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´╗┐Title: The Chaplet of Pearls
Author: Yonge, Charlotte M. (Charlotte Mary), 1823-1901
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Chaplet of Pearls" ***

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THE CHAPLET OF PEARLS

By Charlotte M. Yonge



CONTENTS


CHAPTER I. THE BRIDAL OF THE WHITE AND BLACK

CHAPTER II. THE SEPARATION

CHAPTER III. THE FAMILY COUNCIL

CHAPTER IV. TITHONUS

CHAPTER V. THE CONVENT BIRD

CHAPTER VI. FOULLY COZENED

CHAPTER VII. THE QUEEN'S PASTORAL

CHAPTER VIII. 'LE BROUILLON'

CHAPTER IX. THE WEDDING WITH CRIMSON FAVOURS

CHAPTER X. MONSIEUR'S BALLET

CHAPTER XI. THE KING'S TRAGEDY

CHAPTER XII. THE PALACE OF SLAUGHTER

CHAPTER XIII. THE BRIDEGROOM'S ARRIVAL

CHAPTER XIV. SWEET HEART

CHAPTER XV. NOTRE-DAME DE BELLAISE

CHAPTER XVI. THE HEARTHS AND THICKETS OF THE BOCAGE

CHAPTER XVII. THE GHOSTS OF THE TEMPLARS

CHAPTER XVIII. THE MOONBEAM

CHAPTER XIX. LA RUE DES TROIS FEES

CHAPTER XX. THE ABBE

CHAPTER XXI. UNDER THE WALNUT-TREE

CHAPTER XXII. DEPARTURE

CHAPTER XXIII. THE EMPTY CRADLE

CHAPTER XXIV. THE GOOD PRIEST OF NISSARD

CHAPTER XXV. THE VELVET COACH

CHAPTER XXVI. THE CHEVALIER'S EXPIATION

CHAPTER XXVII. THE DYING KING

CHAPTER XXVIII. THE ORPHANS OF LA SABLERIE

CHAPTER XXIX. IN THE KING'S NAME

CHAPTER XXX. CAGED IN THE BLACKBIRD'S NEST

CHAPTER XXXI. THE DARK POOL OF THE FUTURE

CHAPTER XXXII. 'JAM SATIS'

CHAPTER XXXIII. THE SCANDAL OF THE SYNOD OF MONTAUBAN

CHAPTER XXXIV. MADAME LA DUCHESSE

CHAPTER XXXV. THE ITALIAN PEDLAR

CHAPTER XXXVI. SPELL AND POTION

CHAPTER XXXVII. BEATING AGAINST THE BARS

CHAPTER XXXVIII. THE ENEMY IN PRESENCE

CHAPTER XXXIX. THE PEDLAR'S PREDICTION

CHAPTER XL. THE SANDS OF OLONNE

CHAPTER XLI. OUR LADY OF HOPE

CHAPTER XLII. THE SILVER BULLET

CHAPTER XLIII. LA BAISER D'EUSTACIE

CHAPTER XLIV. THE GALIMAFRE



PREFACE



It is the fashion to call every story controversial that deals with
times when controversy or a war of religion was raging; but it should
be remembered that there are some which only attempt to portray human
feelings as affected by the events that such warfare occasioned. 'Old
Mortality' and 'Woodstock' are not controversial tales, and the 'Chaplet
of Pearls' is so quite as little. It only aims at drawing certain scenes
and certain characters as the convulsions of the sixteenth century may
have affected them, and is, in fact, like all historical romance, the
shaping of the conceptions that the imagination must necessarily form
when dwelling upon the records of history. That faculty which might
be called the passive fancy, and might almost be described in Portia's
song,--

                  'It is engendered in the eyes,
              By READING fed--and there it dies,'--

that faculty, I say, has learnt to feed upon character and incident, and
to require that the latter should be effective and exciting. Is it
not reasonable to seek for this in the days when such things were not
infrequent, and did not imply exceptional wickedness or misfortune in
those engaged in them? This seems to me one plea for historical novel,
to which I would add the opportunity that it gives for study of the
times and delineation of characters. Shakespeare's Henry IV. and Henry
V., Scott's Louis XI., Manzoni's Federigo Borromeo, Bulwer's Harold,
James's Philip Augustus, are all real contributions to our comprehension
of the men themselves, by calling the chronicles and memoirs
into action. True, the picture cannot be exact, and is sometimes
distorted--nay, sometimes praiseworthy efforts at correctness in the
detail take away whatever might have been lifelike in the outline.
Yet, acknowledging all this, I must still plead for the tales that
presumptuously deal with days gone by, as enabling the young to realize
history vividly--and, what is still more desirable, requiring an effort
of the mind which to read of modern days does not. The details of
Millais' Inquisition or of his Huguenot may be in error in spite of all
his study and diligence, but they have brought before us for ever the
horrors of the _auto-da-fe_, and the patient, steadfast heroism of the
man who can smile aside his wife's endeavour to make him tacitly betray
his faith to save his life. Surely it is well, by pen as by picture,
to go back to the past for figures that will stir the heart like these,
even though the details be as incorrect as those of the revolt of Liege
or of La Ferrette in 'Quentin Durward' and 'Anne of Geierstein.'

Scott, however, willfully carved history to suit the purposes of his
story; and in these days we have come to feel that a story must earn
a certain amount of credibility by being in keeping with established
facts, even if striking events have to be sacrificed, and that the order
of time must be preserved. In Shakespeare's days, or even in Scott's,
it might have been possible to bring Henry III. and his _mignons_ to due
punishment within the limits of a tale beginning with the Massacre of
St. Bartholomew; but in 1868 the broad outlines of tragedy must be given
up to keep within the bounds of historical verity.

How far this has been done, critics better read than myself must decide.
I have endeavoured to speak fairly, to the best of my ability, of
such classes of persons as fell in with the course of the narrative,
according to such lights as the memoirs of the time afford. The Convent
is scarcely a CLASS portrait, but the condition of it seems to be
justified by hints in the Port Royal memoirs, respecting Maubuisson and
others which Mere Angelique reformed. The intolerance of the ladies
at Montauban is described in Madame Duplessis-Mornay's life; and if
Berenger's education and opinions are looked on as not sufficiently
alien from Roman Catholicism, a reference to Froude's 'History of Queen
Elizabeth' will show both that the customs of the country clergy, and
likewise that a broad distinction was made by the better informed among
the French between Calvinism and Protestantism or Lutheranism, in which
they included Anglicanism. The minister Gardon I do not consider as
representing his class. He is a POSSIBILITY modified to serve the
purposes of the story.

Into historical matters, however, I have only entered so far as my
story became involved with them. And here I have to apologize for a
few blunders, detected too late for alteration even in the volumes. Sir
Francis Walsingham was a young rising statesman in 1572, instead of the
elderly sage he is represented; his daughter Frances was a mere infant,
and Sir Philip Sidney was not knighted till much later. For the rest,
I have tried to show the scenes that shaped themselves before me as
carefully as I could; though of course they must not be a presentiment
of the times themselves, but of my notion of them.

C. M. Yonge

November 14th, 1868



THE CHAPLET OF PEARLS

or

THE WHITE AND BLACK RIBAUMONT



CHAPTER I. THE BRIDAL OF THE WHITE AND BLACK



           Small was the ring, and small in truth the finger:
         What then?  the faith was large that dropped it down.
                        Aubrey De Vere, INFANT BRIDAL


Setting aside the consideration of the risk, the baby-weddings of the
Middle Ages must have been very pretty sights.

So the Court of France thought the bridal of Henri Beranger Eustache de
Ribaumont and of Marie Eustacie Rosalie de Rebaumont du Nid-de-Merle,
when, amid the festivals that accompanied the signature of the treaty
of Cateau-Cabresis, good-natured King Henri II. presided merrily at the
union of the little pair, whose unite ages did not reach ten years.

There they stood under the portal of Notre-Dame, the little bridegroom
in a white velvet coat, with puffed sleeves, slashed with scarlet satin,
as were the short, also puffed breeches meeting his long white knitted
silk stockings some way above the knee; large scarlet rosettes were in
his white shoes, a scarlet knot adorned his little sword, and his velvet
cap of the same colour bore a long white plume, and was encircled by a
row of pearls of priceless value. They are no other than that garland
of pearls which, after a night of personal combat before the walls of
Calais, Edward III. of England took from his helmet and presented to Sir
Eustache de Ribaumont, a knight of Picardy, bidding him say everywhere
that it was a gift from the King of England to the bravest of knights.

The precious heirlooms were scarcely held with the respect due to an
ornament so acquired. The manly garb for the first time assumed by his
sturdy legs, and the possession of the little sword, were evidently the
most interesting parts of the affair to the youthful husband, who seemed
to find in them his only solace for the weary length of the ceremony.
He was a fine, handsome little fellow, fair and rosy, with bright blue
eyes, and hair like shining flax, unusually tall and strong-limbed for
his age; and as he gave his hand to his little bride, and walked with
her under a canopy up to kneel at the High Altar, for the marriage
blessing and the mass, they looked like a full-grown couple seen through
a diminishing-glass.

The little bride was perhaps a less beautiful child, but she had a
splendid pair of black eyes, and a sweet little mouth, both set into
the uncomprehending solemnity of baby gravity and contentment in fine
clothes. In accordance with the vow indicated by her name of Marie, her
dress was white and blue, turquoise forget-me-nots bound the little lace
veil on her dark chestnut hair, the bosom of her white satin dress was
sprinkled with the same azure jewel, and turquoises bordered every seam
of the sweeping skirt with a train befitting a count's daughter, and
meandered in gorgeous constellations round the hem. The little thing
lisped her own vows forth without much notion of their sense, and indeed
was sometimes prompted by her bridesmaid cousin, a pretty little girl
a year older, who thrust in her assistance so glibly that the King, as
well as others of the spectators, laughed, and observed that she would
get herself married to the boy instead of her cousin.

There was, however, to be no doubt nor mistake about Beranger and
Eustacie de Ribaumont being man and wife. Every ceremony, religious or
domestic, that could render a marriage valid, was gone through with real
earnestness, although with infinite gaiety, on the part of the court.
Much depended on their union, and the reconcilement of the two branches
of the family had long been a favourite scheme of King Henri II.

Both alike were descended from Anselme de Ribaumont, renowned in the
first Crusade, and from the brave Picard who had received the pearls;
but, in the miserable anarchy of Charles VI.'s reign, the elder brother
had been on the Burgundian side--like most of the other nobles of
Picardy--and had thus been brought into the English camp, where,
regarding Henry V. as lawfully appointed to the succession, and much
admiring him and his brother Nedford, he had become an ardent supporter
of the English claim. He had married an English lady, and had received
the grant if the castle of Leurre in Normandy by way of compensation for
his ancestral one of Ribaumont in Picardy, which had been declared to be
forfeited by his treason, and seized by his brother.

This brother had always been an Armagnac, and had risen and thriven with
his party,--before the final peace between France and England obliged
the elder line to submit to Charles VII. Since that time there had been
a perpetual contention as to the restitution of Chateau Ribaumont, a
strife which under Louis XI. had become an endless lawsuit; and in
the days of dueling had occasioned a good many insults and private
encounters. The younger branch, or Black Ribaumonts, had received a
grant from Louis XI. of the lands of Nid-de-Merle, belonging to an
unfortunate Angevin noble, who had fallen under the royal displeasure,
and they had enjoyed court favour up to the present generation, when
Henri II., either from opposition to his father, instinct for honesty,
or both, had become a warm friend to the gay and brilliant young Baron
de Ribaumont, head of the white or elder branch of the family.

The family contention seemed likely to wear out of its own accord,
for the Count de Ribaumont was an elderly and childless man, and his
brother, the Chevalier de Ribaumont, was, according to the usual lot
of French juniors, a bachelor, so that it was expected that the whole
inheritance would centre upon the elder family. However, to the general
surprise, the Chevalier late in life married, and became the father of a
son and daughter; but soon after calculations were still more thrown out
by the birth of a little daughter in the old age of the Count.

Almost from the hour in which her sex was announced, the King had
promised the Baron de Ribaumont that she should be the wife of his young
son, and that all the possessions of the house should be settled upon
the little couple, engaging to provide for the Chevalier's disappointed
heir in some commandery of a religious order of knighthood.

The Baron's wife was English. He had, when on a visit to his English
kindred, entirely turned the head of the lovely Annora Walwyn, and
finding that her father, one of the gravest of Tudor statesmen, would
not hear of her breaking her engagement to the honest Dorset squire
Marmaduke Thistlewood, he had carried her off by a stolen marriage and
_coup de main_, which, as her beauty, rank, and inheritance were all
considerable, had won him great reputation at the gay court of Henri II.

Infants as the boy and girl were, the King had hurried on their marriage
to secure its taking place in the lifetime of the Count. The Countess
had died soon after the birth of the little girl, and if the arrangement
were to take effect at all, it must be before she should fall under the
guardianship of her uncle, the Chevalier. Therefore the King had caused
her to be brought up from the cottage in Anjou, where she had been
nursed, and in person superintended the brilliant wedding. He himself
led off the dance with the tiny bride, conducting her through its mazes
with fatherly kindliness and condescension; but Queen Catherine, who was
strongly in the interests of the Angevin branch, and had always detested
the Baron as her husband's intimate, excused herself from dancing with
the bridegroom. He therefore fell to the share of the Dauphiness Queen
of Scots, a lovely, bright-eyed, laughing girl, who so completely
fascinated the little fellow, that he convulsed the court by observing
that he should not have objected to be married to some one like her,
instead of a little baby like Eustacie.

Amid all the mirth, it was not only the Chevalier and the Queen who bore
displeased looks. In truth, both were too great adepts in court life
to let their dissatisfaction appear. The gloomiest face was that of him
whose triumph it was--the bridegroom's father, the Baron de Ribaumont.
He had suffered severely from the sickness that prevailed in St.
Quentin, when in the last August the Admiral de Coligny had been
besieged there by the Spaniards, and all agreed that he had never been
the same man since, either in health or in demeanour. When he came back
from his captivity and found the King bent on crowning his return by
the marriage of the children, he had hung back, spoken of scruples about
such unconscious vows, and had finally only consented under stress of
the personal friendship of the King, and on condition that he and his
wife should at once have the sole custody of the little bride. Even then
he moved about the gay scene with so distressed and morose an air that
he was evidently either under the influence of a scruple of conscience
or of a foreboding of evil.

No one doubted that it had been the latter, when, three days later,
Henri II., in the prime of his strength and height of his spirits,
encountered young Des Lorges in the lists, received the splinter of a
lance in his eye, and died two days afterwards.

No sooner were his obsequies over than the Baron de Ribaumont set off
with his wife and the little bridal pair for his castle of Leurre, in
Normandy, nor was he ever seen at court again.



CHAPTER II. THE SEPARATION



     Parted without the least regret,
     Except that they had ever met.
         *     *     *     *
     Misses, the tale that I relate,
     This lesson seems to carry:
     Choose not alone a proper mate,
     But proper time to marry!
                     COWPER, PAIRING TIME ANTICIPATED


'I will have it!'

'Thou shalt not have it!'

'Diane says it is mine.'

'Diane knows nothing about it.'

'Gentlemen always yield to ladies.'

'Wives ought to mind their husbands.'

'Then I will not be thy wife.'

'Thou canst not help it.'

'I will. I will tell my father what M. le Baron reads and sings, and
then I know he will.'

'And welcome.'

Eustacie put out her lip, and began to cry.

The 'husband and wife,' now eight and seven years old, were in a large
room hung with tapestry, representing the history of Tobit. A great
state bed, curtained with piled velvet, stood on a sort of _dais_ at
the further end; there was a toilet-table adorned with curiously shaped
boxes, and coloured Venetian glasses, and filagree pouncet-boxes, and
with a small mirror whose frame was inlaid with gold and ivory. A large
coffer, likewise inlaid, stood against the wall, and near it a
cabinet, of Dutch workmanship, a combination of ebony, ivory, wood, and
looking-glass, the centre retreating, and so arranged that by the help
of most ingenious attention to perspective and reflection, it appeared
like the entrance to a magnificent miniature cinque-cento palace, with
steps up to a vestibule paved in black and white lozenges, and with
three endless corridors diverging from it. So much for show; for
use, this palace was a bewildering complication of secret drawers and
pigeon-holes, all depending indeed upon one tiny gold key; but unless
the use of that key were well understood, all it led to was certain
outer receptacles of fragrant Spanish gloves, knots of ribbon, and
kerchiefs strewn over with rose leaves and lavender. However, Eustacie
had secured the key, and was now far beyond these mere superficial
matters. Her youthful lord had just discovered her mounted on a chair,
her small person decked out with a profusion of necklaces, jewels,
bracelets, chains, and rings; and her fingers, as well as they could
under their stiffening load, were opening the very penetralia of the
cabinet, the inner chamber of the hall, where lay a case adorned with
the Ribaumont arms and containing the far-famed chaplet of pearls.
It was almost beyond her reach, but she had risen on tip-toe, and was
stretching out her hand for it, when he, springing behind her on the
chair, availed himself of his superior height and strength to shut the
door of this Arcanum and turn the key. His mortifying permission to his
wife to absent herself arose from pure love of teasing, but the next
moment he added, still holding his hand on the key--'As to telling what
my father reads, that would be treason. How shouldst thou know what it
is?'

'Does thou think every one is an infant but thyself?'

'But who told thee that to talk of my father's books would get him into
trouble?' continued the boy, as they still stood together on the high
heavy wooden chair.

She tossed her pretty head, and pretended to pout.

'Was it Diane? I will know. Didst thou tell Diane?'

Instead of answering, now that his attention to the key was relaxed,
Eustacie made a sudden dart, like a little wild cat, at the back of the
chair and at the key. They chair over-balanced; Beranger caught at the
front drawer of the cabinet, which, unlocked by Eustacie, came out in
his hand, and chair, children, drawer, and curiosities all went rolling
over together on the floor with a hubbub that brought all the household
together, exclaiming and scolding. Madame de Ribaumont's displeasure at
the rifling of her hoards knew no bounds; Eustacie, by way of defence,
shrieked 'like twenty demons;' Beranger, too honourable to accuse her,
underwent the same tempest; and at last both were soundly rapped over
the knuckles with the long handle of Madame's fan, and consigned to two
separate closets, to be dealt with on the return of M. le Baron, while
Madame returned to her embroidery, lamenting the absence of that dear
little Diane, whose late visit at the chateau had been marked by such
unusual tranquility between the children.

Beranger, in his dark closet, comforted himself with the shrewd
suspicion that his father was so employed as not to be expected at home
till supper-time, and that his mother's wrath was by no means likely to
be so enduring as to lead her to make complaints of the prisoners;
and when he heard a trampling of horses in the court, he anticipated a
speedy release and summons to show himself to the visitors. He waited
long, however, before he heard the pattering of little feet; then a
stool scraped along the floor, the button of his door was undone, the
stool pushed back, and as he emerged, Eustacie stood before him with
her finger to her lip. 'CHUT, Beranger! It is my father and uncle, and
Narcisse, and, oh! so many _gens d'armes_. They are come to summon M. le
Baron to go with them to disperse the _preche_ by the Bac de l'Oie. And
oh, Beranger, is he not there?'

'I do not know. He went out with his hawk, and I do not think he could
have gone anywhere else. Did they say so to my mother?'

'Yes; but she never knows. And oh, Beranger, Narcisse told me--ah, was
it to tease me?--that Diane has told them all they wanted to know, for
that they sent her here on purpose to see if we were not all Huguenots.

'Very likely, the little viper! Le me pass, Eustacie. I must go and tell
my father.'

'Thou canst not get out that way; the court is full of men-at-arms.
Hark, there's Narcisse calling me. He will come after me.'

There was not a moment to lose. Berenger flew along a corridor, and down
a narrow winding stair, and across the kitchen; then snatching at the
arm of a boy of his own age whom he met at the door, he gasped out,
'Come and help me catch Follet, Landry!' and still running across an
orchard, he pulled down a couple of apples from the trees, and bounded
into a paddock where a small rough Breton pony was feeding among the
little tawny Norman cows. The animal knew his little master, and trotted
towards him at his call of 'Follet, Follet. Now be a wise Follet, and
play me no tricks. Thou and I, Follet, shall do good service, if thou
wilt be steady.'

Follet made his advances, but with a coquettish eye and look, as if
ready to start away at any moment.

'Soh, Follet. I have no bread for thee, only two apples; but, Follet,
listen. There's my _beau-pere_ the Count, and the Chevalier, all spite,
and their whole troop of savage _gens d'armes_, come out to fall upon
the poor Huguenots, who are doing no harm at all, only listening to a
long dull sermon. And I am much afraid my father is there, for he went
out his hawk on his wrist, and he never does take Ysonde for any real
sport, as thou and I would do, Follet. He says it is all vanity of
vanities. But thou know'st, if they caught him at the _preche_ they
would call it heresy and treason, and all sorts of horrors, and any
way they would fall like demons on the poor Huguenots, Jacques and
all--thine own Jacques, Follet. Come, be a loyal pony, Follet. Be at
least as good as Eustacie.'

Follet was evidently attentive to this peroration, turning round his
ear in a sensible attitude, and advancing his nose to the apples.
As Beranger held them out to him, the other boy clutched his shaggy
forelock so effectually that the start back did not shake him off, and
the next moment Beranger was on his back.

'And I, Monsieur, what shall I do?'

'Thou, Landry? I know. Speed like a hare, lock the avenue gate, and hide
the key. That will delay them a long time. Off now, Follet.'

Beranger and Follet understood one another far too well to care about
such trifles as saddle and bridle, and off they went through green
grassy balks dividing the fields, or across the stubble, till, about
three miles from the castle, they came to a narrow valley, dipping so
suddenly between the hills that it could hardly have been suspected by
one unaware of its locality, and the sides were dotted with copsewood,
which entirely hid the bottom. Beranger guided his pony to a winding
path that led down the steep side of the valley, already hearing the
cadence of a loud, chanting voice, throwing out its sounds over the
assembly, whence arose assenting hums over an undercurrent of sobs, as
though the excitable French assembly were strongly affected.

The thicket was so close that Beranger was almost among the congregation
before he could see more than a passing glimpse of a sea of heads.
Stout, ruddy, Norman peasants, and high white-capped women, mingled with
a few soberly-clad townsfolk, almost all with the grave, steadfast cast
of countenance imparted by unresisted persecution, stood gathered
round the green mound that served as a natural pulpit for a Calvinist
minister, who more the dress of a burgher, but entirely black. To
Beranger's despair, he was in the act of inviting his hearers to join
with him in singing one of Marot's psalms; and the boy, eager to lose
not a moment, grasped the skirt of the outermost of the crowd. The man,
an absorbed-looking stranger, merely said, 'Importune me not, child.'

'Listen!' said Beranger; 'it imports---'

'Peace,' was the stern answer; but a Norman farmer looked round at that
moment, and Beranger exclaimed, 'Stop the singing! The _gens d'armes_!'
The psalm broke off; the whisper circulated; the words 'from Leurre'
were next conveyed from lip to lip, and, as it were in a moment, the
dense human mass had broken up and vanished, stealing through the
numerous paths in the brushwood, or along the brook, as it descended
through tall sedges and bulrushes. The valley was soon as lonely as
it had been populous; the pulpit remained a mere mossy bank, more
suggestive or fairy dances than of Calvinist sermons, and no one
remained on the scene save Beranger with his pony, Jacques the groom, a
stout farmer, the preacher, and a tall thin figure in the plainest dark
cloth dress that could be worn by a gentleman, a hawk on his wrist.

