiles, " Cousin, I thank you with
all my heart."

The bright look seemed to her another shaft. " What
happiness ! " said she to herself. " Can I overthrow it ]
Bah ! it will crumble of its own accord, even if I did nothing I
And my father and brother ! "

Communication with her father and brother was not
always easy to Diane, for she lived among the Queen-mother's
ladies. Her brother was quartered in a sort of barrack among
the gentlemen of Monsieur's suite, and the old Chevalier was
living in the room Berenger had taken for him at the Croix
de Lorraine, and it was only on the most pubhc days that they
attended at the palace. Such a day, however, there was on
the ensuing Sunday, when Henry of Navarre and Marguerite
of France were to be wedded. Their dispensation was come,
but, to the great relief of Eustacie, there was no answer with
it to the application for the cassation of her marriage. In
fact, this dispensation had never emanated from the Pope at
all. Eome would not sanction the union of a daughter of
France with a Huguenot prince ; and Charles had forged the


■document, probably with liis mother's knowledge, in the
hope of spreading her toils more completely round her prey,
while he trusted that the victims might prove too strong
for her, and destroy her web, and in breaking forth might
release himself.

Strange was the pageant of that wedding on Sunday, the
17th of August, 1572. The outward seeming was magnificent,
when all that was princely in France stood on the splendidly-
decked platform in front of Notre-Dame, around the bride-
igroom in the bright promise of his kingly endowments, and
the bride in her peerless beauty. Brave, noble-hearted, and
devoted were the gallant following of the one, splendid and
highly gifted the attendants of the other ; and their union
seemed to promise peace to a long distracted kingdom.

Yet what an abyss lay beneath those trappings ! The
bridegroom and his comrades were as lions in the tods of
the hunter, and the lure that had enticed them thither was
the bride, herself so unwilling a victim that her lips refused
to utter the espousal vows, and her head was forced forward
by her brother into a sign of consent ; while the favoured
lover of her whole lifetime agreed to the sacrifice in order to
purchase the vengeance for which he thirsted, and her mother,
the corrupter of her own children, looked complacently on at
her ready-dug pit of treachery and bloodshed.

Among the many who played unconscious on the surface
of that gulf of destruction, were the young creatures whose
chief thought in the pageant was the glance and smile from
the gaUery of the Queen's ladies to the long procession of the
English Ambassador's train, as they tried to remember their
• own marriage there ; Berenger with clear recollection of liis
father's grave, anxious face, and Eustacie chiefly remember-
ing her own white satin and turquoise dress, which indeed
she had seen on every great festival-day as the best raiment



of the image of Xotre-Danie de Bellaise. She remained La
the choir daring mass, but Berenger accompanied the rest of '
the Protestants -with the bridegroom at their head into the
nave, where Coligny beguiled the time with walking about,
looking at the banners that had been taken from himself and
Conde at Montcontour and Jarnac, saying that he hoped
soon to see them taken down and replaced by Spanish banners.
Berenf'er had followed, because he felt the need of doing as
Walsingham and Sidney thought right, but he had not been
in London long enough to become hardened to the desecra-
tion of churches by frequenting " Paul's Walk." He remained
bareheaded, and stood as near as he could to the choir,
listening to the notes that floated from the priests and acolytes
at the high altar, longing for the time when he and Eustacie
should be one in their prayers, and lost in a reverie, tiU a
grave old nobleman passing near him reproved him for dally-
ing with the worship of Eimmon. But his listening attitude
had not passed unobserved by others besides Huguenot

The wedding was followed by a ball at the Louvre, from
which, however, all the stricter Huguenots absented them-
selves out of respect to Sunday, and among them the family
and guests of the English Ambassador, who were in the
meantime attending the divine service that had been post-
poned on account of the morning's ceremony. Neither was
the Duke of Guise present at the entertainment ; for though
he had some months previously been piqued and entrapped
into a marriage -with Catherine of Cleves, yet his passion for
Marguerite was still so strong that he could not bear to join
in the festivities of her wedding with another. The absence
of so many distinguished persons caused the admission of
many less constantly privileged, and thus it was that Diane
there met both her father and brother, who eagerly drew her


into a window, and demanded what she had to tell them,
laughing too at the simplicity of the youth, who had left for
the Chevahor a formal announcement that he had despatched
his protest to Eome, and considered himself as free to obtain
his wife by any means in his power.