'Thou here, my boy!' he exclaimed, as Beranger came to his side; and as
the little fellow replied in a few brief words, he took him by the hand,
and said to the minister, 'Good Master Isaac, let me present my young
son to you, who under Heaven hath been the means of saving many lives
this day.'

Maitre Isaac Gardon, a noted preacher, looked kindly at the boy's fair
face, and said, 'Bless thee, young sir. As thou hast been already a
chosen instrument to save life, so mayest thou be ever after a champion
of the truth.'

'Monsieur le Baron,' interposed Jacques, 'it were best to look to
yourself. I already hear sounds upon the wind.'

'And you, good sir?' said the Baron.

'I will see to him,' said the farmer, grasping him as a sort of
property. 'M. le Baron had best keep up the beck. Out on the moor there
he may fly the hawk, and that will best divert suspicion.'

'Farewell, then,' said the Baron, wringing the minister's hand, and
adding, almost to himself, 'Alas! I am weary of these shifts!' and weary
indeed he seemed, for as the ground became so steep that the beck danced
noisily down its channel, he could not keep up the needful speed, but
paused, gasping for breath, with his hand on his side. 'Beranger was off
his pony in an instant, assuring Follet that it ought to be proud to be
ridden by his father, and exhaling his own exultant feelings in caresses
to the animal as it gallantly breasted the hill. The little boy had
never been so commended before! He loved his father exceedingly; but
the Baron, while ever just towards him, was grave and strict to a degree
that the ideas even of the sixteenth century regarded as severe.
Little Eustacie with her lovely face, her irrepressible saucy grace and
audacious coaxing, was the only creature to whom he ever showed much
indulgence and tenderness, and even that seemed almost against his
will and conscience. His son was always under rule, often blamed,
and scarcely ever praised; but it was a hardy vigorous nature, and
respectful love throve under the system that would have crushed or
alienated a different disposition. It was not till the party had emerged
from the wood upon a stubble field, where a covey of partridges flew up,
and to Beranger's rapturous delight furnished a victim for Ysonde, that
M. de Ribaumont dismounted from the pony, and walking towards home,
called his son to his side, and asked him how he had learnt the
intentions of the Count and the Chevalier. Beranger explained how
Eustacie had come to warn him, and also told what she had said of Diane
de Ribaumont, who had lately, by her father's request, spent a few weeks
at the chateau with her cousins.

'My son,' said the Baron, 'it is hard to ask of babes caution and
secrecy; but I must know from thee what thy cousin may have heard of our
doings?'

'I cannot tell, father,' replied Beranger; 'we played more than we
talked. Yet, Monsieur, you will not be angry with Eustacie if I tell you
what she said to me to-day?'

'Assuredly not, my son.'

'She said that her father would take her away if he knew what M. le
Baron read, and what he sung.'

'Thou hast done well to tell me, my son. Thinkest thou that this comes
from Diane, or from one of the servants?'

'Oh, from Diane, my father; none of the servants would dare to say such
a thing.'

'It is as I suspected then,' said the Baron. 'That child was sent
amongst us as a spy.' Tell me, Beranger, had she any knowledge of our
intended journey to England?'

'To England! But no, father, I did not even know it was intended. To
England--to that Walwyn which my mother takes such pains to make us
speak rightly. Are we then, going?'

'Listen, my son. Thou hast to-day proved thyself worthy of trust, and
thou shalt hear. My son, ere yet I knew the truth I was a reckless
disobedient youth, and I bore thy mother from her parents in England
without their consent. Since, by Heaven's grace, I have come to a better
mind, we have asked and obtained their forgiveness, and it has long been
their desire to see again their daughter and her son. Moreover, since
the accession of the present Queen, it has been a land where the light
is free to shine forth; and though I verily believe what Maitre Gardon
says, that persecution is a blessed means of grace, yet it is grievous
to expose one's dearest thereto when they are in no state to count
the cost. Therefore would I thither convey you all, and there amid thy
mother's family would we openly abjure the errors in which we have been
nurture. I have already sent to Paris to obtain from the Queen-mother
the necessary permission to take my family to visit thy grand-father,
and it must now be our endeavour to start immediately on the receipt of
the reply, before the Chevalier's information can lead to any hindrance
or detention of Eustacie.'

'Then Eustacie will go with us, Monsieur?'

'Certainly. Nothing is more important than that her faith should be the
same as yours! But discretion, my son: not a word to the little one.'

'And Landry, father? I had rather Landry went than Eustacie. And Follet,
dear father, pray take him.'

After M. de Ribaumont's grave confidence to his son and heir, he was
a little scandalized at the comparative value that the boy's voice
indicated for wife, foster-brother, and pony, and therefore received
it in perfect silence, which silence continued until they reached
the chateau, where the lady met them at the door with a burst of
exclamations.

'Ah, there you are, safe, my dear Baron. I have been in despair. Here
were the Count and his brother come to call on you to join them in
dispersing a meeting of those poor Huguenots and they would not permit
me to send out to call you in! I verily think they suspected that you
were aware of it.'

M. de Ribaumont made no answer, but sat wearily down and asked for his
little Eustacie.

'Little vixen!' exclaimed the Baroness, 'she is gone; her father took
her away with him.' And as her husband looked extremely displeased, she
added that Eustacie had been meddling with her jewel cabinet and had
been put in penitence. Her first impulse on seeing her father had been
to cling to him and poor out her complaints, whereupon he had declared
that he should take her away with him at once, and had in effect caused
her pony to be saddled, and he had ridden away with her to his old
tower, leaving his brother, the Chevalier, to conduct the attack on the
Huguenot conventicle.

'He had no power or right to remove her,' said the Baron. 'How could you
let him do so in my absence? He had made over her wardship to me, and
has no right to resume it!'

'Well, perhaps I might have insisted on his waiting till your return;
but, you see, the children have never done anything but quarrel and
fight, and always by Eustacie's fault; and if ever they are to endure
each other, it must be by being separated now.'

'Madame,' said the Baron, gravely, 'you have done your utmost to ruin
your son's chances of happiness.'

That same evening arrived the King's passport permitting the Baron
de Ribaumont and his family to pay a visit to his wife's friends in
England. The next morning the Baron was summoned to speak to one of
his farmers, a Huguenot, who had come to inform him that, through the
network of intelligence kept up by the members of the persecuted faith,
it had become known that the Chevalier de Ribaumont had set off for
court that night, and there was little doubt that his interference would
lead to an immediate revocation of the sanction to the journey, if to no
severer measures. At best, the Baron knew that if his own absence were
permitted, it would be only on condition of leaving his son in
the custody of either the Queen-mother or the Count. It had become
impossible to reclaim Eustacie. Her father would at once have pleaded
that she was being bred up in Huguenot errors. All that could be done
was to hasten the departure ere the royal mandate could arrive. A little
Norman sailing vessel was moored two evenings after in a lonely creek on
the coast, and into it stepped M. de Ribaumont, with his Bible, Marot's
Psalter, and Calvin's works, Beranger still tenderly kissing a lock of
Follet's mane, and Madame mourning for the pearls, which her husband
deemed too sacred an heirloom to carry away to a foreign land. Poor
little Eustacie, with her cousin Diane, was in the convent of Bellaise
in Anjou. If any one lamented her absence, it was her father-in-law.



CHAPTER III. THE FAMILY COUNCIL



     He counsels a divorce
            Shakespeare, KING HENRY VIII.


In the spring of the year 1572, a family council was assembled in Hurst
Walwyn Hall. The scene was a wainscoted oriel chamber closed off by a
screen from the great hall, and fitted on two sides by presses of books,
surmounted the one by a terrestrial, the other by a celestial globe, the
first 'with the addition of the Indies' in very eccentric geography, the
second with enormous stars studding highly grotesque figures, regarded
with great awe by most beholders.

A solid oaken table stood in the midst, laden with books and papers, and
in a corner, near the open hearth, a carved desk, bearing on one slope
the largest copy of the 'Bishops' Bible'; on the other, one of the
Prayer-book. The ornaments of the oaken mantelpiece culminated in a
shield bearing a cross _boutonnee_, i.e. with trefoil terminations. It
was supported between a merman with a whelk shell and a mermaid with a
comb, and another like Siren curled her tail on the top of the gaping
baronial helmet above the shield, while two more upheld the main weight
of the chimney-piece on either side of the glowing wood-fire.

In the seat of honour was an old gentleman, white-haired, and feeble
of limb, but with noble features and a keen, acute eye. This was
Sir William, Baron of Hurst Walwyn, a valiant knight at Guingate and
Boulogne, a statesman of whom Wolsey had been jealous, and a ripe
scholar who had shared the friendship of More and Erasmus. The lady who
sat opposite to him was several years younger, still upright, brisk and
active, though her hair was milk-white; but her eyes were of undimmed
azure, and her complexion still retained a beauteous pink and white. She
was highly educated, and had been the friend of Margaret Roper and her
sisters, often sharing their walks in the bright Chelsea garden. Indeed,
the musk-rose in her own favourite nook at Hurst Walwyn was cherished as
the gift of Sir Thomas himself.

Near her sat sister, Cecily St. John, a professed nun at Romsey till
her twenty-eight year, when, in the dispersion of convents, her sister's
home had received her. There had she continued, never exposed to tests
of opinion, but pursuing her quiet course according to her Benedictine
rule, faithfully keeping her vows, and following the guidance of the
chaplain, a college friend of Bishop Ridley, and rejoicing in the use of
the vernacular prayers and Scriptures. When Queen Mary had sent for her
to consider of the revival of convents, her views had been found to have
so far diverged from those of the Queen that Lord Walwyn was thankful
to have her safe at home again; and yet she fancied herself firm to
old Romsey doctrine. She was not learned, like Lady Walwyn, but her
knowledge in all needlework and confectionery was consummate, so that
half the ladies in Dorset and Wilts longed to send their daughters to
be educated at Hurst Walwyn. Her small figure and soft cheeks had
the gentle contour of a dove's form, nor had she lost the conventual
serenity of expression; indeed it was curious that, let Lady Walwyn
array her as she would, whatever she wore bore a nunlike air. Her silken
farthingales hung like serge robes, her ruffs looked like mufflers, her
coifs like hoods, even necklaces seemed rosaries, and her scrupulous
neatness enhanced the pure unearthly air of all belonging to her.

Eager and lively, fair and handsome, sat the Baronne de Ribaumont,
or rather, since the higher title had been laid aside, Dame Annora
Thistlewood. The health of M. de Ribaumont had been shattered at St.
Quentin, and an inclement night of crossing the Channel had brought on
an attack on the lungs, from which he only rallied enough to amaze
his English friends at finding the gay dissipated young Frenchman they
remembered, infinitely more strict and rigid than themselves. He was
never able to leave the house again after his first arrival at Hurst
Walwyn, and sank under the cold winds of the next spring, rejoicing
to leave his wife and son, not indeed among such strict Puritans as
he preferred, but at least where the pure faith could be openly avowed
without danger.

Sir Marmaduke Thistlewood, the husband to whom Annora Walwyn had been
destined before M. de Ribaumont had crossed her path, was about the same
time left a widower with one son and daughter, and as soon as a suitable
interval had passed, she became a far happier wife than she had been in
either the Baron's gay or grave days. Her son had continued under
the roof of his grandfather, to whose charge his father had specially
committed him, and thus had been scarcely separated from his mother,
since Combe Manor was not above three miles across the downs from Hurst
Walwyn, and there was almost daily intercourse between the families.
Lucy Thistlewood had been brought to Hurst Walwyn to be something
between a maid of honour and a pupil to the ladies there, and her
brother Philip, so soon as he was old enough, daily rode thither to
share with Berenger the instructions of the chaplain, Mr. Adderley, who
on the present occasion formed one of the conclave, sitting a little
apart as not quite familiar, though highly esteemed.

With an elbow on the table, and one hand toying with his long
riding-whip, sat, booted and spurred, the jovial figure of Sir
Marmaduke, who called out, in his hearty voice, 'A good riddance of an
outlandish Papist, say I! Read the letter, Berenger lad. No, no, no!
English it! I know nothing of your mincing French! 'Tis the worst fault
I know in you, boy, to be half a Frenchman, and have a French name'--a
fault that good Sir Marmaduke did his best to remedy by always terming
his step-son Berenger or Berry Ribmount, and we will so far follow
his example as henceforth to give the youth the English form of his
Christian name. He was by this time a tall lad of eighteen, with
straight features, honest deep blue eyes, very fair hair cut short and
brushed up to a crest upon the middle of his head, a complexion of red
and white that all the air of the downs and the sea failed to embrown,
and that peculiar openness and candour of expression which seems so much
an English birthright, that the only trace of his French origin was,
that he betrayed no unbecoming awkwardness in the somewhat embarrassing
position in which he was placed, literally standing, according to the
respectful discipline of the time, as the subject of discussion, before
the circle of his elders. His colour was indeed, deepened, but his
attitude was easy and graceful, and he used no stiff rigidity nor
restless movements to mask his anxiety. At Sir Marmaduke's desire, he
could not but redden a good deal more, but with a clear, unhesitating
voice, he translated, the letter that he had received from the Chevalier
de Ribaumont, who, by the Count's death, had become Eustacie's guardian.
It was a request in the name of Eustacie and her deceased father, that
Monsieur le Baron de Ribaumont--who, it was understood, had embraced
the English heresy--would concur with his spouse in demanding from his
Holiness the Pope a decree annulling the childish marriage, which could
easily be declared void, both on account of the consanguinity of the
parties and the discrepancy of their faith; and which would leave each
of them free to marry again.

'Nothing can be better,' exclaimed his mother. 'How I have longed to
free him from that little shrew, whose tricks were the plague of my
life! Now there is nothing between him and a worthy match!'

'We can make an Englishman of him now to the backbone,' added Sir
Marmaduke, 'and it is well that it should be the lady herself who wants
first to be off with it, so that none can say he has played her a scurvy
trick.'

'What say you, Berenger?' said Lord Walwyn. 'Listen to me, fair nephew.
You know that all my remnant of hope is fixed upon you, and that I have
looked to setting you in the room of the son of my own; and I think that
under our good Queen you will find it easier to lead a quiet God-fearing
life than in your father's vexed country, where the Reformed religion
lies under persecution. Natheless, being a born liegeman of the King of
France, and heir to estates in his kingdom, meseemeth that before you
are come to years of discretion it were well that you should visit them,
and become better able to judge for yourself how to deal in this matter
when you shall have attained full age, and may be able to dispose of
them by sale, thus freeing yourself from allegiance to a foreign prince.
And at the same time you can take measures, in concert with this young
lady, for loosing the wedlock so unhappily contracted.'

'O sir, sir!' cried Lady Thistlewood, 'send him not to France to be
burnt by the Papists!'

'Peace, daughter,' returned her mother. 'Know you not that there is
friendship between the court party and the Huguenots, and that the peace
is to be sealed by the marriage of the King's sister with the King of
Navarre? This is the most suitable time at which he could go.'

'Then, madam,' proceeded the lady, 'he will be running about to all the
preachings on every bleak moor and wet morass he can find, catching his
death with rheums, like his poor father.'

There was a general smile, and Sir Marmaduke laughed outright.

'Nay, dame,' he said, 'have you marked such a greed of sermons in our
Berry that you should fear his so untowardly running after them?'

'Tilly-vally, Sir Duke,' quoth Dame Annora, with a flirt of her fan,
learnt at the French court. 'Men will run after a preacher in a marshy
bog out of pure forwardness, when they will nod at a godly homily on a
well-stuffed bench between four walls.'

'I shall commit that matter to Mr. Adderley, who is good enough to
accompany him,' said Lord Walwyn, 'and by whose counsel I trust that he
will steer the middle course between the pope and Calvin.'

Mr. Adderley bowed in answer, saying he hoped that he should be enable
to keep his pupil's mind clear between the allurements of Popery and the
errors of the Reformed; but meanwhile Lady Thistlewood's mind had taken
a leap, and she exclaimed,--

'And, son, whatever you do, bring home the chaplet of pearls! I know
they have set their minds upon it. They wanted me to deck Eustacie with
it on that unlucky bridal-day, but I would not hear of trusting her with
it, and now will it rarely become our Lucy on your real wedding-day.'

'You travel swiftly, daughter,' said Lord Walwyn. 'Nor have we yet heard
the thoughts of one who ever thinks wisely. Sister,' he added, turning
to Cecily St. John, 'hold not you with us in this matter?'

'I scarce comprehend it, my Lord,' was the gentle reply. 'I knew not
that it was possible to dissolve the tie of wedlock.'

'The Pope's decree will suffice,' said Lord Walwyn.

'Yet, sir,' still said the ex-nun, 'methought you had shown me that the
Holly Father exceeded his power in the annulling of vows.'

'Using mine own lessons against me, sweet sister?' said Lord Walwyn,
smiling; 'yet, remember, the contract was rashly made between two
ignorant babes; and, bred up as they have severally been, it were surely
best for them to be set free from vows made without their true will or
knowledge.'

'And yet,' said Cecily, perplexed, 'when I saw my niece here wedded to
Sir Marmaduke, was it not with the words, 'What God hath joined let no
man put asunder'?'

'Good lack! aunt,' cried Lady Thistlewood, 'you would not have that poor
lad wedded to a pert, saucy, ill-tempered little moppet, bred up that
den of iniquity, Queen Catherine's court, where my poor Baron never
trusted me after he fell in with the religion, and had heard of King
Antony's calling me the Swan of England.'

At that moment there was a loud shriek, half-laugh, half-fright, coming
through the window, and Lady Thistlewood, starting up, exclaimed, 'The
child will be drowned! Box their ears, Berenger, and bring them in
directly.'

Berenger, at her bidding, hurried out of the room into the hall, and
thence down a flight of steps leading into a square walled garden, with
a couple of stone male and female marine divinities accommodating their
fishy extremities as best they might on the corners of the wall. The
square contained a bowling-green of exquisitely-kept turf, that looked
as if cut out of green velvet, and was edged on its four sides by a
raised broad-paved walk, with a trimming of flower-beds, where the
earliest blossoms were showing themselves. In the centre of each side
another paved path intersected the green lawn, and the meeting of these
two diameters was at a circular stone basin, presided over by another
merman, blowing a conch on the top of a pile of rocks. On the gravelled
margin stood two distressed little damsels of seven and six years
old, remonstrating with all their might against the proceedings of
a roguish-looking boy of fourteen of fifteen, who had perched their
junior--a fat, fair, kitten-like element of mischief, aged about
five--_en croupe_ on the merman, and was about, according to her
delighted request, to make her a bower of water, by extracting the plug
and setting the fountain to play; but as the fountain had been still
all the winter, the plug was hard of extraction, especially to a young
gentleman who stood insecurely, with his feet wide apart upon pointed
and slippery point of rock-work; and Berenger had time to hurry up,
exclaiming, 'Giddy pate! Dolly would Berenger drenched to the skin.'

'And she has on her best blue, made out of mother's French farthingale,'
cried the discreet Annora.

'Do you know, Dolly, I've orders to box your ears, and send you in?'
added Berenger, as he lifted his half-sister from her perilous position,
speaking, as he did so, without a shade of foreign accent, though with
much more rapid utterance than was usual in England. She clung to him
without much alarm, and retaliated by an endeavour to box his ears,
while Philip, slowly making his way back to the mainland, exclaimed, 'Ah
there's no chance now! Here comes demure Mistress Lucy, and she is the
worst mar-sport of all.'

A gentle girl of seventeen was drawing near, her fair delicately-tinted
complexion suiting well with her pale golden hair. It was a sweet face,
and was well set off by the sky-blue of the farthingale, which, with
her white lace coif and white ruff, gave her something the air of a
speedwell flower, more especially as her expression seemed to have
caught much of Cecily's air of self-restrained contentment. She held
a basketful of the orange pistils of crocuses, and at once seeing that
some riot had taken place, she said to the eldest little girl, 'Ah, Nan,
you had been safer gathering saffron with me.'

'Nay, brother Berry came and made all well,' said Annora; 'and he had
been shut up so long in the library that he must have been very glad to
get out.'

'And what came of it?' cried Philip. 'Are you to go and get yourself
unmarried?'

'Unmarried!' burst out the sisters Annora and Elizabeth.

'What, laughed Philip, 'you knew not that this is an ancient husband,
married years before your father and mother?'

'But, why? said Elizabeth, rather inclined to cry. 'What has poor Lucy
done that you should get yourself unmarried from her?'

There was a laugh from both brothers; but Berenger, seeing Lucy's
blushes, restrained himself, and said. 'Mine was not such good luck,
Bess, but they gave me a little French wife, younger than Dolly, and
saucier still; and as she seems to wish to be quit of me, why, I shall
be rid of her.'

'See there, Dolly,' said Philip, in a warning voice, 'that is the way
you'll be served if you do not mend your ways.'

'But I thought,' said Annora gravely, 'that people were married once for
all, and it could not be undone.'

'So said Aunt Cecily, but my Lord was proving to her out of all law
that a contract between such a couple of babes went for nought,' said
Berenger.

'And shall you, indeed, see Paris, and all the braveries there?' asked
Philip. 'I thought my Lord would never have trusted you out of his
sight.'

'And now it is to be only with Mr. Adderley,' said Berenger; 'but there
will be rare doings to be seen at this royal wedding, and maybe I shall
break a lance there in your honour, Lucy.'

'And you'll bring me a French fan?' cried Bess.

'And me a pouncet-box?' added Annora.

'And me a French puppet dressed Paris fashion?' said Dolly.

'And what shall he bring Lucy?' added Bess.

'I know,' said Annora; 'the pearls that mother is always talking about!
I heard her say that Lucy should wear them on her wedding-day.'

'Hush!' interposed Lucy, 'don't you see my father yonder on the step,
beckoning to you?'

The children flew towards Sir Marmaduke, leaving Berenger and Lucy
together.

'Not a word to wish me good speed, Lucy, now I have my wish?' said
Berenger.

'Oh, yes,' said Lucy, 'I am glad you should see all those brave French
gentlemen of whom you used to tell me.'

'Yes, they will be all at court, and the good Admiral is said to be in
high favour. He will surely remember my father.'

'And shall you see the lady?' asked Lucy, under her breath.

'Eustacie? Probably; but that will make no change. I have heard too much
of _l'escadron de la Reine-mere_ to endure the thought of a wife from
thence, were she the Queen of Beauty herself. And my mother says that
Eustacie would lose all her beauty as she grew up--like black-eyed Sue
on the down; nor did I ever think her brown skin and fierce black eyes
to compare with you, Lucy. I could be well content never to see her
more; but,' and here he lowered his voice to a tone of confidence, 'my
father, when near his death, called me, and told me that he feared my
marriage would be a cause of trouble and temptation to me, and that I
must deal with it after my conscience when I was able to judge in
the matter. Something, too, he said of the treaty of marriage being
a burthen on his soul, but I know not what he meant. If ever I saw
Eustacie again, I was to give her his own copy of Clement Marot's
Psalter, and to tell her that he had ever loved and prayed for her as a
daughter; and moreover, my father added,' said Berenger, much moved at
the remembrance it brought across him, 'that if this matter proved a
burthen and perplexity to me, I was to pardon him as one who repented of
it as a thing done ere he had learnt to weigh the whole world against a
soul.'

'Yes, you must see her,' said Lucy.

'Well, what more were you going to say, Lucy?'

'I was only thinking,' said Lucy, as she raised her eyes to him, 'how
sorry she will be that she let them write that letter.'

Berenger laughed, pleased with the simplicity of Lucy's admiration, but
with modesty and common sense enough to answer, 'No fear of that, Lucy,
for an heiress, with all the court gallants of France at her feet.'

'Ah, but you!'

'I am all very well here, when you have never seen anybody but lubberly
Dorset squires that never went to London, nor Oxford, nor beyond their
own furrows,' said Berenger; 'but depend upon it, she has been bred up
to care for all the airs and graces that are all the fashion at Paris
now, and will be as glad to be rid of an honest man and a Protestant
as I shall to be quit of a court puppet and a Papist. Shall you have
finished my point-cuffs next week, Lucy? Depend upon it, no gentleman of
them all will wear such dainty lace of such a fancy as those will be.'

And Lucy smiled, well pleased.

Coming from the companionship of Eustacie to that of gentle Lucy had
been to Berenger a change from perpetual warfareto perfect supremacy,
and his preference to his little sister, as he had been taught to call
her from the first, had been loudly expressed. Brother and sister they
had ever since considered themselves, and only within the last few
months had possibilities been discussed among the elders of the family,
which oozing out in some mysterious manner, had become felt rather than
known among the young people, yet without altering the habitual terms
that existed between them. Both were so young that love was the merest,
vaguest dream to them; and Lucy, in her quiet faith that Berenger was
the most beautiful, excellent, and accomplished cavalier the earth
could afford, was little troubled about her own future share in him. She
seemed to be promoted to belong to him just as she had grown up to curl
her hair and wear ruffs and farthingales. And to Berenger Lucy was
a very pleasant feature in that English home, where he had been far
happier than in the uncertainties of Chateau Leurre, between his naughty
playfellow, his capricious mother, and morose father. If in England his
lot was to be cast, Lucy was acquiesced in willingly as a portion of
that lot.



CHAPTER IV. TITHONUS



     A youth came riding towards a palace gate,
     And from the palace came a child of sin
     And took him by the curls and led him in!
     Where sat a company with heated eyes.
                     Tennyson, A VISION OF SIN


It was in the month of June that Berenger de Ribaumont first came in
sight of Paris. His grandfather had himself begun by taking him to
London and presenting him to Queen Elizabeth, from whom the lad's good
mien procured him a most favourable reception. She willingly promised
that on which Lord Walwyn's heart was set, namely, that his title and
rank should be continued to his grandson; and an ample store of letter
of recommendation to Sir Francis Walsingham, the Ambassador, and all
others who could be of service in the French court, were to do their
utmost to provide him with a favourable reception there.

Then, with Mr. Adderley and four or five servants, he had crossed the
Channel, and had gone first to Chateau Leurre, where he was rapturously
welcomed by the old steward Osbert. The old man had trained up his son
Landry, Berenger's foster-brother, to become his valet, and had him
taught all the arts of hair-dressing and surgery that were part of the
profession of a gentleman's body-servant; and the youth, a smart, acuter
young Norman, became a valuable addition to the suite, the guidance of
which, through a foreign country, their young master did not find very
easy. Mr. Adderley thought he knew French very well, through books, but
the language he spoke was not available, and he soon fell into a state
of bewilderment rather hard on his pupil, who, though a very good boy,
and crammed very full of learning, was still nothing more than a lad of
eighteen in all matters of prudence and discretion.

Lord Walwyn was, as we have seen, one of those whose Church principles
had altered very little and very gradually; and in the utter diversity
of practice that prevailed in the early years of Queen Elizabeth, his
chaplain as well as the rector of the parish had altered no more than
was absolutely enjoined of the old ceremonial. If the poor Baron de
Ribaumont had ever been well enough to go to church on a Sunday, he
would perhaps have thought himself still in the realms of what he
considered as darkness; but as he had never openly broken with the
Gallic Church, Berenger had gone at once from mass at Leurre to the
Combe Walwyn service. Therefore when he spent a Sunday at Rouen, and
attended a Calvinist service in the building that the Huguenots were
permitted outside the town, he was much disappointed in it; he thought
its very fervour familiar and irreverent, and felt himself much more at
home in the cathedral into which he strayed in the afternoon. And, on
the Sunday he was at Leurre, he went, as a part of his old home-habits,
to mass at the old round-arched church, where he and Eustacie had played
each other so many teasing tricks at his mother's feet, and had received
so many admonitory nips and strokes of her fan. All he saw there was
not congenial to him, but he liked it vastly better than the Huguenot
meeting, and was not prepared to understand or enter into Mr. Adderley's
vexation, when the tutor assured him that the reverent gestures that
came naturally to him were regarded by the Protestants as idolatry, and
that he would be viewed as a recreants from his faith. All Mr. Adderley
hoped was that no one would hear of it: and in this he felt himself
disappointed, when, in the midst of his lecture, there walked into the
room a little, withered, brown, dark-eyed man, in a gorgeous dress of
green and gold, who doffing a hat with an umbrageous plume, precipitated
himself, as far as he could reach, towards Berenger's neck, calling
him fair cousin and dear baron. The lad stood taken by surprise for
a moment, thinking that Tithonus must have looked just like this, and
skipped like this, just as he became a grasshopper; then he recollected
that this must be the Chevalier de Ribaumont, and tried to make up
for his want of cordiality. The old man had, it appeared, come out of
Picardy, where he lived on _soupe maigre_ in a corner of the ancestral
castle, while his son and daughter were at court, the one in Monsieur's
suite, the other in that of the Queen-mother. He had come purely to meet
his dear young cousin, and render him all the assistance is his power,
conduct him to Paris, and give him introductions.

Berenger, who had begun to find six Englishmen a troublesome charge in
France, was rather relieved at not being the only French scholar of
the party, and the Chevalier also hinted to him that he spoke with a
dreadful Norman accent that would never be tolerated at court, even if
it were understood by the way. Moreover, the Chevalier studied him all
over, and talked of Paris tailors and posture-masters, and, though the
pink of politeness, made it evident that there was immensely too much of
him. 'It might be the custom in England to be so tall; here no one
was of anything like such a height, but the Duke of Guise. He, in his
position, with his air, could carry it off, but we must adapt ourselves
as best we can.'

And his shrug and look of concern made Berenger for a moment almost
ashamed of that superfluous height of which they were all so proud at
home. Then he recollected himself, and asked, 'And why should not I be
tall as well as M. de Guise?'

'We shall see, fair cousin,' he answered, with an odd satirical bow;
'we are as Heaven made us. All lies in the management and if you had the
advantages of training, PERHAPS you could even turn your height into a
grace.'

'Am I such a great lubber?' wondered Berenger; 'they did not think so at
home. No; nor did the Queen. She said I was a proper stripling! Well,
it matters the less, as I shall not stay long to need their favour; and
I'll show them there is some use in my inches in the tilt-yard. But if
they think me such a lout, what would they say to honest Philip?'

The Chevalier seemed willing to take on him the whole management of his
'fair cousin.' He inquired into the amount of the rents and dues which
old Osbert had collected and held ready to meet the young Baron's
exigencies; and which would, it seemed, be all needed to make his dress
any way presentable at court. The pearls, too, were inquired for, and
handed over by Osbert to his young Lord's keeping, with the significant
intimation that they had been demanded when the young Madame la Baronne
went to court; but that he had buried them in the orchard, and made
answer that they were not in the chateau. The contract of marriage,
which Berenger could just remember signing, and seeing signed by his
father, the King, and the Count, was not forthcoming; and the Chevalier
explained that it was in the hands of a notary at Paris. For this
Berenger was not sorry. His grandfather had desired him to master the
contents, and he thought he had thus escaped a very dry and useless
study.

He did not exactly dislike the old Chevalier de Ribaumont. The system on
which he had been brought up had not been indulgent, so that compliments
and admiration were an agreeable surprise to him; and rebuffs and
rebukes from his elders had been so common, that hints, in the delicate
dressing of the old knight, came on him almost like gracious civilities.
There was no love lost between the Chevalier and the chaplain, that was
plain; but how could there be between an ancient French courtier and
a sober English divine? However, to Mr. Adderley's great relief, no
attempts were made on Berenger's faith, his kinsman even was disposed
to promote his attendance at such Calvinist places of worship as they
passed on the road, and treated him in all things as a mere guest, to
be patronized indeed, but as much an alien as if he had been born in
England. And yet there was a certain deference to him as head of the
family, and a friendliness of manner that made the boy feel him a real
relation, and all through the journey it came naturally that he should
be the entire manager, and Berenger the paymaster on a liberal scale.

Thus had the travellers reached the neighbourhood of Paris, when a
jingling of chains and a trampling of horses announced the advance of
riders, and several gentlemen with a troop of servants came in sight.

All were gaily dressed, with feathered hats, and short Spanish cloaks
jauntily disposed over one shoulder; and their horses were trapped with
bright silvered ornaments. As they advanced, the Chevalier
exclaimed: 'Ah! It is my son! I knew he would come to meet me.' And,
simultaneously, father and son leapt from their horses, and rushed
into each other's arms. Berenger felt it only courteous to dismount and
exchange embraces with his cousin, but with a certain sense of repulsion
at the cloud of perfume that seemed to surround the younger Chevalier
de Ribaumont; the ear-rings in his ears; the general air of delicate
research about his riding-dress, and the elaborate attention paid to a
small, dark, sallow face and figure, in which the only tolerable feature
was an intensely black and piercing pair of eyes.

'Cousin, I am enchanted to welcome you.'

'Cousin, I thank you.'

'Allow me to present you.' And Berenger bowed low in succession several
times in reply to salutations, as his cousin Narcisse named M. d'O, M.
de la Valette, M. de Pibrac, M. l'Abbe de Mericour, who had done him
the honour to accompany him in coming out to meet his father and M.
le Baron. Then the two cousins remounted, something was said to the
Chevalier of the devoirs of the demoiselles, and they rode on together
bandying news and repartee so fast, that Berenger felt that his ears
had become too much accustomed to the more deliberate English speech to
enter at once into what caused so much excitement, gesture, and wit. The
royal marriage seemed doubtful--the Pope refused his sanction; nay, but
means would be found--the King would not be impeded by the Pope;
Spanish influence--nay, the King had thrown himself at the head of the
Reformed--he was bewitched with the grim old Coligny--if order were not
soon taken, the Louvre itself would become a temple.

Then one of the party turned suddenly and said, 'But I forget, Monsieur
is a Huguenot?'

'I am a Protestant of the English Church,' said Berenger, rather
stiffly, in the formula of his day.

'Well, you have come at the right moment, 'Tis all for the sermon now.
If the little Abbe there wished to sail with a fair wind, he should
throw away his breviary and study his Calvin.'

Berenger's attention was thus attracted to the Abbe de Mericour, a young
man of about twenty, whose dress was darker than that of the rest, and
his hat of a clerical cut, though in other respects he was equipped with
the same point-device elegance.

'Calvin would never give him the rich abbey of Selicy,' said another;
'the breviary is the safer speculation.'

'Ah! M. de Ribaumont can tell you that abbeys are no such securities
in these days. Let yonder Admiral get the upper hand, and we shall see
Mericour, the happy cadet of eight brothers and sisters, turned adrift
from their convents. What a fatherly spectacle M. le Marquis will
present!'

Here the Chevalier beckoned to Berenger, who, riding forward, learnt
that Narcisse had engaged lodgings for him and his suite at one of the
great inns, and Berenger returned his thanks, and a proposal to the
Chevalier to become his guest. They were by this time entering the city,
where the extreme narrowness and dirt of the streets contrasted with the
grandeur of the palatial courts that could be partly seen through
their archways. At the hostel they rode under such an arch, and found
themselves in a paved yard that would have been grand had it been
clean. Privacy had scarcely been invented, and the party were not at all
surprised to find that the apartment prepared for them was to serve both
day and night for Berenger, the Chevalier, and Mr. Adderley, besides
having a truckle-bed on the floor for Osbert. Meals were taken in
public, and it was now one o'clock--just dinner-time; so after a hasty
toilette the three gentlemen descended, the rest of the party having
ridden off to their quarters, either as attendants of Monsieur or to
their families. It was a sumptuous meal, at which a great number of
gentlemen were present, coming in from rooms hired over shops, &c--all,
as it seemed, assembled at Paris for the marriage festivities; but
Berenger began to gather that they were for the most part adherents of
the Guise party, and far from friendly to the Huguenot interest. Some of
them appeared hardly to tolerate Mr. Adderley's presence at the table;
and Berenger, though his kinsman's patronage secured civil treatment,
felt much out of his element, confused, unable to take part in the
conversation, and sure that he was where those at home did not wish to
see him.

No sooner was the dinner over than he rose and expressed his intention
of delivering his letters of introduction in person to the English
ambassador and to the Admiral de Coligny, whom, as his father's old
friend and the hero of his boyhood, he was most anxious to see. The
Chevalier demurred to this. Were it not better to take measures at once
for making himself presentable, and Narcisse had already supplied him
with directions to the fashionable hair-cutter, &c. It would be taken
amiss if he went to the Admiral before going to present himself to the
King.

'And I cannot see my cousins till I go to court?' asked Berenger.

'Most emphatically No. Have I not told you that the one is in the suite
of the young Queen, the other in that of the Queen-mother? I will myself
present you, if only you will give me the honour of your guidance.'

'With all thanks, Monsieur,' said Berenger; 'my grandfather's desire
was that I should lose no time in going to his friend Sir Francis
Walsingham, and I had best submit myself to his judgment as to my
appearance at court.'

On this point Berenger was resolute, though the Chevalier recurred
to the danger of any proceeding that might be unacceptable at court.
Berenger, harassed and impatient, repeated that he did not care about
the court, and wished merely to fulfil his purpose and return, at which
his kinsman shook his head and shrugged his shoulders, and muttered to
himself, 'Ah, what does he know! He will regret it when too late; but I
have done my best.'

Berenger paid little attention to this, but calling Landry Osbert, and
a couple of his men, he bade them take their swords and bucklers, and
escort him in his walk through Paris. He set off with a sense of escape,
but before he had made many steps, he was obliged to turn and warn
Humfrey and Jack that they were not to walk swaggering along the
streets, with hand on sword, as if every Frenchman they saw was the
natural foe of their master.

Very tall were the houses, very close and extremely filthy the streets,
very miserable the beggars; and yet here and there was to be seen the
open front of a most brilliant shop, and the thoroughfares were crowded
with richly-dressed gallants. Even the wider streets gave little space
for the career of the gay horsemen who rode along them, still less
for the great, cumbrous, though gaily-decked coaches, in which ladies
appeared glittering with jewels and fan in hand, with tiny white dogs on
their knees.

The persons of whom Berenger inquired the way all uncapped most
respectfully, and replied with much courtesy; but when the hotel of the
English ambassador had been pointed out to him, he hardly believed it,
so foul and squalid was the street, where a large nail-studded door
occupied a wide archway. Here was a heavy iron knocker, to which Osbert
applied himself. A little door was at once opened by a large, powerful
John Bull of a porter, whose looks expanded into friendly welcome when
he heard the English tongue of the visitor. Inside, the scene was very
unlike that without. The hotel was built round a paved court, adorned
with statues and stone vases, with yews and cypresses in them, and a
grand flight of steps led up to the grand centre of the house, around
which were collected a number of attendants, wearing the Walsingham
colours. Among these Berenger left his two Englishmen, well content to
have fallen into an English colony. Landry followed him to announce the
visitor, Berenger waiting to know whether the Ambassador would be at
liberty to see him.

Almost immediately the door was re-opened, and a keen-looking gentleman,
about six-and-thirty years of age, rather short in stature, but
nevertheless very dignified-looking, came forward with out-stretched
hands--'Greet you well, my Lord de Ribaumont. We expected your coming.
Welcome, mine honoured friend's grandson.'

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

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

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

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

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

Berenger saw the Ambassador was displeased with his reluctance, and
answered quickly, 'In sooth, my Lord, I would esteem myself only too
happy to be thus honoured, but in sooth----' he repeated himself, and
faltered.

'In sooth, you expected more freedom than in my grave house,' said
Walsingham, displeased.

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

'What, the young ruffler in Monsieur's suite?'

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

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

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

'At the Croix de Lorraine.'

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

Berenger seemed to himself to be on familiar ground again as his
host thus assumed the direction of him and ushered him into a large
dining-hall, where the table had been forsaken in favour of a lesser
table placed in the ample window, round which sat assembled some six or
eight persons, with fruit, wine, and conserves before them, a few little
dogs at their feet or on their laps, and a lute lying on the knee of
one of the young gentlemen. Sir Francis presented the young Lord de
Ribaumont, their expected guest, to Lady Walsingham, from whom he
received a cordial welcome, and her two little daughter, Frances and
Elizabeth, and likewise to the gentleman with the lute, a youth about
a year older than Berenger, and of very striking and prepossessing
countenance, who was named as Mr. Sidney, the son of the Lord Deputy of
Ireland. A couple of gentlemen who would in these times have been termed
_attaches_, a couple of lady attendants upon Lady Walsingham, and the
chaplain made up the party, which on this day chanced only to include,
besides the household, the young traveller, Sidney. Berenger was at once
seated, and accepted a welcoming-cup of wine (i.e. a long slender glass
with a beautifully twisted stem), responded to friendly inquiries about
his relatives at home, and acknowledged the healths that were drunk
in honour of their names; after which Lady Walsingham begged that Mr.
Sidney would sing the madrigal he had before promised: afterwards a glee
was sung by Sidney, one of the gentlemen, and Lady Walsingham; and it
was discovered that Mr. de Ribaumont had a trained ear, and the very
voice that was wanting to the Italian song they were practising. And
so sped a happy hour, till a booted and spurred messenger came in
with letters for his Excellency, who being thus roused from his dreamy
enjoyment of the music, carried young Ribaumont off with him to his
cabinet, and there made over to him a packet, with good news from home,
and orders that made it clear that he could do no other than accept the
hospitality of the Embassy. Thus armed with authority, he returned to
the Croix de Lorraine, where Mr. Adderley could not contain his joy at
the change to quarters not only so much more congenial, buts so much
safer; and the Chevalier, after some polite demur, consented to remain
in possession of the rooms, being in fact well satisfied with the
arrangement.

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

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

And though Berenger had been educated in the country, it had been in
the same tone as that of his new friends. He was greatly approved by
Sir Francis as a stripling of parts and modesty. Mr. Sidney made him a
companion, and the young matron, Lady Walsingham, treated him as neither
lout nor lubber. Yet he could not be at ease in his state between
curiosity and repulsion towards the wife who was to be discarded by
mutual consent. The sight of the scenes of his early childhood had
stirred up warmer recollections of the pretty little playful torment,
who through the vista of years assumed the air of a tricksy elf rather
than the little vixen he used to think her. His curiosity had been
further stimulated by the sight of his rival, Narcisse, whose effeminate
ornaments, small stature, and seat on horseback filled Sir Marmaduke's
pupil with inquisitive disdain as to the woman who could prefer anything
so unmanly.

Sidney was to be presented at the after-dinner reception at the Louvre
the next day, and Sir Francis proposed to take young Ribaumont with him.
Berenger coloured, and spoke of his equipment, and Sidney good-naturedly
offered to come and inspect. That young gentleman was one of the
daintiest in apparel of his day; but he was amazed that the suit in
which Berenger had paid his devoir to Queen Elizabeth should have been
set aside--it was of pearl-grey velvet, slashed with rose-coloured
satin, and in shape and fashion point-device--unless, as the Ambassador
said good-humouredly, 'my young Lord Ribaumont wished to be one of
Monsieur's clique.' Thus arrayed, then, and with the chaplet of pearls
bound round the small cap, with a heron-plume that sat jauntily on
one side of his fair curled head, Berenger took his seat beside the
hazel-eyed, brown-haired Sidney, in his white satin and crimson, and
with the Ambassador and his attendants were rolled off in the great
state-coach drawn by eight horses, which had no sinecure in dragging the
ponderous machine through the unsavoury _debris_ of the streets.

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

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

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

'What say you, Monsieur?' sharply demanded the King: 'are you come here
to renounce your country, religion--and love, as I have been told?'

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

'Not ill answered for the English giant,' said Charles aside to
an attendant: then turning eagerly to Sidney, whose transcendent
accomplishments had already become renowned, Charles welcomed him to
court, and began to discuss Ronsard's last sonnet, showing no small
taste and knowledge of poetry. Greatly attracted by Sidney, the King
detained the whole English party by an invitation to Walsingham to hear
music in the Queen-mother's apartments; and Berenger, following in the
wake of his friends, found himself in a spacious hall, with a raised
gallery at one end for the musicians, the walls decorated with the
glorious paintings collected by Francois I., Greek and Roman statues
clustered at the angles, and cabinets with gems and antiques disposed
at intervals. Not that Berenger beheld much of this: he was absolutely
dazzled with the brilliant assembly into which he was admitted. There
moved the most beautiful women in France, in every lovely-coloured tint
that dress could assume: their bosoms, arms, and hair sparkling with
jewels; their gossamer ruffs surrounding their necks like fairy wings;
their light laugh mingling with the music, as they sat, stood, or walked
in graceful attitudes conversing with one another or with the cavaliers,
whose brilliant velvet and jewels fifty mixed with their bright
array. These were the sirens he had heard of, the 'squadron of the
Queen-mother,' the dangerous beings against whom he was to steel
himself. And which of them was the child he had played with, to whom
his vows had been plighted? It was like some of the enchanting dreams
of romance merely to look at these fair creatures; and he stood as if
gazing into a magic-glass till Sir Francis Walsingham, looking round for
him, said, 'Come, then, my young friend, you must do your devoirs to the
Queens. Sidney, I see, is as usual in his element; the King has seized
upon him.'

Catherine de Medicis was seated on a large velvet chair, conversing with
the German ambassador. Never beautiful, she appeared to more advantage
in her mature years than in her girlhood, and there was all the dignity
of a lifetime of rule in demeanour and gestures, the bearing of her
head, and motion of her exquisite hands. Her eyes were like her son's,
prominent, and gave the sense of seeing all round at once, and her smile
was to the highest degree engaging. She received the young Baron de
Ribaumont far more graciously than Charles has done, held out her hand
to be kissed, and observed 'that the young gentleman was like Madame _sa
mere_ whom she well remembered as much admired. Was it true that she was
married in England?'

Berenger bowed assent.

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

Walsingham made a sign that Berenger had better retreat from hearing
the solemn coquetting carried on by the maiden Queen through her gravest
ambassadors. He fell back, and remained watching the brilliant throng,
trying in vain to discover the bright merry eyes and velvet cheek he
remembered of old. Presently a kind salutation interrupted him, and a
gentleman who perceived him to be a stranger began to try to set him at
ease, pointed out to him the handsome, foppishly-dressed Duke of Anjou,
and his ugly, spiteful little brother of Alengon, then designated as
Queen Elizabeth's future husband, who was saying something to a lady
that made her colour and bite her lips. 'Is that the younger Queen?'
asked Berenger, as his eye fell on a sallow, dark-complexioned,
sad-looking little creature in deep mourning, and with three or four
such stately-looking, black-robed, Spanish-looking duennas round her as
to prove her to be a person of high consequence.

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

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

'That is not certain. Are you wishing to see any one of them?'

'I would like to see----' He could not help colouring till his cheeks
rivaled the colour of his sword-knot. 'I want just to know if she is
here. I know not if she be called Madame or Mademoiselle de Ribaumont.'

'The fair Ribaumont! Assuredly; see, she is looking at you. Shall I
present you?'

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

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

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

'And Madame _votre mere_. Is she well? She was very good to me.'

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

'Quite as beautiful,' he said, 'only somewhat more _embonpoint_.'

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

It was so personal that the colour rushed again into his cheek. No one
had ever so presumed to admire him; and with a degree gratified and
surprised, and sensible more and more of the extreme beauty of the lady,
there was a sort of alarm about him as if this were the very fascination
he had been warned against, and as if she were casting a net about him,
which, wife as she was, it would be impossible to him to break.