" "Where is la petite 1 " if^arcisse demanded. " Behind her
Queen, as usual?"

*' The young Queen keeps her room to-night," returned
Diane. "Xor do I advise you, brother, to thrust yourself
in the way of la petite entCtee just at present."

*' What, is she so besotted with the peach face 1 He shall
pay for it ! "

" Brother, no duel. Father, remind him that she would
never forgive him."

"Fear not, daughter," said the Chevalier; "this foUy can
be ended by much quieter modes, only you must first give us

" She tells me nothing," said Diane ; " she is in one of
her own humours — high and mighty."

^^Peste! where is your vaunt of winding the little one
round your finger 1 "

" "With time, I said," replied Diane. Curiously enough,
she had no compunction in worming secrets from Eustacie
and betraying them, but she could not bear to think of the
trap she had set for the unsuspecting youth, and how in-
genuously he had thanked her, little knowing how she had
listened to his inmost secrets.

" Time is everything," said her father ; " delay will be our
ruin. Your inheritance will slip thi-ough your fingers, my
son. The youth will soon win favour by abjuring liis heresy;
he ■will play the same game with the King as his father did
•with Iving Henri. You will have nothing but your sword,
and for you, my poor girl, there is nothing but to throw



yourself on the kindness of your aunt at Bellaise, if she can
receive the vows of a dowerless maiden."

" It will never be," said ISTarcisse. " My rapier wiU soon
dispose of a big rustic like that, who knows just enough of
fencing to make him an easy prey. What ! I verily believe
the great blond has caught her fancy ! " as he saw Diane's
gesture of entreaty. " And yet the fine fellow was willing
enough to break the marriage when he took her for the


" Nay, my son," argued the Chevalier, willing apparently
to spare his daughter from the sting of mortification, " as I
said, all can be done without danger of bloodshed on either
side, were we but aware of any renewed project of elopement.
The pretty pair would be easily waylaid, the girl safely lodged
at Bellaise, the boy sent off to digest his pride in England."

'' Unhurt 1 " murmured Diane.

Her father checked Narcisse's mockery at her solicitude,
•as he added, "Unhurt? yes. He is a liberal-hearted,
gracious, fine young man, whom I should much grieve
to harm ; but if you know of any plan of elopement and
conceal it, my daughter, then upon you wiU lie either the
ruin and disgrace of your family, or the death of one or
both of the youths."

Diane saw that her question had betrayed her knowledge.
She spoke faintly. " Something I did overhear, but I know
not how to utter a treason."

"There is no treason where there is no trust, daughter,"
said the Chevalier, in the tone of a moral sage. " Speak ! "

Diane never disobeyed her father, and faltered, " Wednes-
day ; it is for Wednesday. They mean to leave the palace in
the midst of the masque ; there is a market-boat from Leurre
to meet them on the river ; his servants will be in it."

" On Wednesday ! " Father and son looked at each other.


" That shall be remedied," said Narcisse.

" Child," added her father, turning kindly to Diane, "you
have saved our fortunes. There is but one thing more that
you must do. Make her obtain the pearls from him."

" Ah ! " sighed Diane, half shocked, half revengeful, as she
thought how he had withheld them from her.

" It is necessary," said the Chevalier. " The heirloom of
our house must not be risked. Secure the pearls, child, and
you will have done good service, and earned the marriage that
shall reward you."

"When he was gone, Diane pressed her hands together with
a strange sense of misery. He, who had shrunk from the
memory of little Diane's untrutlifulness, what would he
think of the present Diane's treachery 1 Yet it was to sav
his life and that of her brother — and for the assertion of her
victory over the little robber, Eustacie.



" The Styx had fast bound her
Nine times around her."

Pope, Ode on St. Cecilia's Day.

Early on Monday morning came a message to ^lademoiselle
Nid- de-Merle that she was to prepare to act the part of a
nymph of Paradise in the King's masque on Wednesday
night, and must dress at once to rehearse her part in the
ballet specially designed by Monsieur.