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

'I have been presented to the Queen.'

She then proceeded to ask questions about the chief personages with a
rapid intelligence that surprised him as well as alarmed him, for he
felt more and more in the power of a very clever as well as beautiful
woman, and the attraction she exercised made him long the more to
escape; but she smiled and signed away several cavaliers who would have
gained her attention. She spoke of Queen Mary of Scotland, then in the
fifth years of her captivity, and asked if he did not feel bound to her
service by having been once her partner. Did not he remember that dance?

'I have heard my mother speak of it far too often to forget it,' said
Berenger, glowing again for her who could speak of that occasion without
a blush.

'You wish to gloss over your first inconstancy, sir,' she said, archly;
but he was spared from further reply by Philip Sidney's coming to tell
him that the Ambassador was ready to return home. He took leave with
an alacrity that redoubled his courtesy so much that he desired to be
commended to his cousin Diane, whom he had not seen.

'To Diane?' said the lady, inquiringly.

'To Mademoiselle Diane de Ribaumont,' he corrected himself, ashamed of
his English rusticity. 'I beg pardon if I spoke too familiarly of her.'

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

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

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

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

'I was ashamed of her bold visage.'

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

'The foul fiend seize their impudence!'

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER V. THE CONVENT BIRD



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


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

It was a very good thing--that he well knew; and he had a strong sense
of virtue and obedience, as he formed with his pen the words in all
their fullness, Henri Beranger Eustache, Baron de Ribaumont et Seigneur
de Leurre. He could not help wondering whether the lady who looked at
him so admiringly really preferred such a mean-looking little fop as
Narcisse, whether she were afraid of his English home and breeding, or
whether all this open coquetry were really the court manners of
ladies towards gentlemen, and he had been an absolute simpleton to be
flattered. Any way, she would have been a most undesirable wife, and
he was well quit of her; but he did feel a certain lurking desire that,
since the bonds were cut and he was no longer in danger from her, he
might see her again, carry home a mental inventory of the splendid
beauties he had renounced, and decide what was the motive that actuated
her in rejecting his own handsome self. Meantime, he proceeded to enjoy
the amusements and advantage of his sojourn at Paris, of which by no
means the least was the society of Philip Sidney, and the charm his
brilliant genius imparted to every pursuit they shared. Books at the
University, fencing and dancing from the best professors, Italian
poetry, French sonnets, Latin epigrams; nothing came amiss to Sidney,
the flower of English youth: and Berenger had taste, intelligence, and
cultivation enough to enter into all in which Sidney led the way. The
good tutor, after all his miseries on the journey, was delighted to
write to Lord Walwyn, that, far from being a risk and temptation, this
visit was a school in all that was virtuous and comely.

If the good man had any cause of dissatisfaction, it was with the
Calvinistic tendencies of the Ambassador's household. Walsingham
was always on the Puritanical side of Elizabeth's court, and such an
atmosphere as that of Paris, where the Roman 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 Reformed.
The reaction that half a century later filled the Gallican Church with
saintliness had not set in; her ecclesiastics 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 Reformed 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 congregated
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 Calvinist, 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 scandalized Sidney, the pupil
of Hubert Languet, by openly expressing his distaste and dismay when he
found their worship viewed by both Walsingham and Sidney as a model to
which the English Protestants ought to be brought.

However, Sidney excused all this as more 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 Reformed
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
Reformed cause in France. If the marriage with the heiress could have
taken effect, 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 Narcisse de Ribaumont, 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 grandfather; 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 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 be warned, and to be 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 Reformed.'

'Scarcely,' said Walsingham; 'save that it is they who hinder the Duke
of Guise from being 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 with 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 Reformed, but the late victories has
thrown the whole court entirely into the power of the Guises, the truly
unscrupulous partisans of Rome. 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 Reformed party, in
especial a massacre of prisoners at _Nerac_.

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 subsequent 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
unperceived among them, and he knew this would be 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 studying 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?' she asked.

He smiled, half ashamed of his own annoyance at being obliged to place
them in her hands. He was sure she would try 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?'

An impulse of open-handed gallantry would have made him answer, 'No
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?'

'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?'

'Never,' 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 fright.'

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

'Comment, Monsieur. Do you not yet know the young 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?' 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
Ribaumont, 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 Ribaumont,' 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 partner.'

Berenger was covered with confusion to find that he had been 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 ill-breeding.

Poor little convent maid, with crimson cheeks, flashing eyes, panting
bosom, and a neck evidently aching with proud dignity and passion, she
received his low bow with a sweeping 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, 'Not a word, Monsieur!
Let us go through it at once. No 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 recognition in excuse; but no sooner
was the performance over than she prevented all 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 no 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 praises of the young
Lord de Ribaumont, as proving the excellence of the masters whom she
had recommended to remove the rustic clownishness of which he had been
accused.

'Nay,' said Sir Francis; 'whoever called him too clownish 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? Could Narcisse be jealous of him? Mademoiselle de Ribaumont 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 bird, fresh from the convent cage.
Her gesture and her eyes irresistibly carried him back to old times,
though whether to an angry 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 surprised 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 family resolution
which she had obeyed.



CHAPTER VI. FOULLY COZENED



      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 policy
to appear to leave the ascendancy 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 sincere. Philip Sidney's varied accomplishment and pure
lofty character 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 part at
pall-mall in the Tuileries gardens.

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 afforded opportunities 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 him 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, indolent determination of a male annoyer.

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

'Have a care,' returned Mericour; 'I have heard that a man needs look
twice are 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 limed he beheld the little Demoiselle de
Nid-de-Merle, driven into a corner and standing at bay, with glowing
cheeks, flashing 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 _pensionnaire_ airs, and that now he had caught her he would have
his revenge, and win her rose-coloured break-knot. 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, but 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 laugh. 'No, no; do you not see who it is? 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 indifference 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, Mademoiselle,' 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 resentment, 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 Eutacie!'

'Whom would you have me to be otherwise? 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? Who was she?' he cried, half wild with dismay and
confusion. 'Was it Diane?'

'You have seen and danced with Diane de Ribaumont,' answered Eustacie,
still coldly; 'but what of that? Let me go, Monsieur; you have cast me
off already.'

'I! when all this has been of your own seeking?'

'Mine?' cried Eustacie, panting with the struggle between her dignity
and her passionate tears. '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?'

'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!'

When they showed me your name they were welcome to mine.'

Berenger struck his forehead with wrath and perplexity, then cried,
joyfully, 'It will not stand for moment. So foul a cheat can be at once
exposed. Eutacie, 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
Nid-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 Ribaumont! And
the name must have deceived you. Thou wast always a great dull boy,' she
added, with a sudden assumption 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 Berenger, 'I am to be palmed off thus that thou
mayest be reserved for Narcisse. Tell me, Eustacie, wast thou willing?'

'I hate Narcisse!' she cried. 'But oh, I am lingering too long. 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 say?'

'No blame for being with thy husband,' he answered, clasping her hand.
'Thou art mine henceforth. I will soon cut our way out of the 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 shamefully deceived and cheated, and justice he would have!
He had been deprived of a thing of his own, and he would assert his
right. He had been made to injure and disown the creature he was bound
to protect, and he must console her and compensate to her, were it only
to redeem his honour. He never even thought whether he loved her;
he merely felt furious at the wrong he had suffered and been made to
commit, and hotly bent on recovering what belonged to him. He might even
have plunged down among the ladies and claimed her as his wife, if the
young Abbe de Mericour, who was two years older than he, and far less
of a boy for his years, had not joined him in his agitated walk. He then
learnt that all the court knew that the daughter of the late Marquis
de Nid-de-Merle, Comte de Ribaumont, was called by his chief title, but
that her marriage to himself had been forgotten by some and unknown to
others, and thus that the first error between the cousins had not been
wonderful in a stranger, since the Chevalier's daughter had always been
Mdlle. de Ribaumont. The error once made, Berenger's distaste to Diane
had been so convenient that it had been carefully encouraged, and the
desire to keep him at a distance from court and throw him into the
background was accounted for. The Abbe was almost as indignant as
Berenger, and assured him both of his sympathy and his discretion.

'I see no need for discretion,' said Berenger. 'I shall claim my wife in
the face of the sun.'

'Take counsel first, I entreat,' exclaimed Mericour. 'The Ribaumonts
have much influence with the Guise family, and now you have offended
Monsieur.'

'Ah! Where are those traitorous kinsmen?' cried Berenger.

'Fortunately all are gone on an expedition with the Queen-mother.
You will have time to think. I have heard my brother say no one ever
prospered who offended the meanest follower of the house of Lorraine.'

'I do not want prosperity, I only want my wife. I hope I shall never see
Paris and its deceivers again.'

'Ah! But is it true that you have applied to have the marriage annulled
at Rome?'

'We were both shamefully deceivers. That can be nothing.'

'A decree of his Holiness: you a Huguenot; she an heiress. All is
against you. My friend, be cautions, exclaimed the young ecclesiastic,
alarmed by his passionate gestures. 'To break forth now and be accused
of brawling in the palace precincts would be fatal--fatal--most fatal!'

'I am as calm as possible,' returned Berenger. 'I mean to act most
reasonably. I shall stand before the King and tell him openly how I have
been tamperes with, demanding my wife before the whole court.'

'Long before you could get so far the ushers would have dragged you away
for brawling, or for maligning an honour-able gentlemen. You would have
to finish your speech in the Bastille, and it would be well if even your
English friends could get you out alive.'

'Why, what a place is this!' began Berenger; but again Mericour
entreated him to curb himself; and his English education had taught
him to credit the house of Guide with so much mysterious power and
wickedness, that he allowed himself to be silenced, and promised to take
no open measures till he had consulted the Ambassador.

'He could not obtain another glimpse of Eustacie, and the hours passed
tardily till the break up of the party. Charles could scarcely release
Sidney from his side, and only let him go on condition that he should
join the next day in an expedition to the hunting chateau of Montpipeau,
to which the King seemed to look forward as a great holiday and
breathing time.

When at length the two youths did return, Sir Francis Walsingham was
completely surprised by the usually tractable, well-behaved stripling,
whose praises he had been writing to his old friend, bursting in on him
with the outcry, 'Sir, sir, I entreat your counsel! I have been foully
cozened.'

'Of how much?' said Sir Francis, in a tone of reprobation.

'Of my wife. Of mine honour. Sir, your Excellency, I crave pardon, if I
spoke too hotly,' said Berenger, collecting himself; 'but it is enough
to drive a man to frenzy.'

'Sit down, my Lord de Ribaumont. Take breath, and let me know what is
this coil. What hath thus moved him, Mr. Sidney?'

'It is as he says, sir,' replied Sidney, who had beard all as they
returned; 'he has been greatly wronged. The Chevalier de Ribaumont not
only writ to propose the separation without the lady's knowledge, but
imposed his own daughter on our friend as the wife he had not seen since
infancy.'

'There, sir,' broke forth Berenger; 'surely if I claim mine own in the
face of day, no man can withhold her from me!'

'Hold!' said Sir Francis. 'What mean this passion, young sir? Methought
you came hither convinced that both the religion and the habits in which
the young lady had been bred up rendered your infantine contract most
unsuitable. What hath fallen out to make this change in your mind?'

'That I was cheated, sir. The lady who palmed herself off on me as my
wife was a mere impostor, the Chevalier's own daughter!'

'That may be; but what known you of this other lady? Has she been bred
up in faith or manners such as your parents would have your wife?'

'She is my wife,' reiterated Berenger. 'My faith is plighted to her.
That is enough for me.'

Sir Francis made a gesture of despair. 'He has seen her, I suppose,'
said he to Sidney.

'Yes truly, sir,' answered Berenger; 'and found that she had been as
greatly deceived as myself.'

'Then mutual consent is wanting,' said the statesman, gravely musing.

'That is even as I say,' began Berenger, but Walsingham help up his
hand, and desired that he would make his full statement in the presence
of his tutor. Then sounding a little whistle, the Ambassador despatched
a page to request the attendance of Mr. Adderley, and recommended young
Ribaumont in the meantime to compose himself.

Used to being under authority as Berenger was, the somewhat severe tone
did much to allay his excitement, and remind him that right and reason
were so entirely on his side, that he had only to be cool and rational
to make them prevail. He was thus able to give a collected and coherent
account of his discovery that the part of his wife had been assumed by
her cousin Diane, and that the signature of both the young pair to the
application to the Pope had been obtained on false pretences. That he
had, as Sidney said, been foully cozened, in both senses of the word,
was as clear as daylight; but he was much angered and disappointed to
find that neither the Ambassador nor his tutor could see that Eustacie's
worthiness was proved by the iniquity of her relation, or that any one
of the weighty reasons for the expediency of dissolving the marriage was
remove. The whole affair had been in such good train a little before,
that Mr. Adderley was much distressed that it should thus have been
crossed, and thought the new phase of affairs would be far from
acceptable at Combe Walwyn.

'Whatever is just and honourable must be acceptable to my grandfather,'
said Berenger.

'Even so,' said Walsingham; 'but it were well to consider whether
justice and honour require you to overthrow the purpose wherewith he
sent you hither.'

'Surely, sir, justice and require me to fulfil a contract to which the
other party is constant,' said Berenger, feeling very wise and prudent
for calling that wistful, indignant creature the other party.

'That is also true,' said the Ambassador, 'provided she be constant; but
you own that she signed the requisition for the dissolution.'

'She did so, but under the same deception as myself, and further
mortified and aggrieved at my seeming faithlessness.'

'So it may easily be represented,' muttered Walsingham.

'How, sir?' cried Berenger, impetuously; 'do you doubt her truth?'

'Heaven forefend,' said Sir Francis, 'that I should discuss any
fair lady's sincerity! The question is how far you are bound. Have I
understood you that you are veritably wedded, not by a mere contract of
espousal?'

'Berenger could produce no documents, for they had been left at Chateau
Leurre, and on his father's death the Chevalier had claimed the custody
of them; but he remembered enough of the ceremonial to prove that the
wedding had been a veritable one, and that only the papal intervention
could annul it.

Indeed an Englishman, going by English law, would own no power in the
Pope, nor any one on earth, to sever the sacred tie of wedlock; but
French courts of law would probably ignore the mode of application, and
would certainly endeavour to separate between a Catholic and a heretic.

'I am English, sir, in heart and faith,' said Berenger, earnestly. 'Look
upon me as such, and tell me, am I married or single at this moment?'

'Married assuredly. More's the pity,' said Sir Francis.

'And no law of God or man divides us without our own consent.' There was
no denying that the mutual consent of the young pair at their present
age was all that was wanting to complete the inviolability of their
marriage contract.

Berenger was indeed only eighteen, and Eustacie more than a year
younger, but there was nothing in their present age to invalidate their
marriage, for persons of their rank were usually wedded quite as
young or younger. Walsingham was only concerned at his old friend's
disappointment, and at the danger of the young man running headlong into
a connection probably no more suitable than that with Diane de Ribaumont
would have been. But it was not convenient to argue against the
expediency of a man's loving his own wife; and when Berenger boldly
declared he was not talking of love but of justice, it was only possible
to insist that he should pause and see where true justice lay.

And thus the much-perplexed Ambassador broke up the conference with his
hot and angry young guest.

'And Mistress Lucy---?' sighed Mr. Adderley, in rather an _inapropos_
fashion it must be owned; but then he had been fretted beyond endurance
by his pupil striding up and down his room, reviling Diane, and
describing Eustacie, while he was trying to write these uncomfortable
tidings to Lord Walwyn.

'Lucy! What makes you bring her up to me?' exclaimed Berenger. 'Little
Dolly would be as much to the purpose!'

'Only, sir, no resident at Hurst Walwyn could fail to know that has been
planned and desired.'

'Pshaw!' cries Berenger; 'have you not heard that it was a mere figment,
and that I could scarce have wedded Lucy safely, even had this matter
gone as you wish? This is the luckiest chance that could have befallen
her.'

'That may be,' said Mr. Adderley; 'I wish she may think so--sweet young
lady!'

'I tell you, Mr. Adderley, you should know better! Lucy has more sense.
My aunt, whom she follows more than any other creature, ever silenced
the very sport or semblance of love passages between us even as
children, by calling them unseemly in one wedded as I am. Brother and
sister we have ever been, and have loved as such--ay, and shall! I know
of late some schemes have crossed my mother's mind---'

'Yea, and that of others.'

'But they have not ruffled Lucy's quiet nature--trust me! And for the
rest? What doth she need me in comparison of this poor child? She--like
a bit of her own gray lavender in the shadiest nook of the walled
garden, tranquil there--sure not to be taken there, save to company
with fine linen in some trim scented coffer, whilst this fresh glowing
rosebud has grown up pure and precious in the very midst of the foulest
corruption Christendom can show, and if I snatch her not from it, I,
the innocence and sweetness, what is to be her fate? The very pity of a
Christian, the honour of a gentleman, would urge me, even if it were not
my most urgent duty!'

'Mr. Adderley argued no more. When Berenger came to his duty in the
matter he was invincible, and moreover all the more provoking, because
he mentioned it with a sort of fiery sound of relish, and looked so very
boyish all the time. Poor Mr. Adderley!' feeling as if his trust were
betrayed, loathing the very idea of a French court lady, saw that his
pupil had been allured into a headlong passion to his own misery,
and that of all whose hopes were set on him, yet preached to by this
stripling scholar about duties and sacred obligations! Well might he rue
the day he ever set foot in Paris.

Then, to his further annoyance, came a royal messenger to invite the
Baron de Ribaumont to join the expedition to Montpipeau. Of course he
must go, and his tutor must be left behind, and who could tell into what
mischief he might not be tempted!

Here, however, Sidney gave the poor chaplain some comfort. He believed
that no ladies were to be of the party, and that the gentlemen were
chiefly of the King's new friends among the Huguenots, such as Coligny,
his son-in-law Teligny, Rochefoucauld, and the like, among whom the
young gentleman could not fall into any very serious harm, and might
very possibly be influenced against a Roman Catholic wife. At any rate,
he would be out of the way, and unable to take any dangerous steps.

This same consideration so annoyed Berenger that he would have declined
the invitation, if royal invitations could have been declined. And in
the morning, before setting out, he dressed himself point device, and
with Osbert behind him marched down to the Croix de Larraine, to call
upon the Chevalier de Ribaumont. He had a very fine speech at his
tongue's end when he set out, but a good deal of it had evaporated when
he reached the hotel, and perhaps he was not very sorry not to find the
old gentleman within.

On his return, he indited a note to the Chevalier, explaining that he
had now seen his wife, Madame la Baronne de Ribaumont, and had come to
an understanding with her, by which he found that it was under a mistake
that the application to the Pope had been signed, and that they should,
therefore, follow it up with a protest, and act as if no such letter had
been sent.

Berenger showed this letter to Walsingham, who, though much concerned,
could not forbid his sending it. 'Poor lad,' he said to the tutor; ''tis
an excellently writ billet for one so young. I would it were in a wiser
cause. But he has fairly the bit between his teeth, and there is no
checking him while he has this show of right on his side.'

And poor Mr. Adderley could only beseech Mr. Sidney to take care of him.



CHAPTER VII. THE QUEEN'S PASTORAL



     Either very gravely gay,
     Or very gaily grave,
            --W. M. PRAED


Montpipeau, though in the present day a suburb of Paris, was in the
sixteenth century far enough from the city to form a sylvan retreat,
where Charles IX, could snatch a short respite from the intrigues of his
court, under pretext of enjoying his favourite sport. Surrounded with
his favoured associates of the Huguenot party, he seemed to breathe
a purer atmosphere, and to yield himself up to enjoyment greater than
perhaps his sad life had ever known.

He rode among his gentlemen, and the brilliant cavalcade passed through
poplar-shaded roads, clattered through villages, and threaded their
way through bits of forest still left for the royal chase. The people
thronged out of their houses, and shouted not only 'Vive le Roy,' but
'Vive l'Amiral,' and more than once the cry was added, 'Spanish war, or
civil war!' The heart of France was, if not with the Reformed, at
least against Spain and the Lorrainers, and Sidney perceived, from the
conversation of the gentlemen round him, that the present expedition had
been devised less for the sake of the sport, than to enable the King to
take measures for emancipating himself from the thraldom of his mother,
and engaging the country in a war against Philip II. Sidney listened,
but Berenger chafed, feeling only that he was being further carried out
of reach of his explanation with his kindred. And thus they arrived
at Montpipeau, a tower, tall and narrow, like all French designs, but
expanded on the ground floor by wooden buildings capable of containing
the numerous train of a royal hunter, and surrounded by an extent of
waste land, without fine trees, though with covert for deer, boars, and
wolves sufficient for sport to royalty and death to peasantry. Charles
seemed to sit more erect in his saddle, and to drink in joy with every
breath of the thyme-scented breeze, from the moment his horse bounded
on the hollow-sounding turf; and when he leapt to the ground, with the
elastic spring of youth, he held out his hands to Sidney and to Teligny,
crying 'Welcome, my friends. Here I am indeed a king!'

It was a lovely summer evening, early in August, and Charles bade the
supper to be spread under the elms that shaded a green lawn in front
of the chateau. Etiquette was here so far relaxed as to permit the
sovereign to dine with his suite, and tables, chairs, and benches were
brought out, drapery festooned in the trees to keep off sun and wind,
the King lay down in the fern and let his happy dogs fondle him, and
as a hers-girl passed along a vista in the distance, driving her goats
before her, Philip Sidney marvelled whether it was not even thus in
Arcadia.

Presently there was a sound of horses trampling, wheels moving, a party
of gaily gilded archers of the guard jingled up, and in their midst
was a coach. Berenger's heart seemed to leap at once to his lips, as a
glimpse of ruffs, hats, and silks dawned on him through the windows.

The king rose from his lair among the fern, the Admiral stood forward,
all heads were bared, and from the coach-door alighted the young Queen;
no longer pale, subdued, and indifferent, but with a face shining with
girlish delight, as she held out her hand to the Admiral. 'Ah! This is
well, this is beautiful,' she exclaimed; 'it is like our happy chases
in the Tyrol. Ah, Sire!' to the King, 'how I thank you for letting me be
with you.'

After her Majesty descended her gentleman-usher. Then came the
lady-in-waiting, Madame de Sauve, the wife of the state secretary in
attendance on Charles, and a triumphant, coquettish beauty, than a fat,
good-humoured Austrian dame, always called Madame la Comtesse, because
her German name was unpronounceable, and without whom the Queen never
stirred, and lastly a little figure, rounded yet slight, slender yet
soft and plump, with a kitten-like alertness and grace of motion, as
she sprang out, collected the Queen's properties of fan, kerchief,
pouncet-box, mantle, &c., and disappeared in to the chateau, without
Berenger's being sure of anything but that her little black hat had a
rose-coloured feather in it.

The Queen was led to a chair placed under one of the largest trees, and
there Charles presented to her such of his gentlemen as she was not yet
acquainted with, the Baron de Ribaumont among the rest.

'I have heard of M. de Ribaumont,' she said, in a tone that made
the colour mantle in his fair cheek; and with a sign of her hand she
detained him at her side till the King had strolled away with Madame la
Sauve, and no one remained near but her German countess. Then changing
her tone to one of confidence, which the high-bred homeliness of her
Austrian manner rendered inexpressibly engaging, she said, 'I must
apologize, Monsieur, for the giddiness of my sister-in-law, which I fear
caused you some embarrassment.'

'Ah, Madame,' said Berenger, kneeling on one knee as she addressed him,
and his heart bounding with wild, undefined hope, 'I cannot be grateful
enough. It was that which led to my being undeceived.'

'It was true, then, that you were mistaken?' said the Queen.

'Treacherously deceived, Madame, by those whose interest it is to keep
us apart,' said Berenger, colouring with indignation; 'they imposed
my other cousin on me as my wife, and caused her to think me cruelly
neglectful.'

'I know,' said the Queen. 'Yet Mdlle. de Ribaumont is far more admired
than my little blackbird.'

'That may be, Madame, but not by me.'

'Yet is it true that you came to break off the marriage?'

'Yes, Madame,' said Berenger, honestly, 'but I had not seen her.'

'And now?' said the Queen, smiling.

'I would rather die than give her up,' said Berenger. 'Oh, Madame, help
us of your grace. Every one is trying to part us, every one is arguing
against us, but she is my own true wedded wife, and if you will but give
her to me, all will be well.'

'I like you, M. de Ribaumont,' said the Queen, looking him full in the
face. 'You are like our own honest Germans at my home, and I think you
mean all you say. I had much rather my dear little Nid de Merle were
with you than left here, to become like all the others. She is a good
little _Liegling_,--how do you call it in French? She has told me all,
and truly I would help you with all my heart, but it is not as if I
were the Queen-mother. You must have recourse to the King, who loves you
well, and at my request included you in the hunting-party.'

Berenger could only kiss her hand in token of earnest thanks before the
repast was announced, and the King came to lead her to the table spread
beneath the trees. The whole party supped together, but Berenger could
have only a distant view of his little wife, looking very demure and
grave by the side of the Admiral.

But when the meal was ended, there was a loitering in the woodland
paths, amid healthy openings or glades trimmed into discreet wildness
fit for royal rusticity; the sun set in parting glory on one horizon,
the moon rising in crimson majesty on the other. A musician at intervals
touched the guitar, and sang Spanish or Italian airs, whose soft or
quaint melody came dreamily through the trees. Then it was that with
beating heart Berenger stole up to the maiden as she stood behind the
Queen, and ventured to whisper her name and clasp her hand.

She turned, their eyes met, and she let him lead her apart into the
wood. It was not like a lover's tryst, it was more like the continuation
of their old childish terms, only that he treated her as a thing of his
own, that he was bound to secure and to guard, and she received him as
her own lawful but tardy protector, to be treated with perfect reliance
but with a certain playful resentment.

'You will not run away from me now,' he said, making full prize of her
hand and arm.

'Ah! is not she the dearest and best of queens?' and the large eyes were
lifted up to him in such frank seeking of sympathy that he could see
into the depths of their clear darkness.

'It is her doing then. Though, Eustacie, when I knew the truth, not
flood nor fire should keep me long from you, my heart, my love, my
wife.'

'What! wife in spite of those villainous letter?' she said, trying to
pout.

'Wife for ever, inseparably! Only you must be able to swear that you
knew nothing of the one that brought me here.'

'Poor me! No, indeed! There was Celine carried off at fourteen, Madame
de Blanchet a bride at fifteen; all marrying hither and thither; and
I--' she pulled a face irresistibly droll--'I growing old enough to
dress St. Catherine's hair, and wondering where was M. le Baron.'

'They thought me too young,' said Berenger, 'to take on me the cares of
life.'

'So they were left to me?'

'Cares! What cares have you but finding the Queen's fan?'

'Little you know!' she said, half contemptuous, half mortified.

'Nay, pardon me, _ma mie_. Who has troubled you?'

'Ah! you would call it nothing to be beset by Narcisse; to be told one's
husband is faithless, till one half believes it; to be looked at by ugly
eyes; to be liable to be teased any day by Monsieur, or worse, by that
mocking ape, M. d'Alecon, and to have nobody who can or will hinder it.'

She was sobbing by this time, and he exclaimed, 'Ah, would that I could
revenge all! Never, never shall it be again! What blessed grace has
guarded you through all?'

'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? Ah, how
kind he was!'

'My father? 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 you.'

'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 say the texts he taught me, but I WOULD not forget
them. I say them often in my heart.'

'Then,' he cried joyfully, 'you will willingly embrace my religion?'

'Be a Huguenot?' she said distastefully.

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

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

'Ah, they will love so much! I shall make you so happy there,' he
answered. 'There you will see what it is to be 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 Abbess,
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 be borne.'

And a very few words from him drew out all that had happened to her
since they parted. 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 _pensionnaires_, 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 months since, when she had been appointed maid 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
Englishman and heretic, and that after a few formalities had been
complied with, she would become the wife of her cousin Narcisse. Now
there was no person whom she so much dreaded as Narcisse, 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 Benoit?' she said; 'poor Benoit, who came to Normandy
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_ O 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 Lucon! I heard Narcisse laugh--laugh as he
talked of the cries of the poor creatures in the conventicler. 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.'

'Never, never shall it!' said Berenger, felling all manhood, 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
begun 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 Ribaumont.

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

'See here,' said he, with the rude expletives only too habitual 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; but
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?'

The foolish young 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 one to the Ambassador's.'

'How, sir!' interrupted Charles, haughtily and angrily, 'if you
forget that you are a French nobleman still, I should remember it! The
Ambassador may protect his own 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-disciplined 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 your
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 Normady, for you had best cross to England immediately. When she is
one there, owned by your kindred, Monsieur le cousin may gnash his teeth
as he will, 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 Oriflamme when it takes the field against Spain. What! you
are still discontented? 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; he 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? 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 drolly.

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 Ribaumont.'

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, 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 ceremony 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 marred, 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 really FELT her his own, and became husband 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 Ribaumont 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 mean of making up
the gifts that 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 bare of is young
friend, by enabling him to deal honourably with 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 he 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 dispatches, 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 consideration that he knew would greatly smooth the way for
her. Indeed, his own position was impregnable: 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 the Lucy Thistlewood, she was
far too discreet to feel any disappointment 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 Philip
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 Ribaumont and Mdlle. de Nid de Merle, and
their dream of bliss was like a pastoral for the special diversion of
the holiday of Montpipeau. The transparency 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. Fresh 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 concealment 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. 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 her 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 heave 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 Cecile'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 seem 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 countenance 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 noting to the others. Berenger knew indeed
that the Admiral was greatly rejoiced that the Nid 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 Religion,' 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 the Narcisse, 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, but nothing but the merest boy, with eyes open only to himself.

When Charles undertook to rehearse their escape with them, and the Queen
drove out in a little high-wheeled litter with Mne. 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 Admiral. 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 hasten 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 him, 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 symptoms 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 dispatched 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 Rochelle in the last week of August, to hasten to
the succour of the Prince of Orange against Spain, and letters were
dispatched by Coligny to all the Huguenot partisans bidding them
assemble at Melun on the third 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? 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
wind back to her those whom her corruptions had driven to seek truth and
morality beyond her pale?

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.



CHAPTER VIII. 'LE BROUILON'



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


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 Veronique, 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 English dame.

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 brouillon_,' 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 became visible within it--the portly form of Queen Catherine,
and on the back seat the graceful figure of Diane de Ribaumont.

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 a precipitation that made
the young Queen's tender heart conclude that some dreadful disaster had
occurred, and before Mademoiselle de Ribaumont had had time to make her
reverence, she exclaimed, breathlessly, 'Oh, is it ill news? Not from
Vienna?'

'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 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, which 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 off on one of
his long chases.'

Diane, at every spare moment, kept her eyes interrogatively 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 Ribaumont could 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 confidence, 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; but
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 inquiring look to
her husband, but he looked sullen, and, evidently cowed by his mother,
uttered not a word. She could only submit, and Catherine herself add
that there was room for Madame de Sauve and Mademoiselle de Nid 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 mutely round as if she hoped to
escape! What was the other unkindness to this? 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 the gage as it is meant,' said Sidney, putting a knee to the
ground, and kissing the trembling fingers, ere he 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 interjections, 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 dismissal.

'Poor youth,' said Coligny, mildly, 'he will be another being when we
have him in our camp with the King of Navarre 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; while his son-in-law and
Philip Sidney agreed to ride on, so as to met poor young Ribaumont, and
prepare him for the blow that had befallen him personally, while they
anxiously debated what this sudden descent of the Queen-mother might
portend. Teligny was ready to believe in any evil intention on her part,
but he thought himself certain of the 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 ascendancy, 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 youth 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! Not her uncle?' exclaimed Berenger.

'No, 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 mother.'

'Nay, but what is that to me?' said Berenger, with impatient superiority
to the affairs of the nation. 'How does it touch us?'

Sidney related the abstraction 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?'
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 Veronique. 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 wardrobe, amid the janglings
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 seen 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 HOPE.'

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 tomorrow, 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 unhappy 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 Berenger, and said, 'Here; stoop down, Ribaumont;
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 Monsieur 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 _eclat_, then you must be a much duller 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 disclosed 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 soul 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 would 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 continued his connection 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 completely, 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 accomplish their ends by working on the womanly terrors
of an unscrupulous mind.



CHAPTER IX. THE WEDDING WITH CRIMSON FAVOURS



     And trust me not at all or all in all.
                       --TENNYSON


So extensive was the Louvre, so widely separated the different 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 aggradizement an 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 was 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 Ribaumont 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 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 party were gone to Montpipeau, 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_,
commanded her attendance, and on her way let her know that Madame
de Sauve had 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 young 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 disobey.

'Little one,' she said, 'why have you cast off your poor cousin? 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 you
try to keep him from me?'

'Because it was better for thee, my child, than to be pestered with an
adventurer,' she said, smiling, though bitterly.

'My 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 embarrassment of a meeting with him.'

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

'_Pauvre petite_,' 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 no 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?'

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 Ribaumont felt her attempt most unsatisfactory, but she
knew of old that Eustacie was very determined--all Bellaise know 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 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 preferment, but oh! she thought it mistimed,
and was gratified to mark certain wandering of the eye even while the
gracious King was speaking. Then the Admiral said something 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 le Reine_, and Italian
vases and gems, behind this curtain. There is all the siege of Troy,
which M. le Baron will not doubt explain to Mademoiselle, while I shall
sit on this cushion, and endure the siege of St. Quentin from the _bon_
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 gentleman 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 was 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 his 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, silly thing, who would be
amused and satisfied by any court flatterer?

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! 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 public 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. Rome would not sanction the union of a daughter
of France with a Huguenot prince; and Charles had forged the document,
probably with his 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 bridegroom 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 toils 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 as force
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 gallery 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
his father's grave, anxious face, and Eustacie chiefly remembering 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 Notre Dame
de Bellaise. She remained in the choir during 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. Berenger 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 desecration 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 from the time
when he and Eustacie should be one in their prayers, and lost in a
reverie, till a grave old nobleman passing near him reproved him for
dallying with the worship of Rimmon. But his listening attitude had not
passed unobserved by others besides Huguenot observers.

The wedding was followed by a ball at the Louvre, from which, however,
all the stricter Huguenots absented themselves 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 postponed 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 Chevalier a formal announcement that he had dispatched his
protest to Rome, and considered himself as free to obtain his wife by
any means in his power.

'Where is _la petite_?' Narcisse demanded. Behind her Queen, as usual?'

'The young Queen keeps her room to-night,' returned Diane. 'Nor do
I advise you, brother, to thrust yourself in the way of _la petite
entetee_ just at present.'

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

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

'Fear not, daughter,' said the Chevalier; 'this folly can be ended by
much quieter modes, only you must first give us information.'

'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?'

'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 ingenuously 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 through your fingers, my son. The youth will soon
win favour by abjuring his heresy; he will play the same game with the
King as his father did with King 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 Narcisse. 'My rapier will 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 of entreaty. 'And yet the fine
fellow was willing enough to break the marriage when he took her for the
bride.'

'Nay, my son,' argued the Chevalier, will 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?' 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 will 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, 'Wednesday; 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 put 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
untruthfulness, what would he think of the present Diane's treachery?
Yet it was to save his life and that of her brother--and for the
assertion of her victory over the little robber, Eustacie.



CHAPTER X. MONSIEUR'S BALLET.



    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 Mademoiselle 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 frightened, 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 her 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
his gentle wife for letting herself, and Emperor's daughter, be trampled
on where his brother Francis's Queen, from her trumpery, beggarly
realm, had held up her head, and put down _la belle Mere_; he had amused
himself with Elisabeth's pretty little patronage of the young Ribaumonts
as a promising commencement 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,
indifferent 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 Nid
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 you.'

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
without exciting suspicion, and besides, his delicate English 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 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 like 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 commands 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 me?' she said, softened instantly.

'Forgive you? What for, pretty one? For my forgetting that you are still
a slave to a hateful Court?'

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

'The poor pearls,' said Berenger, taken aback for a moment, '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
back 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
Narcisse, 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 their doom.

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 gray beard and hair and dismal mask into Charon.

But so unused to navigation was he, so crazy and ill-trimmed his craft,
that his first performance would have been his submersion in the Styx
had not Berenger, better accustomed to boats than any of the _dramatis
personoe_, caught him by the arms 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 assailants,--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 puny crooked boy, were the champions, the battle must needs be
the merest show, though there were lookers-on who thought that, judging
by appearances, 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; 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 impulse to leap
forward and snatch her from that giddy revolving prison, that he struck
against the sword of Monsieur with a hearty good-will. His silvered lath
snapped in his hand, and at that moment he was seized round the waist,
and, when his furious struggle was felt to be in earnest, he was pulled
over on his back, while yells and shouts of discordant laughter rang
round him, as demons pinioned him hand and foot.

He thought he heard a faint cry from Eustacie, and, with a sudden,
unexpected struggle, started into a sitting posture; but a derisive
voice, that well he knew, cried, 'Ha, the deadly sin of pride! Monsieur
thinks his painted face pleases the ladies. To the depths with him--'
and therewith one imp pulled him backwards again, while others danced
a war-dance round him, pointing their forks at him; and the prime
tormentor, whom he perfectly recognized, not only leapt over him, but
spurned at his face with a cloven foot, giving a blow, not of gay French
malice, but of malignity. It was too much for the boy's forbearance.
He struggled free, dashing his adversaries aside fiercely, and as they
again gathered about him, with the leader shouting, 'Rage, too, rage! To
the prey, imps--' he clenched his fist, and dealt the foremost foe such
a blow in the chest as to level him at once with the ground.

'Monsieur forgets,' said a voice, friendly yet reproachful, 'that this
is but sport.

It was Henry of Navarre himself who spoke, and bent to give a hand to
the fallen imp. A flush of shame rushed over Berenger's face, already
red with passion. He felt that he had done wrong to use his strength at
such a moment, and that, though there had been spite in is assailant,
he had not been therefore justified. He was glad to see Narcisse rise
lightly to his feet, evidently unhurt, and, with the frankness with
which he had often made it up with Philip Thistlewood or his other
English comrades after a sharp tussle, he held out his hand, saying,
'Good demon, your pardon. You roused my spirit, and I forgot myself.'

'Demons forget not,' was the reply. 'At him, imps!' And a whole circle
of hobgoblins closed upon with their tridents, forks, and other horrible
implements, to drive him back within two tall barred gates, which,
illuminated by red flames, were to form the ghastly prison of the
vanquished. Perhaps fresh indignities would have been attempted, had
not the King of Navarre thrown himself on his side, shared with him the
brunt of all the grotesque weapons, and battled them off with infinite
spirit and address, shielding him as it were from their rude insults by
his own dexterity and inviolability, though retreating all the time till
the infernal gates were closed on both.

Then Henry of Navarre, who never forgot a face, held out his hand,
saying, 'Tartarus is no region of good omen for friendships, M. de
Ribaumont, but, for lack of yonder devil's claw, here is mine. I like to
meet a comrade who can strike a hearty blow, and ask a hearty pardon.'

'I was too hot, Sire,' confessed Berenger, with one of his ingenuous
blushes, 'but he enraged me.'

'He means mischief.' said Henry. 'Remember, if you are molested
respecting this matter, that you have here a witness that you did the
part of a gentleman.'

Berenger bowed his thanks, and began something about the honour, but his
eye anxiously followed the circuit on which Eustacie was carried and the
glance was quickly remarked.

'How? Your heart is spinning in that Mahometan paradise, and that is
what put such force into your fists. Which of the houris is it? The
little one with the wistful eyes, who looked so deadly white, and
shrieked out when the devilry overturned you? Eh! Monsieur, you are a
happy man.'

'I should be, Sire;' and Berenger was on the point of confiding the
situation of his affairs to this most engaging of princes, when a fresh
supply of prisoners, chased with wild antics and fiendish yells by the
devils, came headlong in on them; and immediately, completing, as Henry
said, the galimatias of mythology, a pasteboard cloud was propelled
on the stage, and disclosed the deities Mercury and Cupid, who made a
complimentary address to the three princely brothers, inciting them to
claim the nymphs whom their valour had defended, and lead them through
the mazes of a choric celestial dance.

This dance had been the special device of Monsieur and the
ballet-master, and during the last three days the houris had been almost
danced off their legs with rehearsing it morning, noon, and night, but
one at least of them was scarcely in a condition for its performance.
Eustacie, dizzied at the first minute by the whirl of her Elysian
merry-go-round, had immediately after become conscious of that which she
had been too childish to estimate merely in prospect, the exposure to
universal gaze. Strange staring eyes, glaring lights, frightful imps
seemed to wheel round her in an intolerable delirious succession. Her
only refuge was in closing her eyes, but even this could not long be
persevered in, so necessary a part of the pageant was she; and besides,
she had Berenger to look for, Berenger, whom she had foolishly laughed
at for knowing how dreadful it would be. But of course the endeavour to
seek for one object with her eyes made the dizziness even more dreadful;
and when, at length, she beheld him dragged down by the demoniacal
creatures, whose horrors were magnified by her confused senses, and the
next moment she was twirled out of sight, her cry of distracted alarm
was irrepressible. Carried round again and again, on a wheel that to her
was far more like Ixion's than that of the spheres, she never cleared
her perceptions as to where he was, and only was half-maddened by
the fantastic whirl of incongruous imagery, while she barely sat out
Mercury's lengthy harangue; and when her wheel stood still, and she was
released, she could not stand, and was indebted to Charon and one of her
fellow-nymphs for supporting her to a chair in the back of the scene.
Kind Charon hurried to bring her wine, the lady revived her with
essences, and the ballet-master clamoured for his performers.

Ill or well, royal ballets must be danced. One long sob, one gaze round
at the refreshing sight of a room no longer in motion, one wistful look
at the gates of Tartarus, and the misery of the throbbing, aching head
must be disregarded. The ballet-master touched the white cheeks with
rouge, and she stepped forward just in time, for Monsieur himself was
coming angrily forward to learn the cause of the delay.

Spectators said the windings of that dance were exquisitely graceful.
It was well that Eustacie's drilling had been so complete, for she
moved through it blindly, senselessly, and when it was over was led back
between the two Demoiselles de Limeuil to the apartment that served as
a green-room, drooping and almost fainting. They seated her in a chair,
and consulted round her, and her cousin Narcisse was among the first to
approach; but no sooner had she caught sight of his devilish trim than
with a little shriek she shut her eyes, and flung herself to the other
side of the chair.

'My fair cousin,' he said, opening his black vizard, 'do you not see me?
I am no demon, remember! I am your cousin.'

'That makes it no better,' said Eustacie, too much disordered and
confused to be on her guard, and hiding her face with her hands. 'Go,
go, I entreat.'

In fact he had already done this, and the ladies added their counsel;
for indeed the poor child could scarcely hold up her head, but she said,
'I should like to stay, if I could: a little, a little longer. Will they
not open those dreadful bars?' she added, presently.

'They are even now opening them,' said Mdlle. de Limeuil. 'Hark! they
are going to fight _en melle_. Mdlle. de Nid de Merle is better now?'

'Oh yes; let not detain you.'

Eustacie would have risen, but the two sisters had fluttered back,
impatient to lose nothing of the sports; and her cousin in his grim
disguise stood full before her. 'No haste, cousin,' he said; 'you are
not fit to move.'

'Oh, then go,' said Eustacie, suffering too much not to be petulant.
'You make me worse.'

'And why? It was not always thus,' began Narcisse, so eager to seize an
opportunity as to have little consideration for her condition; but
she was unable to bear any more, and broke out: 'Yes, it was; I always
detested you more than ever, since you deceived me so cruelly. Oh, do
but leave me!'

'You scorn me, then! You prefer to me--who have loved you so long--that
childish new-comer, who was ready enough to cast you off.'

'Prefer! He is my husband! It is an insult for any one else to speak to
me thus!' said Eustacie, drawing herself up, and rising to her feet;
but she was forced to hold by the back of her chair, and Diane and her
father appearing at that moment, she tottered towards the former, and
becoming quite passive under the influence of violent dizziness and
headache, made no objection to being half led, half carried, through
galleries that connected the Hotel de Bourbon with the Louvre.

And thus it was that when Berenger had fought out his part in the
_melle_ of the prisoners released, and had maintained the honours of the
rose-coloured token in his helmet, he found that his lady-love had been
obliged by indisposition to return home; and while he stood, folding his
arms to restrain their strong inclination to take Narcisse by the throat
and demand whether this were another of his deceptions, a train of
fireworks suddenly exploded in the middle of the Styx--a last surprise,
especially contrived by King Charles, and so effectual that half the
ladies were shrieking, and imagining that they and the whole hall had
blown up together.

A long supper, full of revelry, succeeded, and at length Sidney ad
Ribaumont walked home together in the midst of their armed servants
bearing torches. All the way home Berenger was bitter in vituperation of
the hateful pageant and all its details.

'Yea, truly,' replied Sidney; 'methought that it betokens disease in the
mind of a nation when their festive revelry is thus ghastly, rendering
the most awful secrets made known by our God in order to warm man from
sin into a mere antic laughing-stock. Laughter should be moved by what
is fair and laughter-worthy--even like such sports as our own "Midsummer
Night's Dream." I have read that the bloody temper of Rome fed itself in
gladiator shows, and verily, what we beheld to-night betokens something
at once grisly and light-minded in the mood of this country.'

Sidney thought so the more when on the second ensuing morning the
Admiral de Coligny was shot through both hands by an assassin generally
known to have been posted by the Duke of Guise, yet often called by the
sinister sobriquet of _Le Tueur de Roi_.



CHAPTER XI. THE KING'S TRAGEDY.



     The night is come, no fears disturb
     The sleep of innocence
     They trust in kingly faith, and kingly oath.
     They sleep, alas! they sleep
     Go to the palace, wouldst thou know
     How hideous night can be;
     Eye is not closed in those accursed walls,
     Nor heart is quiet there!
                       --Southey, BARTHOLOMEW'S EVE


'Young gentlemen,' said Sir Francis Walsingham, as he rose from dinner
on the Saturday, 'are you bound for the palace this evening?'

'I am, so please your Excellency,' returned Berenger.

'I would have you both to understand that you must have a care of
yourselves,' said the Ambassador. 'The Admiral's wound has justly caused
much alarm, and I hear that the Protestants are going vapouring about in
so noisy and incautious a manner, crying out for justice, that it is
but too likely that the party of the Queen-mother and the Guise will be
moved to strong measures.'

'They will never dare lay a finger upon us!' said Sidney.

'In a terror-stricken fray men are no respecters of persons,' replied
Sir Francis. 'This house is, of course, inviolable; and, whatever the
madness of the people, we have stout hearts enough here to enforce
respect thereto; but I cannot answer even for an Englishman's life
beyond its precincts; and you, Ribaumont, whom I cannot even claim as my
Queen's subject--I greatly fear to trust you beyond its bounds.'

'I cannot help it, sir. Nay, with the most grateful thanks for all your
goodness to me, I must pray you not to take either alarm or offence if I
return not this night.'

'No more, my friend,' said Walsingham, quickly; 'let me know nothing of
your purposes, but take care of yourself. I would you were safe at home
again, though the desire may seem inhospitable. The sooner the better
with whatever you have to do.'