Her first impulse was to hurry to her own Queen, whom
she entreated to find some mode of exempting her. But
Elisabeth, who was still in bed, looked distressed and frigh-
tened, made signs of caution, and when the weeping girl was
on the point of telling her of the project that would thus be
ruined, silenced her by saying, "Hush! my poor child, I
have but meddled too much already. Our Lady grant that I
have not done you more harm than good ! Tell me no more."

" Ah ! Madame, I will be discreet, I will tell you nothing ;
but if you would only interfere to spare me from this ballet !
It is Monsieur's contrivance ! Ah ! Madame, could you but
speak to the King ! "

" Impossible, child," said the Queen. " Things are not
here as they were at happy Montpipeau."

And the poor young Queen turned her face in to her
pillow, and wept.



Every one who was not in a dream of bliss like poor little
Eustacie knew that the King had been in so savage a mood
ever since his return that no one durst ask anything from
him. A little while since, he had laughed at liis gentle wife
for letting herself, an Emperor's daughter, be trampled on
where his brother Francis's queen, from her trumpery, beg-
garly realm, had held up her head, and put down la belle
Merc; he had amused himself with Elisabeth's pretty little
patronage of the young Eibaumonts as a promising com-
mencement in intriguing like other people ; but now he was
absolutely violent at any endeavour to make him withstand
his mother, and had driven his wife back into that cold,
listless, indiiferent shell of apathy from which affection and
hope had begun to rouse her. She knew it would only make
it the worse for her little JSTid-de- Merle for her to interpose
when Monsieur had made the choice.

And Eustacie was more afraid of Monsieur than even of
Narcisse, and her Berenger could not be there to protect her.
However, there was protection in numbers. With twelve
nymphs, and cavaliers to match, even the Duke of Anjou
could not accomplish the being very insulting. Eustacie —
light, agile, and fairy-like — gained considerable credit for
ready comprehension and graceful evolutions. She had
never been so much complimented before, and was much
cheered by praise. Diane showed herself highly pleased with
her little cousin's success, embraced her, and told her she was
finding her true level at Court. She would be the prettiest
of all the nymphs, who were all small, since fairies rather
than Amazons were wanted in their position. "And,
Eustacie," she added, " you should wear the pearls."

" The pearls ! " said Eustacie. " Ah ! but he always wears
them. I like to see them on his bonnet — they are hardly
whiter than his forehead."


" Foolish little thing ! " said Diane, " I shall think little of
his love if he cares to see himself in them more than yon."

The shaft seemed carelessly shot, but Diane knew that it
would work, and so it did. Eustacie wanted to prove her
husband's love, not to herself, but to her cousin.

He made his way to her in the gardens of the Louvre that
evening, greatly dismayed at the report that had reached him
that she was to figure as a nymph of Elysium. She would
thus be in sight as a prominent figure the whole evening,
even till an hour so late that the market boat which Osbert
had arranged for their escape could not wait for them with-
out exciting suspicion, and besides his delicate EngHsh feelings
were revolted at the notion of her forming a part of such a
spectacle. She could not understand his displeasure. If
they could not go on Wednesday, they could go on Saturday ;
and as to her acting, half the noblest ladies in the Court
would be in the piece, and if English husbands did not like
it, they must be the tyrants she had always heard of

" To be a gazing-stock " began Berenger.

" Hush ! monsieur, I will hear no more, or I shall take
care how I put myself in your power."

" That has been done for you, sweetheart," he said, smiling
with perhaps a shade too much superiority ; "you are mine
entirely now."

" That is not kind," she pouted, almost crying — for between
flattery, excitement, and disappointment she was not like
herself that day, and she was too proud to like to be reminded
that she was in any one's power.

" I thought," said Berenger, with the gentleness that
always made him manly in dealing with her, " I thought you
liked to own yourself mine."

" Yes, sir, when you are good, and do not try to hector me
for what I cannot avoid."


Berenger was candid 'enough to recollect that royal com-
mands did not brook disobedience, and, being thoroughly
enamoured besides of his little wife, he hastened to make his
peace by saying, " True, ma mie, this cannot be helped. I
was a wretch to find fault. Think of it no more."

" You forgive nie ? " she said, softened instantly.