'Is the danger so imminent?' asked Sidney.

'I know nothing, Philip. All I can tell is that, as I have read that
dogs and cattle scent an earthquake in the air, so man and women seem to
breathe a sense of danger in this city. And to me the graciousness
with which the Huguenots have been of late treated wears a strangely
suspicious air. Sudden and secret is the blow like to be, and we cannot
be too much on our guard. Therefore remember, my young friends both,
that your danger or death would fall heavily on those ye love and honour
at home.'

So saying, he left the two youths, unwilling to seek further confidence,
and Berenger held his last consultation with Sidney, to whom he gave
directions for making full explanation to Walsingham in his absence, and
expediting Mr. Adderley's return to England. Osbert alone was to go to
the Louvre with him, after having seen the five English grooms on board
the little decked market-vessel on the Seine, which was to await the
fugitives. Berenger was to present himself in the palace as in his
ordinary court attendance, and, contriving to elude notice among the
throng who were there lodged, was to take up his station at the foot of
the stairs leading to the apartments of ladies, whence Eustacie was to
descend at about eleven o'clock, with her maid Veronique. Landry Osbert
was to join them from the lackey's hall below, where he had a friend,
and the connivance of the porter at the postern opening towards the
Seine had been secured.

Sidney wished much to accompany him to the palace, if his presence could
be any aid or protection, but on consideration it was decided that his
being at the Louvre was likely to attract notice to Ribaumont's delaying
there. The two young men therefore shook hands and parted, as youths who
trusted that they had begun a lifelong friendship, with mutual promises
to write to one another--the one, the adventures of his flight; the
other, the astonishment it would excite. And auguries were exchanged of
merry meetings in London, and of the admiration the lovely little wife
would excite at Queen Elizabeth's court.

Then, with an embrace such as English friends then gave, they separated
at the gate; and Sidney stood watching, as Berenger walked free and bold
down the street, his sword at his side, his cloak over one shoulder, his
feathered cap on one side, showing his bright curling hair, a sunshiny
picture of a victorious bridegroom--such a picture as sent Philip
Sidney's wits back to Arcadia.

It was not a day of special state, but the palace was greatly crowded.
The Huguenots were in an excited mood, inclined to rally round Henry of
Navarre, whose royal title made him be looked on as is a manner their
monarch, though his kingdom had been swallowed by Spain, and he was no
more than a French duke distantly related to royalty in the male line,
and more nearly through his grandmother and bride. The eight hundred
gentlemen he had brought with him swarmed about his apartments, making
their lodging on staircases and in passages; and to Berenger it seemed
as if the King's guards and Monsieur's gentlemen must have come in in
equal numbers to balance them. Narcisse was there, and Berenger kept
cautiously amid his Huguenot acquaintance, resolved not to have a
quarrel thrust on him which he could not honourably desert. It was late
before he could work his way to the young Queen's reception-room, where
he found Eustacie. She looked almost as white as at the masque; but
there was a graver, less childish expression in her face than he had
ever seen before, and her eyes glanced confidence when they met his.

Behind the Queen's chair a few words could be spoken.

'_Ma mie,_ art thou well again? Canst bear this journey now?'

'Quite well, now! quite ready. Oh that we may never have masques in
England!'

He smiled--'Never such as this!'

'Ah! thou knowest best. I am glad I am thine already; I am so silly,
thou wouldest never have chosen me! But thou wilt teach me, and I will
strive to be very good! And oh! let me but give one farewell to Diane.'

'It is too hard to deny thee aught to-night, sweetheart, but judge for
thyself. Think of the perils, and decide.'

Before Eustacie could answer, a rough voice came near, the King making
noisy sport with the Count de Rochefoucauld and others. He was louder
and ruder than Berenger had ever yet seen him, almost giving the notion
of intoxication; but neither he nor his brother Henry ever tasted wine,
though both had a strange pleasure in being present at the orgies of
their companions: the King, it was generally said, from love of the
self-forgetfulness of excitement--the Duke of Anjou, because his cool
brain there collected men's secrets to serve afterwards for his spiteful
diversion.

Berenger would willingly have escaped notice, but his bright face and
sunny hair always made him conspicuous, and the King suddenly strode up
to him: 'You here, sir? I thought you would have managed your affairs
so as to be gone long ago!' then before Berenger could reply, 'However,
since here you are, come along with me to my bedchamber! We are to have
a carouse there to-night that will ring through all Paris! Yes, and
shake Rochefoucauld out of his bed at midnight! You will be one of us,
Ribaumont? I command it!'

And without waiting for reply he turned away with an arm round
Rochefoucauld's neck, and boisterously addressed another of the company,
almost as wildly as if he were in the mood that Scots call 'fey.'

'Royalty seems determined to frustrate our plans,' said Berenger, as
soon as the King was out of hearing.

'But you will not go! His comrades drink till--oh! two, three in the
morning. We should never get away.'

'No, I must risk his displeasure. We shall soon be beyond his reach. But
at least I may make his invitation a reason for remaining in the Louvre.
People are departing! Soon wilt thou be my own.'

'As soon as the Queen's COUCHER is over! I have but to change to a
traveling dress.'

'At the foot of the winding stair. Sweetest be brave!'

'I fear nothing with thee to guard me. See, the Queen is rising.'

Elizabeth was in effect rising to make her respectful progress to the
rooms of the Queen-mother, to bid her good night; and Eustacie must
follow. Would Diane be there? Oh that the command to judge between her
heart and her caution had not been given! Cruel kindness!

Diane was there, straight as a poplar, cold as marble, with fixed eyes.
Eustacie stole up to her, and touched her. She turned with a start.
'Cousin, you have been very good to me!' Diane started again, as if
stung. You will love me still, whatever you hear?'

'Is this meant for farewell?' said Diane, grasping her wrist.

'Do not ask me, Diane. I may not.'

'Where there is no trust there is no treason,' said Diane, dreamily.
'No, answer me not, little one, there will be time for that another day.
Where is he?'

'In the _oeil-de-boeuf_, between the King's and Queen's suites of rooms.
I must go. There is the Queen going. Diane, one loving word.'

'Silly child, you shall have plenty another time,' said Diane, breaking
away. 'Follow thy Queen now!'

Catherine, who sat between her daughters Claude and Marguerite, looked
pre-occupied, and summarily dismissed her daughter-in-law, Elizabeth,
whom Eustacie was obliged to follow to her own state-room. There all the
forms of the COUCHER were tediously gone through; every pin had its own
ceremony, and even when her Majesty was safely deposited under her blue
satin coverlet the ladies still stood round till she felt disposed to
fall asleep. Elisabeth was both a sleepy and a considerate person, so
that this was not so protracted a vigil as was sometimes exacted by the
more wakeful princesses; but Eustacie could not escape from it till it
was already almost midnight, the period for her tryst.

Her heart was very full. It was not the usual flutter and terror of an
eloping girl. Eustacie was a fearless little being, and her conscience
had no alarms; her affections were wholly with Berenger, and her
transient glimpses of him had been as of something come out of a region
higher, tenderer, stronger, purer, more trustworthy than that where she
had dwelt. She was proud of belonging to him. She had felt upheld by the
consciousness through years of waiting, and now he more than realized
her hopes, and she could have wept for exulting joy. Yet it was a
strange, stealthy break with all she had to leave behind. The light
to which he belonged seemed strange, chill, dazzling light, and she
shivered at the thought of it, as if the new world, new ideas, and new
requirements could only be endured with him to shield her and help her
on. And withal, there seemed to her a shudder over the whole place on
that night. The King's eyes looked wild and startled, the Queen-mother's
calm was strained, the Duchess of Lorraine was evidently in a state of
strong nervous excitement; there were strange sounds, strange people
moving about, a weight on everything, as if they were under the shadow
of a thunder-cloud. 'Could it be only her own fancy?' she said to
herself, because this was to be the great event of her life, for surely
all these great people could not know or heed that little Eustacie de
Ribaumont was to make her escape that night!

The trains of royalty were not sumptuously lodged. France never has
cared so much for comfort as for display. The waiting-lady of the
bedchamber slept in the ante-room of her mistress; the others, however
high their rank, were closely herded together up a winding stair
leading to a small passage, with tiny, cell-like recesses, wherein the
demoiselles slept, often with their maids, and then dressed themselves
in the space afforded by the passage. Eustacie's cell was nearly at the
end of the gallery, and exchanging 'good-nights' with her companions,
she proceeded to her recess, where she expected to find Veronique ready
to adjust her dress. Veronique, however, was missing; but anxious to
lose no time, she had taken off her delicate white satin farthingale to
change it for an unobtrusive dark woolen kirtle, when, to her surprise
and dismay, a loud creaking, growling sound made itself heard outside
the door at the other end. Half-a-dozen heads came out of their cells;
half-a-dozen voices asked and answered the question, 'What is it?' 'They
are bolting our door outside.' But only Eustacie sped like lightning
along the passage, pulled at the door, and cried, 'Open! Open, I say!'
No answer, but the other bolt creaked.

'You mistake, CONCIERGE! We are never bolted in! My maid is shut out.'

No answer, but the step retreated. Eustacie clasped her hands with a cry
that she could hardly have repressed, but which she regretted the next
moment.

Gabrielle de Limeuil laughed. 'What, Mademoiselle, are you afraid they
will not let us out to-morrow?'

'My maid!' murmured Eustacie, recollecting that she must give a colour
to her distress.

'Ah! perhaps she will summon old Pierre to open for us.'

This suggestion somewhat consoled Eustacie, and she stood intently
listening for Veronique's step, wishing that her companions would hold
their peace; but the adventure amused them, and they discussed whether
it were a blunder of the CONCIERGE, or a piece of prudery of Madame la
Comtesse, or, after all, a precaution. The palace so full of strange
people, who could say what might happen? And there was a talk of
a conspiracy of the Huguenots. At any rate, every one was too much
frightened to go to sleep, and, some sitting on the floor, some on
a chest, some on a bed, the girls huddled together in Gabrielle de
Limeuil's recess, the nearest to the door, and one after another related
horrible tales of blood, murder, and vengeance--then, alas! Only too
frequent occurrences in their unhappy land--each bringing some frightful
contribution from her own province, each enhancing upon the last-told
story, and ever and anon pausing with bated breath at some fancied
sound, or supposed start of one of the others; then clinging close
together, and renewing the ghastly anecdote, at first in a hushed voice
that grew louder with the interest of the story. Eustacie alone would
not join the cluster. Her cloak round her shoulders, she stood with
her back against the door, ready to profit by the slightest indication
outside of a step that might lead to her release, or at least enable
her to communicate with Veronique; longing ardently that her companions
would go to bed, yet unable to avoid listening with the like dreadful
fascination to each of the terrible histories, which added each moment
to the nervous horror of the whole party. Only one, a dull and composed
girl, felt the influence of weariness, and dozed with her head in
her companion's lap; but she was awakened by one general shudder and
suppressed cry when the hoarse clang of a bell struck on the ears of the
already terrified, excited maidens.

'The tocsin! The bell of St. Germain! Fire! No, a Huguenot rising! Fire!
Oh, let us out! Let us out! The window! Where is the fire? Nowhere!
See the lights! Hark, that was a shot! It was in the palace! A heretic
rising! Ah! there was to be a slaughter of the heretics! I heard it
whispered. Oh, let us out! Open the door!'

But nobody heard: nobody opened. There was one who stood without word
or cry, close to the door--her eyes dilated, her cheek colourless, her
whole person, soul and body alike, concentrated in that one impulse to
spring forward the first moment the bolt should be drawn. But still the
door remained fast shut!



CHAPTER XII. THE PALACE OF SLAUGHTER



     A human shambles with blood-reeking floor.
            MISS SWANWICK, Esch. Agamemnon


The door was opened at last, but not till full daylight. It found
Eustacie as ready to rush forth, past all resistance, as she had been
the night before, and she was already in the doorway when her maid
Veronique, her face swollen with weeping, caught her by the hands and
implored her to turn back and listen.

And words about a rising of the Huguenots, a general destruction,
corpses lying in the court, were already passing between the other
maidens and the CONCIERGE. Eustacie turned upon her servant: 'Veronique,
what means it? Where is he?'

'Alas! alas! Ah! Mademoiselle, do but lie down! Woe is me! I saw it all!
Lie down, and I will tell you.'

'Tell! I will not move till you have told me where my husband is,' said
Eustacie, gazing with eyes that seemed to Veronique turned to stone.

'Ah! my lady--my dear lady! I was on the turn of the stairs, and saw
all. The traitor--the Chevalier Narcisse--came on him, cloaked like
you--and--shot him dead--with, oh, such cruel words of mockery! Oh! woe
the day! Stay, stay, dear lady, the place is all blood--they
are slaying them all--all the Huguenots! Will no one stop
her?--Mademoiselle--ma'm'selle!--'

For Eustacie no sooner gathered the sense of Veronique's words than she
darted suddenly forwards, and was in a few seconds more at the foot of
the stairs. There, indeed, lay a pool of dark gore, and almost in it
Berenger's black velvet cap, with the heron plume. Eustacie, with a low
cry, snatched it up, continued her headlong course along the corridor,
swiftly as a bird, Veronique following, and vainly shrieking to her to
stop. Diane, appearing at the other end of the gallery, saw but for a
moment the little figure, with the cloak gathered round her neck, and
floating behind her, understood Veronique's cry and joined in the chase
across hall and gallery, where more stains were to be seen, even down to
the marble stairs, every step slippery with blood. Others there were who
saw and stood aghast, not understanding the apparition that flitted
on so swiftly, never pausing till at the great door at the foot of the
stairs she encountered a gigantic Scottish archer, armed to the teeth.
She touched his arm, and standing with folder arms, looked up and said,
'Good soldier, kill me! I am a Huguenots!'

'Stop her! bring her back!' cried Diane from behind. 'It is Mdlle. De
Nil-de-Merle!'

'No, no! My husband is Huguenot! I am a Huguenot! Let them kill me,
I say!'--struggling with Diane, who had now come up with her, and was
trying to draw her back.

'Puir lassie!' muttered the stout Scotsman to himself, 'this fearsome
night has driven her demented.'

But, like a true sentinel, he moved neither hand nor foot to interfere,
as shaking herself loose from Diane, she was springing down the steps
into the court, when at that moment the young Abbe de Mericour was seen
advancing, pale, breathless, horrorstruck, and to him Diane shrieked to
arrest the headlong course. He obeyed, seeing the wild distraction of
the white face and widely glaring eyes, took her by both hands, and held
her in a firm grasp, saying, 'Alas, lady, you cannot go out. It is no
sight for any one.'

'They are killing the Protestants,' she said; 'I am one! Let me find
them and die.'

A strong effort to free herself ensued, but it was so suddenly succeeded
by a swoon that the Abbe could scarcely save her from dropping on the
steps. Diane begged him to carry her in, since they were in full view of
men-at-arms in the court, and, frightful to say, of some of the ladies
of the palace, who, in the frenzy of that dreadful time, had actually
come down to examine the half-stripped corpses of the men with whom they
had jested not twelve hours before.

'Ah! it is no wonder,' said the youthful Abbe, as he tenderly lifted
the inanimate figure. 'This has been a night of horrors. I was coming
in haste to know whether the King knows of this frightful plot of M. de
Guise, and the bloody work that is passing in Paris.'

'The King!' exclaimed Diane. 'M. l'Abbe, do you know where he is now?
In the balcony overlooking the river, taking aim at the fugitives! Take
care! Even your _soutane_ would not save you if M. d'O and his crew
heard you. But I must pray you to aid me with this poor child! I dread
that her wild cries should be heard.'

The Abbe, struck dumb with horror, silently obeyed Mdlle. De Ribaumont,
and brought the still insensible Eustacie to the chamber, now deserted
by all the young ladies. He laid her on her bed, and finding he could do
no more, left her to her cousin and her maid.

The poor child had been unwell and feverish ever since the masque, and
the suspense of these few days with the tension of that horrible night
had prostrated her. She only awoke from her swoon to turn her head from
the light and refuse to be spoken to.

'But, Eustacie, child, listen; this is all in vain--he lives,' said
Diane.

'Weary me not with falsehoods,' faintly said Eustacie.

'No! no! no! They meant to hinder your flight, but---'

'They knew of it?' cried Eustacie, sitting up suddenly. 'Then you told
them. Go--go; let me never see you more! You have been his death!'

'Listen! I am sure he lives! What! would they injure one whom my father
loved? I heard my father say he would not have him hurt. Depend upon it,
he is safe on his way to England.'

Eustacie gave a short but frightful hysterical laugh, and pointed to
Veronique. 'She saw it,' she said; 'ask her.'

'Saw what?' said Diane, turning fiercely on Veronique. 'What vile deceit
have you half killed your lady with?'

'Alas! Mademoiselle, I did but tell her what I had seen,' sighed
Veronique, trembling.

'Tell me!' said Diane, passionately.

'Yes, everything,' said Eustacie, sitting up.

'Ah! Mademoiselle, it will make you ill again.'

'I WILL be ill--I WILL die! Heaven's slaying is better than man's. Tell
her how you saw Narcisse.'

'False girl!' burst out Diane.

'No, no,' cried Veronique. 'Oh, pardon me, Mademoiselle, I could not
help it.'

In spite of her reluctance, she was forced to tell that she had found
herself locked out of her mistress's room, and after losing much time
in searching for the CONCIERGE, learnt that the ladies were locked up
by order of the Queen-mother, and was strongly advised not to be running
about the passages. After a time, however, while sitting with the
CONCIERGE'S wife, she heard such frightful whispers from men with white
badges, who were admitted one by one by the porter, and all led silently
to a small lower room, that she resolved on seeking out the Baron's
servant, and sending him to warn his master, while she would take up her
station at her lady's door. She found Osbert, and with him was ascending
a narrow spiral leading from the offices--she, unfortunately, the
foremost. As she came to the top, a scuffle was going on--four men
had thrown themselves upon one, and a torch distinctly showed her the
younger Chevalier holding a pistol to the cheek of the fallen man, and
she heard the worlds, _'Le baiser d'Eustacie! Jet e barbouillerai ce
chien de visage,'_ and at the same moment the pistol was discharged. She
sprang back, oversetting, as she believed, Osbert, and fled shrieking to
the room of the CONCIERGE, who shut her in till morning.

'And how--how,' stammered Diane, 'should you know it was the Baron?'

Eustacie, with a death-like look, showed for a moment what even in her
swoon she had held clenched to her bosom, the velvet cap soaked with
blood.

'Besides,' added Veronique, resolved to defend her assertion, 'whom else
would the words suit? Besides, are not all the heretic gentlemen dead?
Why, as I sat there in the porter's room, I heard M. d'O call each one
of them by name, one after the other, into the court, and there the
white-sleeves cut them down or pistolled them like sheep for the
slaughter. They lie all out there on the terrace like so many carcases
at market ready for winter salting.'

'All slain?' said Eustacie, dreamily.

'All, except those that the King called into his own _garde robe_.'

'Then, I slew him!' Eustacie sank back.

'I tell you, child,' said Diane, almost angrily, 'he lives. Not a hair
of his head was to be hurt! The girl deceives you.'

But Eustacie had again become insensible, and awoke delirious,
entreating to have the door opened, and fancying herself still on the
revolving elysium, 'Oh, demons, have pity!' was her cry.

Diane's soothings were like speaking to the winds; and at last she saw
the necessity of calling in further aid; but afraid of the scandal that
the poor girl's raving accusations might create, she would not send
for the Huguenots surgeon, Ambroise Pare, whom the King had carefully
secured in his own apartments, but employed one of the barber valets of
the Queen-mother's household. Poor Eustacie was well pleased to see
her blood flowing, and sank back on her pillow murmuring that she had
confessed her husband's faith, and would soon be one with him, and Diane
feared for a moment lest the swoon should indeed be death.

The bleeding was so far effectual that it diminished the fever, and
Eustacie became rational again when she had dozed and wakened, but she
was little able or willing to speak, and would not so much as listen
to Diane's asseverations that Veronique had made a frightful error,
and that the Baron would prove to be alive. Whether it were that
the admission that Diane had known of the project for preventing the
elopement that invalidated her words, or whether the sufferer's
instinct made her believe Veronique's testimony rather than her cousin's
assurances, it was all 'cramming words into her ear against the stomach
of her sense,' and she turned away from them with a piteous, petulant
hopelessness: 'Could they not even let her alone to die in peace!'

Diane was almost angered at this little silly child being in such an
agony of sorrow--she, who could never have known how to love him. And
after all this persistent grief was willfully thrown away. For Diane
spoke in perfect sincerity when she taxed Veronique with an injurious,
barbarous mistake. She knew her father's strong aversion to violence,
and the real predilection that Berenger's good mien, respectful manners,
and liberal usage had won from him, and she believed he had much rather
the youth lived, provided he were inoffensive. No doubt a little force
had been necessary to kidnap one so tall, active, and determined,
and Veronique had made up her horrible tale after the usual custom of
waiting-maids.

Nothing else SHOULD be true. Did she think otherwise, she should be
even more frantic than Eustacie! Why, it would be her own doing! She had
betrayed the day of the escape--she had held aloof from warning. There
was pleasure in securing Nid-de-Merle for her brother, pleasure in
balking the foolish child who had won the heart that disregarded her.
Nay, there might have been even pleasure in the destruction of the
scorner of her charms--the foe of her house--there might have been pride
in receiving Queen Catherine's dexterous hint that she had been an apt
pupil, if the young Baron had only been something different--something
less fair, gracious, bright, and pure. One bright angel seemed to have
flitted across her path, and nothing should induce her to believe she
had destroyed him.

The stripped corpses of the murdered Huguenots of the palace had been
laid in a line on the terrace, and the ladies who had laughed with them
the night before went to inspect them in death. A few remnants of Soeur
Monique's influence would have withheld Diane, but that a frenzy of
suspense was growing on her. She must see for herself. If it were so,
she must secure a fragment of the shining flaxen hair, if only as a
token that anything so pure and bright had walked the earth.

She went on the horrible quest, shrinking where others stared. For it
was a pitiless time, and the squadron of the Queen-mother were as lost
to womanhood as the fishwomen of two centuries later. But Diane saw no
corpse at once so tall, so young, and so fair, though blond Normans and
blue-blooded Franks, lads scarce sixteen and stalwart warriors, lay
in one melancholy rank. She at least bore away the certainly that the
English Ribaumont was not there; and if not, he MUST be safe! She could
obtain no further certainty, for she knew that she must not expect to
see either her father or brother. There was a panic throughout the city.
All Paris imagined that the Huguenots were on the point of rising and
slaying all the Catholics, and, with the savagery of alarmed cowardice,
the citizens and the mob were assisting the armed bands of the Dukes of
Anjou and Guise to complete the slaughter, dragging their lodgers
from their hiding-places, and denouncing all whom they suspected of
reluctance to mass and confession. But on the Monday, Diane was able
to send an urgent message to her father that he must come to speak with
her, for Mdlle. De Nid-de-Merle was extremely ill. She would meet him in
the garden after morning mass.

There accordingly, when she stepped forth pale, rigid, but stately, with
her large fan in her hand to serve as a parasol, she met both him and
her brother. She was for a moment sorry, for she had much power over her
father, while she was afraid of her brother's sarcastic tongue and eye;
she knew he never scrupled to sting her wherever she was most sensitive,
and she would have been able to extract much more from her father in
his absence. France has never been without a tendency to produce the
tiger-monkey, or ferocious fop; and the GENUS was in its full ascendancy
under the sons of Catherine de Medicis, when the dregs of Francois the
First's PSEUDO-chivalry were not extinct--when horrible, retaliating
civil wars of extermination had made life cheap; nefarious persecutions
had hardened the heart and steeled the eye, and the licentiousness
promoted by the shifty Queen as one of her instruments of government had
darkened the whole understanding. The most hateful heights of perfidy,
effeminacy, and hypocrisy were not reached till poor Charles IX., who
only committed crimes on compulsion, was in his grave, and Henry III. on
the throne; but Narcisse de Ribaumont was one of the choice companions
of the latter, and after the night and day of murder now stood before
his sister with scented hair and handkerchief--the last, laced,
delicately held by a hand in an embroidered glove--emerald pendants in
his ears, a moustache twisted into sharp points and turned up like
an eternal sardonic smile, and he led a little white poodle by a
rose-coloured ribbon.

'Well, sister,' he said, as he went, through the motions of kissing her
hand, and she embraced her father; 'so you don't know how to deal with
megrims and transports?'

'Father,' said Diane, not vouchsafing any attention, 'unless you
can send her some assurance of his life, I will not answer for the
consequences.'

Narcisse laughed: 'Take her this dog, with my compliments. That is the
way to deal with such a child as that.'

'You do not know what you say, brother,' answered Diane with dignity.
'It goes deeper than that.'

'The deeper it goes, child,' said the elder Chevalier, 'the better it is
that she should be undeceived as soon as possible. She will recover, and
be amenable the sooner.'

'Then he lives, father?' exclaimed Diane. 'He lives, though she is not
to hear it--say----'

'What know I?' said the old man, evasively. 'On a night of confusion
many mischances are sure to occur! Lurking in the palace at the very
moment when there was a search for the conspirators, it would have been
a miracle had the poor young man escaped.'

Diane turned still whiter. 'Then,' she said, 'that was why you made
Monsieur put Eustacie into the ballet, that they might not go on
Wednesday!'

'It was well hinted by you, daughter. We could not have effectually
stopped them on Wednesday without making a scandal.'

'Once more,' said Diane, gasping, though still resolute; 'is not the
story told by Eustacie's woman false--that she saw him--pistolled--by
you, brother?'

'_Peste_!' cried Narcisse. 'Was the prying wench there? I thought the
little one might be satisfied that he had neighbour's fare. No matter;
what is done for one's _beaux yeux_ is easily pardoned--and if not, why,
I have her all the same!'

'Nevertheless, daughter,' said the Chevalier, gravely, 'the woman must
be silenced. Either she must be sent home, or taught so to swear to
having been mistaken, that _la petite_ may acquit your brother! But what
now, my daughter?'

'She is livid!' exclaimed Narcisse, with his sneer. 'What, sir, did not
you know she was smitten with the peach on the top of a pole?'

'Enough, brother,' said Diane, recovering herself enough to speak
hoarsely, but with hard dignity. 'You have slain--you need not insult,
one whom you have lost the power of understanding!'

'Shallow schoolboys certainly form no part of my study, save to kick
them down-stairs when they grow impudent,' said Narcisse, coolly. 'It is
only women who think what is long must be grand.'

'Come, children, no disputes,' said the Chevalier. 'Of course we regret
that so fine a youth mixed himself up with the enemies of the kingdom,
like the stork among the sparrows. Both Diane and I are sorry for the
necessity; but remember, child, that when he was interfering between
your brother and his just right of inheritance and destined wife,
he could not but draw such a fate on himself. Now all is smooth, the
estates will be united in their true head, and you--you too, my child,
will be provided for as suits your name. All that is needed is to soothe
the little one, so as to hinder her from making an outcry--and silence
the maid; my child will do her best for her father's sake, and that of
her family.'

Diane was less demonstrative than most of her countrywomen. She had
had time to recollect the uselessness of giving vent to her indignant
anguish, and her brother's derisive look held her back. The family
tactics, from force of habit, recurred to her; she made no further
objection to her father's commands; but when her father and brother
parted with her, she tottered into the now empty chapel, threw herself
down, with her burning forehead on the stone step, and so lay for hours.
It was not in prayer. It was because it was the only place where she
could be alone. To her, heaven above and earth below seemed alike full
of despair, darkness, and cruel habitations, and she lay like one
sick with misery and repugnance to the life and world that lay before
her--the hard world that had quenched that one fair light and mocked
her pity. It was a misery of solitude, and yet no thought crossed her
of going to weep and sympathize with the other sufferer. No; rivalry
and jealousy came in there! Eustacie viewed herself as his wife, and the
very thought that she had been deliberately preferred and had enjoyed
her triumph hardened Diane's heart against her. Nay, the open violence
and abandonment of her grief seemed to the more restrained and
concentrated nature of her elder a sign of shallowness and want of
durability; and in a certain contemptuous envy at her professing a right
to mourn, Diane never even reconsidered her own resolution to play out
her father's game, consign Eustacie to her husband's murdered, and leave
her to console herself with bridal splendours and a choice of admirers
from all the court.

However, for the present Diane would rather stay away as much as
possible from the sick-bed of the poor girl; and when an approaching
step forced her to rouse herself and hurry away by the other door of
the chapel, she did indeed mount to the ladies' bed-chamber, but only to
beckon Veronique out of hearing and ask for her mistress.

Just the same still, only sleeping to have feverish dreams of the
revolving wheel or the demons grappling her husband, refusing all food
but a little drink, and lying silent except for a few moans, heedless
who spoke or looked at her.

Diane explained that in that case it was needless to come to her, but
added, with the _vraisemblance_ of falsehood in which she had graduated
in Catherine's school, 'Veronique, as I told you, you were mistaken.'

'Ah, Mademoiselle, if M. le Baron lives, she will be cured at once.'

'Silly girl,' said Diane, giving relief to her pent-up feeling by
asperity of manner, 'how could he live when you and your intrigues got
him into the palace on such a night? Dead he is, OF COURSE; but it was
your own treacherous, mischievous fancy that laid it on my brother. He
was far away with M. de Guise at the attack on the Admiral. It was some
of Monsieur's grooms you saw. You remember she had brought him into a
scrape with Monsieur, and it was sure to be remembered. And look you, if
you repeat the other tale, and do not drive it out of her head, you need
not look to be long with her--no, nor at home. My father will have no
one there to cause a scandal by an evil tongue.'

That threat convinced Veronique that she had been right; but she, too,
had learnt lessons at the Louvre, and she was too diplomatic not to ask
pardon for her blunder, promise to contradict it when her mistress
could listen, and express her satisfaction that it was not the Chevalier
Narcisse--for such things were not pleasant, as she justly observed, in
families.

About noon on the Tuesday the Louvre was unusually tranquil. All the
world had gone forth to a procession to Notre Dame, headed by the King
and all the royal family, to offer thanksgiving for the deliverance of
the country from the atrocious conspiracy of the Huguenots. Eustacie's
chamber was freed from the bustle of all the maids of honour arraying
themselves, and adjusting curls, feathers, ruffs and jewels; and such
relief as she was capable of experiencing she felt in the quiet.

Veronique hoped she would sleep, and watched like a dragon to guard
against any disturbance, springing out with upraised finger when a soft
gliding step and rustling of brocade was heard. 'Does she sleep?' said
a low voice; and Veronique, in the pale thin face with tear-swollen eyes
and light yellow hair, recognized the young Queen. 'My good girl,' said
Elisabeth, with almost a beseeching gesture, 'let me see her. I do not
know when again I may be able.'

Veronique stood aside, with the lowest possible of curtseys, just as
her mistress with a feeble, weary voice murmured, 'Oh, make them let me
alone!'

'My poor, poor child,' said the Queen, bending over Eustacie, while her
brimming eyes let the tears fall fast, 'I will not disturb you long, but
I could not help it.'

'Her Majesty!' exclaimed Eustacie, opening wide her eyes in amazement.

'My dear, suffer me here a little moment,' said the meek Elisabeth,
seating herself so as to bring her face near to Eustacie's; 'I could not
rest till I had seen how it was with you and wept with you.'

'Ah, Madame, you can weep,' said Eustacie slowly, looking at the Queen's
heavy tearful eyes almost with wonder; 'but I do not weep because I am
dying, and that is better.'

'My dear, my dear, do not so speak!' exclaimed the gentle but rather
dull Queen.

'Is it wrong? Nay, so much the better--then I shall be with HIM,' said
Eustacie in the same feeble dreamy manner, as if she did not understand
herself, but a little roused by seeing she had shocked her visitor. 'I
would not be wicked. He was all bright goodness and truth: but his does
not seem to be goodness that brings to heaven, and I do not want to be
in the heaven of these cruel false men--I think it would go round and
round.' She shut her eyes as if to steady herself, and that moment
seemed to give her more self-recollection, for looking at the weeping,
troubled visitor, she exclaimed, with more energy, 'Oh! Madame, it must
be a dreadful fancy! Good men like him cannot be shut into those fiery
gates with the torturing devils.'

'Heaven forbid!' exclaimed the Queen. 'My poor, poor child, grieve not
yourself thus. At my home, my Austrian home, we do not speak in this
dreadful way. My father loves and honours his loyal Protestants, and he
trusts that the good God accepts their holy lives in His unseen Church,
even though outwardly they are separate from us. My German confessor
ever said so. Oh! Child, it would be too frightful if we deemed that all
those souls as well as bodies perished in these frightful days. Myself,
I believe that they have their reward for their truth and constancy.'

Eustacie caught the Queen's hand, and fondled it with delight, as though
those words had veritably opened the gates of heaven to her husband.
The Queen went on in her slow gentle manner, the very tone of which
was inexpressibly soothing and sympathetic: 'Yes, and all will be clear
there. No more violence. At home our good men think so, and the King
will think the same when these cruel counselors will leave him to
himself; and I pray, I pray day and night, that God will not lay this
sin to his account, but open his eyes to repent. Forgive him, Eustacie,
and pray for him too.'

'The King would have saved my husband, Madame,' returned Eustacie. 'He
bade him to his room. It was I, unhappy I, who detained him, lest our
flight should have been hindered.'

The Queen in her turn kissed Eustacie's forehead with eager gratitude.
'Oh, little one, you have brought a drop of comfort to a heavy heart.
Alas! I could sometimes feel you to be a happier wife than I, with your
perfect trust in the brave pure-spirited youth, unwarped by these wicked
cruel advisers. I loved to look at his open brow; it was so like our
bravest German Junkers. And, child, we thought, both of us, to have
brought about your happiness; but, ah! it has but caused all this
misery.'

'No, no, dearest Queen,' said Eustacie, 'this month with all its woe has
been joy--life! Oh! I had rather lie here and die for his loss than be
as I was before he came. And NOW--now, you have given him to me for all
eternity--if but I am fit to be with him!'

Eustacie had revived so much during the interview that the Queen could
not believe her to be in a dying state; but she continued very ill,
the low fever still hanging about her, and the faintness continual. The
close room, the turmoil of its many inhabitants, and the impossibility
of quiet also harassed her greatly, and Elisabeth had little or no power
of making any other arrangements for her in the palace. Ladies when ill
were taken home, and this poor child had no home. The other maids of
honour were a gentler, simpler set than Catherine's squadron, and were
far from unkind; but between them and her, who had so lately been the
brightest child of them all, there now lay that great gulf. _'Ich habe
gelebt und geliebet.'_ That the little blackbird, as they used to call
her, should have been on the verge of running away with her own husband
was a half understood, amusing mystery discussed in exaggerating
prattle. This was hushed, indeed, in the presence of that crushed,
prostrate, silent sorrow; but there was still an utter incapacity of
true sympathy, that made the very presence of so many oppressive,
even when they were not in murmurs discussing the ghastly tidings of
massacres in other cities, and the fate of acquaintances.

On that same day, the Queen sent for Diane to consult her about the
sufferer. Elisabeth longed to place her in her own cabinet and attend on
her herself; but she was afraid to do this, as the unhappy King was
in such a frenzied mood, and so constantly excited by his brother and
Guise, that it was possible that some half-delirious complaint from poor
Eustacie might lead to serious consequences. Indeed, Elisabeth, though
in no state to bear agitation, was absorbed in her endeavour to prevent
him from adding blood to blood, and a few days later actually saved the
lives of the King of Navarre and Prince of Conde, by throwing herself
before him half-dressed, and tearing his weapon from his hand. Her only
hope was that if she should give him a son, her influence for mercy
would revive with his joy. Meantime she was powerless, and she could
only devise the sending the poor little sufferer to a convent, where the
nuns might tend her till she was restored to health and composure. Diane
acquiesced, but proposed sending for her father, and he was accordingly
summoned. Diane saw him first alone, and both agreed that he had better
take Eustacie to Bellaise, where her aunt would take good care of her,
and in a few months she would no doubt be weary enough of the country to
be in raptures to return to Paris on any terms.

Yet even as Diane said this, a sort of longing for the solitude of the
woods of Nid-de-Merle came over her, a recollection of the good Sister
Monique, at whose knee she had breathed somewhat of the free pure air
that her murdered cousin had brought with him; a sense that there she
could pour forth her sorrow. She offered herself at once to go with
Eustacie.

'No, no, my daughter,' said the Chevalier, 'that is unnecessary. There
is pleasanter employment for you. I told you that your position was
secured. Here is a brilliant offer--M. de Selinville,'

_'Le bonhomme de Selinville!'_ exclaimed Diane, feeling rather as if the
compensation were like the little dog offered to Eustacie.

'Know ye not that his two heretic nephews perished the other night.
He is now the head of his name, the Marquis, the only one left of his
house.'

'He begins early,' said Diane.

'An old soldier, my daughter, scarce stays to count the fallen. He has
no time to lose. He is sixty, with a damaged constitution. It will be
but the affair of a few years, and then will my beautiful Marquise be
free to choose for herself. I shall go from the young Queen to obtain
permission from the Queen-mother.'

No question was asked. Diane never even thought objection possible. It
was a close to that present life which she had begun to loathe; it gave
comparative liberty. It would dull and confuse her heart-sick pain,
and give her a certain superiority to her brother. Moreover, it would
satisfy the old father, whom she really loved. Marriage with a worn-out
old man was a simple step to full display for young ladies without
fortune.

The Chevalier told Queen Elisabeth his purpose of placing his niece
in the family convent, under the care of her aunt, the Abbess, in a
foundation endowed by her own family on the borders of her own estate.
Elisabeth would have liked to keep her nearer, but could not but own
that the change to the scenes of her childhood might be more beneficial
than a residence in a nunnery at Paris, and the Chevalier spoke of
his niece with a tender solicitude that gained the Queen's heart.
She consented, only stipulating that Eustacie's real wishes should be
ascertained, and herself again made the exertion of visiting the patient
for the purpose.

Eustacie had been partly dressed, and was lying as near as she could to
the narrow window. The Queen would not let her move, but took her damp
languid hand, and detailed her uncle's proposal. It was plain that it
was not utterly distasteful. 'Soeur Monique,' she said, 'Soeur Monique
would sing hymns to me, and then I should not see the imps at night.'

'Poor child! And you would like to go? You could bear the journey?'

'It would be in the air! And then I should not smell blood--blood!' And
her cheeks became whiter again, if possible.

'Then you would not rather be at the Carmelites, or Maubuisson, near
me?'

'Ah! Madame, there would not be Soeur Monique. If the journey would only
make me die, as soon as I came, with Soeur Monique to hush me, and keep
off dreadful images!'

'Dear child, you should put away the thought of dying. Maybe you are to
live, that your prayers may win salvation for the soul of him you love.'

'Oh, then! I should like to go into a convent so strict--so strict,
cried Eustacie, with renewed vigour. 'Bellaise is nothing like strict
enough. Does your Majesty indeed think that my prayers will aid him?'

'Alas! what hope could we have but in praying?' said Elisabeth, with
tears in her eyes. 'Little one, we will be joined at least in our
prayers and intercessions: thou wilt not forget in thine one who yet
lives, unhappier than all!'

'And, oh, my good, my holy Queen, will you indeed pray for him--my
husband? He was so good, his faith can surely not long be reckoned
against him. He did not believe in Purgatory! Perhaps----' Then frowning
with a difficulty far beyond a fever-clouded brain, she concluded--'At
least, orisons may aid him! It is doing something for him! Oh, where are
my beads?--I can begin at once.'

The Queen put her arm round her, and together they said the _De
profundis_,--the Queen understood every word far more for the living
than the dead. Again Elisabeth had given new life to Eustacie. The
intercession for her husband was something to live for, and the severest
convent was coveted, until she was assured that she would not be allowed
to enter on any rule till she had time to recover her health, and show
the constancy of her purpose by a residence at Bellaise.

Ere parting, however, the Queen bent over her, and colouring, as if much
ashamed of what she said, whispered--'Child, not a word of the ceremony
at Montpipeau!--you understand? The King was always averse; it would
bring him and me into dreadful trouble with THOSE OTHERS, and alas! It
makes no difference now. You will be silent?'

And Eustacie signed her acquiescence, as indeed no difficulty was made
in her being regarded as the widow of the Baron de Ribaumont, when she
further insisted on procuring a widow's dress before she quitted her
room, and declared, with much dignity, that she should esteem no person
her friend who called her Mademoiselle de Nid-de-Merle. To this the
Chevalier de Ribaumont was willing to give way; he did not care whether
Narcisse married her as Berenger's widow or as the separated maiden
wife, and he thought her vehement opposition and dislike would die away
the faster the fewer impediments were placed in her way. Both he and
Diane strongly discouraged any attempt on Narcisse's widow part at a
farewell interview; and thus unmolested, and under the constant soothing
influence of reciting her prayers, in the trust that they were availing
her husband, Eustacie rallied so much that about ten day after the
dreadful St. Batholomew, in the early morning, she was half-led
half-carried down the stairs between her uncle and Veronique. Her face
was close muffled in her thick black veil, but when she came to the
foot of the first stairs where she had found Berenger's cap, a terrible
shuddering came on her; she again murmured something about the smell of
blood, and fell into a swoon.

'Carry her on at once,' said Diane, who was following,--'there will be
not end to it if you do not remove her immediately.'

And thus shielded from the sight of Marcisse's intended passionate
gesture of farewell at the palace-door, Eustecie was laid at full length
on the seat of the great ponderous family coach, where Veronique hardly
wished to revive her till the eight horses should have dragged her
beyond the streets of Paris, with their terrible associations, and the
gibbets still hung with the limbs of the murdered.



CHAPTER XIII. THE BRIDEGROOM'S ARRIVAL



  The starling flew to his mother's window stane,
    It whistled and it sang,
  And aye, the ower word of the tune
    Was 'Johnnie tarries lang.'
                     --JOHNNIE OF BREDISLEE


There had been distrust and dissatisfaction at home for many a day past.
Berenger could hardly be censured for loving his own wife, and yet his
family were by not means gratified by the prospect of his bringing home
a little French Papist, of whom Lady Thistlewood remembered nothing
good.

Lucy was indignantly fetched home by her stepmother, who insisted
on treating her with extreme pity as a deserted maiden, and thus
counteracting Aunt Cecily's wise representations, that there never
should, and therefore never could, have been anything save fraternal
affection between the young people, and that pity was almost an insult
to Lucy. The good girl herself was made very uncomfortable by there
demonstrations, and avoided them as much as possible, chiefly striving
in her own gentle way to prepare her little sisters to expect numerous
charms in brother Berenger's wife, and heartily agreeing with Philip
that Berenger knew his own mind best.

'And at any rate,' quoth Philip, 'we'll have the best bonfire that
ever was seen in the country! Lucy, you'll coax my father to give us a
tar-barrel!'

The tar-barrel presided over a monstrous pile of fagots, and the
fisher-boys were promised a tester to whoever should first bring word to
Master Philip that the young lord and lady were in the creek.

Philip gave his pony no rest, between the lock-out on the downs and the
borders of the creek; but day after day passed, and still the smacks
from Jersey held no person worth mentioning; and still the sense of
expectation kept Lucy starting at every sound, and hating herself for
her own folly.

At last Philip burst into Combe Manor, fiery red with riding and
consternation. 'Oh! father, father, Paul Duval's boat is come in, and
he says that the villain Papists have butchered every Protestant in
France.'

Sir Marmaduke's asseveration was of the strongest, that he did not
believe a word of it. Nevertheless, he took his horse and rode down to
interrogate Paul Duval, and charge him not to spread the report was in
the air. He went to the Hall, and the butler met him with a grave face,
and took him to the study, where Lord Walwyn was sitting over letter
newly received from London, giving hints from the Low Countries of
bloody work in France. And when he returned to his home, his wife burst
out upon him in despair. Here had they been certainly killing her poor
buy. Not a doubt that he was dead. All from this miserable going to
France, that had been quite against her will.

Stoutly did Sir Marmaduke persevere in his disbelief; but every day
some fresh wave of tidings floated in. Murder wholesale had surely been
perpetrated. Now came stories of death-bells at Rouen from the fishermen
on the coast; now markets and petty sessions discussed the foul
slaughter of the Ambassador and his household; truly related how the
Queen had put on mourning, and falsely that she had hung the French
Ambassador, La Mothe Feneon. And Burleigh wrote to his old friend from
London, that some horrible carnage had assuredly taken place, and that
no news had yet been received of Sir Francis Walsingham or of his suite.

All these days seems so many years taken from the vital power of Lord
Walwyn. Not only had his hopes and affections would themselves closely
around his grandson, but he reproached himself severely with having
trusted him in his youth and inexperience among the seductive perils of
Paris. The old man grieved over the promising young life cut off, and
charged on himself the loss and grief to the women, whose stay he had
trusted Berenger would have been. He said little, but his hand and head
grew more trembling; he scarcely ate or slept, and seemed to waste from
a vigorous elder to a feeble being in the extremity of old age, till
Lady Walwyn had almost ceased to think of her grandson in her anxiety
for her husband.

Letters came at last. The messenger despatched by Sir Francis Walsingham
had not been able to proceed till the ways had become safe, and he had
then been delayed; but on his arrival his tidings were sent down. There
were letters both from Sir Francis Walsingham and from heart-broken
Mr. Adderley, both to the same effect, with all possible praises of the
young Baron de Ribaumont, all possible reproach to themselves for
having let him be betrayed, without even a possibility of recovering his
remains for honourable burial. Poor Mr. Adderley further said that Mr.
Sidney, who was inconsolable for the loss of his friend, had offered
to escort him to the Low Countries, whence he would make his way to
England, and would present himself at Hurst Walwyn, if his Lordship
could endure the sight of his creature who had so miserably failed in
his trust.

Lord Walwyn read both letters twice through before he spoke. Then he
took off his spectacles, laid them down, and said calmly, 'God's will be
done. I thank God that my boy was blameless. Better they slew him than
sent him home tainted with their vices.'

The certainty, such as it was, seemed like repose after the suspense.
They knew to what to resign themselves, and even Lady Thistlewood's
tempestuous grief had so spent itself that late in the evening the
family sat round the fire in the hall, the old lord dozing as one worn
out with sorrow, the others talking in hushed tones of that bright
boyhood, that joyous light quenched in the night of carnage.

The butler slowly entered the hall, and approached Sir Marmaduke,
cautiously. 'Can I speak with you, sir?'

'What is it, Davy?' demanded the lady, who first caught the words. 'What
did you say?'

'Madam, it is Humfrey Holt!'

Humfrey Holt was the head of the grooms who had gone with Berenger; and
there was a general start and suppressed exclamation. 'Humfrey Hold!'
said Lord Walwyn, feebly drawing himself to sit upright, 'hath he, then,
escaped?'

'Yea, my Lord,' said Davy, 'and he brings news of my young Lord'

'Alack! Davy,' said Lady Walwyn, 'such news had been precious a while
ago.'

'Nay, so please your Ladyship, it is better than you deem. Humfley says
my young Lord is yet living.'