*• Forgive you 1 What for, pretty one ? For my for-
getting that you are still a slave to a hatefid court ? "

" Ah ! then, if you forgive me, let me wear the pearls."

" The poor pearls," said Berenger, taken aback for a mo-
ment, " the meed of our forefather's valour, to form part of
the pageant_ and mummery ? But never mind, sweetheart,"
for he could not bear to vex her again; "you shall have
them to-night : only take care of them. My mother would
look black on me if she knew I had let them out of my care,
but you and I are one after all."

Berenger could not bear to leave his wife near the Duke
of Anjou and ISTarcisse, and he offered himself to the King as
an actor in the masque, much as he detested all he heard of
its subject. The King nodded comprehension, and told him
it was open to him either to be a demon in a tight suit
of black cloth, with cloven-hoof shoes, a long tail, and a
trident ; or one of the Huguenots who were to be repulsed
from Paradise for the edification of the spectators. As
these last were to wear suits of knightly armour, Berenger
much preferred making one of them in spite of theu-

The masque was given at the hall of the Hotel de Bourbon,
where a noble gallery accommodated the audience, and left
full space beneath for the actors. Down the centre of
the stage flowed a stream, broad enough to contain a boat,,
which was plied by the Abbe de Mericour — transformed by
a grey beard and hair and dismal mask into Charon.


But so unused to navigation was he, so crazy and ill-
trimmed his craft, that his hrst performance would have been
his submersion in the Styx had not Berenger, better accus-
tomed to boats than any of the dramatis personce, caught him.
by the arm as he was about to step in, pointed out the perils,
weighted the frail vessel, and given him a lesson in paddling
it to and fro, with such a masterly hand, that, had there been
time for a change of dress, the part of Charon would have been
unanimously transferred to him ; but the delay could not be
suffered, and poor Mericour, in fear of a ducking, or worse,
.of ridicule, balanced himself, pole in hand, in the midst of
the river. To the right of the river was Elysium — a circular
island revolving on a wheel which was an absolute orrery,
representing in concentric circles the skies, with the sun,
moon, the seven planets, twelve signs, and the fixed stars, all
illuminated with small lamps. The island itself was covered
with verdure, in which, among bowers woven of gay flowers,
reposed twelve nymphs of Paradise, of whom Eustacie was one.

On the other side of the stream was another wheel, whose
grisly emblems were reminders of Dante's infernal circles,
and were lighted by lurid flames, while little bells were hung
round so as to make a harsh jangling sound, and all of the
Court who had any turn for buffoonery were leaping and
dancing about as demons beneath it, and uttering wild shouts.

King Charles and his two brothers stood on the margin of
the Elysian lake. King Henry, the Prince of Conde, and a
selection of the younger and gayer Huguenots, were the as-
sailants, — storming Paradise to gain possession of the nymphs.
It was a very illusive armour that they wore, thin scales of
gold or silver as cuirasses over their satin doublets, and the
swords and lances of festive combat in that Court had been
of the bluntest foil ever since the father of these princes had
died beneath Montgomery's spear. And when the King and


his brothers, one of them a pnny crooked boy, were the
champions, the battle must needs be the merest show, though
there were lookers-on who thouglit that, judging by a])pear-
ances, the assailants ought to have the best chance of victory,
both literal and allegorical.

However, these three guardian angels had choice allies in
the shape of the infernal company, who, as fast as the
Huguenots crossed swords or shivered lances with their
royal opponents, encircled them with their long black arms,
and dragged them struggling away to Tartarus. Henry
of Navarre yielded himself with a good-will to the horse-
play with which this was performed, resisting just enough
to give his demoniacal captors a good deal of trouble,
while yielding all the time, and taking them by surprise by
agile efforts, that showed that if he were excluded from
Paradise it was only by his own consent, and that he heartily
enjoyed the merriment. Most of his comrades, in especial
the young Count de Rochefoucauld, entered into the sport
with the same heartiness, but the Prince of Conde submitted
to his fate with a gloomy, disgusted countenance, that added
much to the general mirth j and Berenger, with Eustacie
before his eyes, looking pale, distressed, and ill at ease, was a
great deal too much in earnest. He had so veritable an

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeThe chaplet of pearls; or, The white and black Ribaumont (Volume 1) → online text (page 9 of 23)