'Living! shrieked Lady Thistlewood, starting up. 'Living! My son! and
where?'

'They are bearing him home, my Lady,' said the butler; 'but I fear me,
by what Humfley says, that it is but in woeful case.'

'Bringing him home! Which way?' Philip darted off like an arrow from the
bow. Sir Marmaduke hastily demanded if aid were wanted; and Lady Walwyn,
interpreting the almost inaudible voice of her husband, bade that
Humfley should be called in to tell his own story.

Hands were held out in greeting, and blessings murmured, as the groom
entered, looking battered and worn, and bowing low in confusion at being
thus unusually conspicuous, and having to tell his story to the head and
body, and slashed about the face so as it is a shame to see. Nor hath he
done aught these three weary weeks but moan from time to time so as
it is enough to break one's heart to hear him; and I fear me 'tis but
bringing him home to die.'

'Even so, God be thanked; and you too, honest Humfley,' said Lady
Walwyn.' 'Let us hear when and how this deed was done.'

'Why, that, my Lord, I can't so well say, being that I was not with him;
more's the pity, or I'd have known the reason why, or even they laid a
finger on him. But when Master Landry, his French foster-brother, comes,
he will resolve you in his own tongue. I can't parleyvoo with him, but
he's an honest rogue for a Frenchman, and 'twas he brought off my young
Lord. You see we were all told to be abroad the little French craft.

Master Landry took me down and settled it all with the master, a French
farmer fellow that came a horse-dealing to Paris. I knew what my young
Lord was after, but none of the other varlets did; and I went down and
made as decent a place as I could between decks. My Lord and Master
Landry were gone down to the court meantime, and we were to lie off till
we heard a whistle like a mavis on the bank, then come and take them
aboard. Well, we waited and waited, and all the lights were out, and not
a sound did we hear till just an hour after midnight. Then a big bell
rang out, not like a decent Christianable bell, but a great clash, then
another, and a lot of strokes enough to take away one's breath. Then
half the windows were lighted up, and we heard shots, and screeches,
and splashes, till, as I said to Jack Smithers, 'twas as if one half
the place was murthering the other. The farmer got frightened, and would
have been off; but when I saw what he was at, "No," says I, "not an inch
do we budge without news of my Lord." So Jack stood by the rope, and let
them see that 'twas as much as their life was worth to try to unmoor.
Mercy, what a night it was! Shrieks and shouts, and shots and howls,
here, there, and everywhere, and splashes into the rive; and by and by
we saw the poor murthered creatures come floating by. The farmer, he had
some words with one of the boats near, and I heard somewhat of Huguenot
and Hereteek, and I knew that was what they called good Protestants.
Then up comes the farmer with his sons looking mighty ugly at us, and
signing that unless we let them be off 'twould be set ashore for us; and
we began to think as how we had best be set ashore, and go down the five
of us to see if we could stand by my young Lord in some strait, or give
notice to my Lord Ambassador.'

'God reward you!' exclaimed Lady Walwyn.

'Twas only our duty, my Lady,' gruffly answered Humfrey; 'but just as
Hal had got on the quay, what should I see but Master Landry coming
down the street with my young Lord in his back! I can tell you he was
well-nigh spent; and just then half a dozen butcherly villains came out
on him, bawling, "Tu-y! tu-y!" which it seems means "kill, kill." He
turned about and showed them that he had got a white sleeve and white
cross in his bonnet, like them, the rascals, giving them to understand
that he was only going to throw the corpse into the river. I doubted him
then myself; but he caught sight of us, and in his fashion of talk with
us, called out to us to help, for there was life still. So two of us
took my Lord, and the other three gave the beggarly French cut-throats
as good as they meant for us; while Landry shouted to the farmer to
wait, and we got aboard, and made right away down the river. But never a
word has the poor young gentleman spoken, though Master Landry has done
all a barber or a sick-nurse could do; and he got us past the cities
by showing the papers in my Lord's pocket, so that we got safe to the
farmer's place. There we lay till we could get a boat to Jersey, and
thence again home; and maybe my young Lord will mend now Mistress Cecily
will have the handing of him.'

'That is it the wisest Hands, good Humfrey,' said Lord Walwyn, as the
tears of feeble age flowed down his cheeks. 'May He who hath brought the
lad safely so far spare him yet, and raise him up. But whether he live
or die, you son and daughter Thistlewood will look that the faithfulness
of Humfrey Holt and his comrades be never forgotten or unrewarded.'

Humfrey again muttered something about no more than his duty; but by
this time sounds were heard betokening the approach of the melancholy
procession, who, having been relieved by a relay of servants sent at
once from the house, were bearing home the wounded youth. Philip first
of all dashed in hurrying and stumbling. He had been unprepared by
hearing Humfrey's account, and, impetuous and affectionate as he was,
was entirely unrestrained, and flinging himself on his knees with the
half-audible words, 'Oh! Lucy! Lucy! He is as good as dead!' hid
his face between his arms on his sister's lap, and sobbed with the
abandonment of a child, and with all his youthful strength; so much
adding to the consternation and confusion, that, finding all Lucy's
gentle entreaties vain, his father at last roughly pulled up his face by
main force, and said, 'Philip, hold your tongue! Are we to have you on
our hands as well as my Lady? I shall send you home this moment! Let
your sister go.'

This threat reduced the boy to silence. Lucy, who was wanted to assist
in preparing Berenger's room, disengaged herself; but he remained in
the same posture, his head buried on the seat of the chair, and the
loud weeping only forcibly stifled by forcing his handkerchief into
his mouth, as if he had been in violent bodily pain. Nor did he venture
again to look up as the cause of all his distress was slowly carried
into the hall, corpse-like indeed. The bearers had changed several
times, all but a tall, fair Norman youth, who through the whole transit
had supported the head, endeavouring to guard it from shocks. When the
mother and the rest came forward, he made a gesture to conceal the face,
saying in French, 'Ah! Mesdames; this is no sight for you.'

Indeed the head and face were almost entirely hidden by bandages, and
it was not till Berenger had been safely deposited on a large carved
bed that the anxious relatives were permitted to perceive the number
and extent of his hurts; and truly it was only by the breath, the vital
warmth, and the heavy moans when he was disturbed, or the dressings of
the wounds were touched, that showed him still to be a living man.
There proved to be no less than four wounds--a shot through the right
shoulder, the right arm also broken with a terrible blow with a sword,
a broad gash from the left temple to the right ear, and worse than all,
_'le baiser d'Eustacie,'_ a bullet wound where the muzzle of the pistol
had absolutely been so close as to have burnt and blackened the cheek;
so that his life was, as Osbert averred, chiefly owing to the assassin's
jealousy of his personal beauty, which had directed his shot to the
cheek rather than the head; and thus, though the bullet had terribly
shattered the upper jaw and roof of the mouth, and had passed out
through the back of the head, there was a hope that it had not
penetrated the seat of life or reason. The other gash on the face was
but a sword-wound, and though frightful to look at, was unimportant,
compared with the first wound with the pistol-shot in the shoulder, with
the arm broken and further injured by having served to suspend him round
Osbert's neck; but it was altogether so appalling a sight, that it
was no wonder that Sis Marmaduke muttered low but deep curses on the
cowardly ruffians; while his wife wept in grief as violent, though more
silent, than her stepson's, and only Cecily gathered the faintest ray of
hope. The wounds had been well cared for, the arm had been set, the hair
cut away, and lint and bandages applied with a skill that surprised her,
till she remembered that Landry Osbert had been bred up in preparation
to be Berenger's valet, and thus to practise those minor arts of surgery
then required in a superior body-servant. For his part, though his eyes
looked red, and his whole person exhausted by unceasing watching, he
seemed unable to relinquish the care of his master for a moment, and
her nunnery French would not have perceived her tender touch and ready
skill. These were what made him consent to leave his post even for a
short meal, and so soon as he had eaten it he was called to Lord Walwyn
to supply the further account which Humfley had been unable to give. He
had waited, he explained, with a lackey, a friend of his in the palace,
till he became alarmed by the influx of armed men, wearing white crosses
and shirt-sleeves on their left arms, but his friend had assured him
that his master had been summoned to the royal bedchamber, where he
would be as safe as in church; and obtaining from Landry Osbert himself
a perfectly true assurance of being a good Catholic, had supplied him
with the badges that were needful for security. It was just then that
Madame's maid crept down to his waiting-place with the intelligence that
her mistress had been bolted in, and after a short consultation they
agreed to go and see whether M. le Baron were indeed waiting, and, if
he were, to warn him of the suspicious state of the lower regions of the
palace.

They were just in time to see, but not to prevent the attack upon their
young master; and while Veronique fled, screaming, Landry Osbert, who
had been thrown back on the stairs in her sudden flight, recovered
himself and hastened to his master. The murderers, after their blows
had been struck, had hurried along the corridor to join the body of
assassins, whose work they had in effect somewhat anticipated.
Landry, full of rage and despair, was resolved at least to save his
foster-brother's corpse from further insult, and bore it down-stairs in
his arms. On the way, he perceived that life was not yet extinct, and
resolving to become doubly cautious, he sought in the pocket for the
purse that had been well filled for the flight, and by the persuasive
argument of gold crowns, obtained egress from the door-keeper of the
postern, where Berenger hoped to have emerged in a far different manner.
It was a favourable moment, for the main body of the murderers were at
that time being poster in the court by the captain of the guard, ready
to massacre the gentlemen of the King of Navarre's suite, and he was
therefore unmolested by any claimant of the plunders of the apparent
corpse he bore on his shoulders. The citizens of Paris who had been
engaged in their share of the murders for more than an hour before the
tragedy began in the Louvre, frequently beset him on his way to the
quay, and but for the timely aid of his English comrades, he would
hardly have brought off his foster-brother safely.

The pass with which King Charles had provided Berenger for himself and
his followers when his elopement was first planned, enabled Osbert to
carry his whole crew safely past all the stations where passports were
demanded. He had much wished to procure surgical aid at Rouen, but
learning from the boatmen on the river that the like bloody scenes were
there being enacted, he had decide on going on to his master's English
home as soon as possible, merely trusting to his own skill by the way;
and though it was the slightest possible hope, yet the healthy state
of the wounds, and the mere fact of life continuing, had given him some
faint trust that there might be a partial recovery.

Lord Walwyn repeated his agitated thanks and praises for such devotion
to his grandson.

Osbert bower, laid his hand on his heart, and replied--'Monseigneur is
good, but what say I? Monsieur le Baron is my foster-brother! Say that,
and all is said in one word.'

He was then dismissed, with orders to take some rest, but he obstinately
refused all commands in French or English to go to bed, and was found
some time after fast asleep.



CHAPTER XIV. SWEET HEART



     Ye hae marred a bonnier face than your ain.
            DYING WORDS OF THE BONNIE EARL OF MORAY


One room at Hurst Walwyn, though large, wainscoted, and well furnished,
bore as pertinaciously the air of a cell as the appearance of Sister
Cecily St. John continued like that of a nun. There was a large sunny
oriel, in which a thrush sang merrily in a wicker cage; and yet the very
central point and leading feature of the room was the altar-like table,
covered with rich needlework, with a carved ebony crucifix placed on it,
and on the wall above, quaint and stiff, but lovely-featured, delicately
tinted pictures of Our Lady in the centre, and of St. Anne and St.
Cecilia on either side, with skies behind of most ethereal blue, and
robes tenderly trimmed with gold. A little shrine of purple spar, with a
crystal front, contained a fragment of sacred bone; a silver shell help
holy water, perpetuated from some blessed by Bishop Ridley.

             'With velvet bound and broidered o'er,
                      Her breviary book'

Lay open at 'Sext,' and there, too, lay with its three marks at the
Daily Lessons, the Bishop's Bible, and the Common Prayer beside it.

The elder Baron de Ribaumont had never pardoned Cecily his single glance
at that table, and had seriously remonstrated with his father-in-law
for permitting its existence, quoting Rachel, Achan, and Maachah. Yet
he never knew of the hair-cloth smock, the discipline, the cord and
sack-cloth that lay stored in the large carved awmry, and were secretly
in use on every fast or vigil, not with any notion of merit, but of
simple obedience, and with even deeper comprehension and enjoyment of
their spiritual significance, of which, in her cloister life, she had
comprehended little.

It was not she, however, who knelt with bowed head and clasped hands
before the altar-table, the winter sunbeams making the shadows of
the ivy sprays dance upon the deep mourning dress and pale cheek. The
eyelashes were heavy with tear-drops, and veiled eyes that had not yet
attained to the region of calm, like the light quivering of the lips
showed that here was the beginning of the course of trial through which
serenity might be won, and for ever.

By and by the latch was raise, and Cecily came forward. Lucy rose
quickly to her feet, and while giving and returning a fond embrace,
asked with her eyes the question that Cecily answered, 'Still in the
same lethargy. The only shade of sense that I have seen is an unclosing
of the eyes, a wistful look whenever the door opened, and a shiver
through all his frame whenever the great bell rings, till my Lord
forbade it to be sounded.'

'That frightful bell that the men told us of,' said Lucy, shuddering;
'oh, what a heart that murderess must have had!'

'Hold, Lucy! How should we judge her, who may at this moment be weeping
in desolation?'

Lucy looked up astonished. 'Aunt,' she said, 'you have been so long shut
up with him that you hardly can have heard all-how she played fast and
loose, and for the sake of a mere pageant put off the flight from the
time when it would have been secure even until that dreadful eve!'

'I know it,' said Cecily. 'I fear me much that her sin has been great;
yet, Lucy, it were better to pray for her than to talk wildly against
her.'

'Alas!' murmured Lucy, 'I could bear it and glory in it when it seemed
death for the faith's sake, but,' and the tears burst out, 'to find he
was only trapped and slain for the sake of a faithless girl--and that he
should love her still.'

'She is his wife,' said Cecily. 'Child, from my soul I grieve for you,
but none the less must I, if no other will, keep before your eyes that
our Berenger's faith belongs solely to her.'

'You--you never would have let me forget it,' said Lucy. 'Indeed I am
more maidenly when not alone with you! I know verily that he is loyal,
and that my hatred to her is more than is meet. I will--I will pray for
her, but I would that you were in your convent still, and that I could
hide me there.'

'That were scarce enough,' said Cecily. 'One sister we had who had fled
to our house to hide her sorrows for her betrothed had wedded another.
She took her sorrows for her vocation, strove to hurry on her vows, and
when they were taken, she chafed and fretted under them. It was she who
wrote to the commissioner the letter that led to the visitation of our
house, and, moreover, she was the only one of us who married.'

'To her own lover?'

'No, to a brewer at Winchester! I say not that you could ever be like
poor sister Bridget, but only that the cloister has no charm to still
the heart--prayer and duty can do as much without as within.'

'When we deemed her worthy, I was glad of his happiness,' said Lucy,
thoughtfully.

'You did, my dear, and I rejoiced. Think now how grievous it must be
with her, if she, as I fear she may, yielded her heart to those who
told her that to ensnare him was her duty, or if indeed she were as much
deceived as he.'

'Then she will soon be comforted,' said Lucy, still with some bitterness
in her voice; bitterness of which she herself was perhaps conscious, for
suddenly dropping in her knees, she hid her face, and cried. 'Oh, help
me to pray for her, Aunt Cecily, and that I may do her wrong no more!'

And Cecily, in her low conventual chant, sang, almost under her breath,
the noonday Latin hymn, the words of which, long familiar to Lucy, had
never as yet so come home to her.

           'Quench Thou the fires of heat and strife,
               The wasting fever of the heart;
            From perils guard our feeble life,
               And to our souls Thy help impart.'

Cecily's judgment would have been thought weakly charitable by all
the rest of the family. Mr. Adderley had been forwarded by Sir Francis
Walsingham like a bale of goods, and arriving in a mood of such
self-reproach as would be deemed abject, by persons used to the modern
relations between noblemen and their chaplains, was exhilarated by the
unlooked-for comfort of finding his young charge at least living, and
in his grandfather's house. From his narrative, Walsingham's letter,
and Osbert's account, Lord Walwyn saw no reason to doubt that the Black
Ribaumonts had thought that massacre a favourable moment for sweeping
the only survivor of the White or elder branch away, and that not only
had royalty lent itself to the cruel project, but that as Diane de
Ribaumont had failed as a bait, the young espoused wife had herself
been employed to draw him into the snare, and secure his presence at the
slaughter-house, away from his safe asylum at the Ambassador's or even
in the King's garde-robe. It was an unspeakably frightful view to take
of the case, yet scarcely worse than the reality of many of the dealings
of those with whom the poor young girl had been associated: certainly
not worse than the crimes, the suspicion of which was resting on
the last dowager Queen of France; and all that could be felt by the
sorrowing family, was comfort that at least corruption of mind had
either not been part of the game, or had been unsuccessful, and, by
all testimony, the victim was still the same innocent boy. This was all
their relief, while for days, for weeks, Berenger de Ribaumont lay in a
trance or torpor between life and death. Sometimes, as Cecily had said,
his eyes turned with a startled wistfulness towards the door, and the
sound of a bell seemed to thrill him with a start of agony; but for the
most part he neither appeared to see or hear, and a few moans were the
only sounds that escaped him. The Queen, in her affection for her old
friend, and her strong feeling for the victims of the massacre, sent
down the court physician, who turned him about, and elicited sundry
heavy groans, but could do no more than enjoin patient waiting on the
beneficent powers of nature in early youth. His visit produced one
benefit, namely, the strengthening of Cecily St. John's hands against
the charms, elixirs, and nostrums with which Lady Thistlewood's friends
supplied her,--plasters from the cunning women of Lyme Regis, made of
powder of giant's bones, and snakes prayed into stone by St. Aldhelm,
pills of live woodlice, and fomentations of living earthworms and
spiders. Great was the censure incurred by Lady Walwyn for refusing to
let such remedies be tried on HER grandson. And he was so much more her
child than his mother's, that Dame Annora durst do no more than maunder.

In this perfect rest, it seemed as if after a time 'the powers of
nature' did begin to rally, there were appearances of healing about the
wounds, the difference between sleeping and waking became more evident,
the eyes lost the painful, half-closed, vacant look, but were either
shut or opened with languid recognition. The injuries were such as to
exclude him from almost every means of expression, the wound in his
mouth made speech impossible, and his right arm was not available for
signs. It was only the clearness of his eyes, and their response to what
was said, that showed that his mind was recovering tone, and then he
seemed only alive to the present, and to perceive nothing but what
related to his suffering and its alleviations. The wistfulness that
had shown itself at first was gone, and even when he improved enough to
establish a language of signs with eye, lip, or left hand, Cecily became
convinced that he has little or no memory of recent occurrences, and
that finding himself at home among familiar faces, his still dormant
perceptions demanded no further explanation.

This blank was the most favourable state for his peace and for his
recovery, and it was of long duration, lasting even till he had made so
much progress that he could leave his bed, and even speak a few words,
though his weakness was much prolonged by the great difficulty with
which he could take nourishment. About two winters before, Cecily had
successfully nursed him through a severe attack of small-pox, and she
thought that he confounded his present state with the former illness,
when he had had nearly the same attendants and surroundings as at
present; and that his faculties were not yet roused enough to perceive
the incongruity.

Once or twice he showed surprise at visits from his mother or Philip,
who had then been entirely kept away from him, and about Christmas he
brightened so much, and awoke to things about him so much more fully,
that Cecily thought the time of recollection could not be much longer
deferred. Any noise, however, seemed so painful to him, that the
Christmas festivities were held at Combe Manor instead of Hurst Walwyn;
only after church, Sir Marmaduke and Lady Thistlewood came in to make
him a visit, as he sat in a large easy-chair by his bedroom-fire,
resting after having gone through as much of the rites of the day as he
was able for, with Mr. Adderlay. The room looked very cheerful with
the bright wood-fire on the open hearth, shining on the gay tapestry
hangings, and the dark wood of the carved bed. The evergreen-decked
window shimmered with sun shine, and even the patient, leaning back
among crimson cushions, though his face and head were ghastly enough
wherever they were not covered with patches and bandages, still had a
pleasant smile with lip and eye to thank his stepfather for his cheery
wishes of 'a merry Christmas, at least one better in health.'

'I did not bring the little wenches, Berenger, lest they should weary
you,' said his mother.

Berenger looked alarmed, and said with the indistinctness with which he
always spoke, 'Have they caught it? Are they marked?'

'No, no, not like you, may boy,' said Sir Marmaduke, sufficiently aware
of Berenger's belief to be glad to keep it up, and yet obliged to walk
to the window to hide his diversion at the notion of his little girls
catching the contagion of sword-gashes and bullet-wounds. Dame Annora
prattled on, 'But they have sent you their Christmas gifts by me. Poor
children, they have long been busied with them, and I fancy Lucy did
half herself. See, this kerchief is hemmed by little Dolly, and here
are a pair of bands and cuffs to match, that Nanny and Bessy have been
broidering with their choicest stitchery.'

Berenger smile, took, expressed admiration by gesture, and then said in
a dreamy, uncertain manner, 'Methought I had some gifts for them;' then
looking round the room, his eye fell on a small brass-bound casket which
had travelled with him to hold his valuables; he pointed to it with a
pleased look, as Sir Marmaduke lifted it and placed it on a chair by his
side. The key, a small ornamental brass one, was in his purse, not far
off, and Lady Thistlewood was full of exceeding satisfaction at the
unpacking not only of foreign gifts, but, as she hoped, of the pearls;
Cecily meantime stole quietly in, to watch that her patient was not
over-wearied.

He was resuming the use of his right arm, though it was still weak and
stiff, and he evidently had an instinct against letting any one deal
with that box but himself; he tried himself to unlock it, and though
forced to leave this to Sir Marmaduke, still leant over it when opened,
as if to prevent his mother's curious glances from penetrating its
recesses, and allowed no hands near it but his own. He first brought out
a pretty feather fan, saying as he held it to his mother, 'For Nan, I
promised it. It was bought at the Halles,' he added, more dreamily.

Then again he dived, and brought out a wax medallion of Our Lady guarded
by angels, and made the sign that always brought Cecily to him. He
held it up to her with a puzzled smile, saying, 'They thought me a mere
Papist for buying it--M. de Teligny, I think it was.'

They had heard how the good and beloved Teligny had been shot down on
the roof of his father-in-law's house, by rabid assassins, strangers
to his person, when all who knew him had spared him, from love to his
gentle nature; and the name gave a strange thrill.

He muttered something about 'Pedlar,--Montpipeau,'--and still continued.
Then came a small silver casket, diffusing an odour of attar of
roses--he leant back in his chair--and his mother would have taken it
from him, supposing him overcome by the scent, but he held it fast and
shook his head, saying, 'For Lucy,--but she must give it herself. She
gave up any gift for herself for it--she said we needed no love-tokens.'
And he closed his eyes. Dame Annora plunged into the unpacking, and
brought out a pocket-mirror with enamelled cupids in the corner,
addressed to herself; and then came upon Berenger's own.

Again came a fringed pair of gloves among the personal jewellery such
as gentlemen were wont to wear, the rings, clasps and brooches he had
carried from home. Dame Annora's impatience at last found vent in the
exclamation, 'The pearls, son; I do not see the chaplet of pearls.'

'She had them, 'answered Berenger, in a matter-of-fact tone, 'to wear at
the masque.'

'She----'

Sir Marmaduke's great hand choked, as it were, the query on his wife's
lips, unseen by her son, who, as if the words had touched some chord,
was more eagerly seeking in the box, and presently drew out a bow of
carnation ribbon with a small piece of paper full of pin-holes attached
to it. At once he carried it to his lips, kissed it fervently, and then,
sinking back in his chair, seemed to be trying to gather up the memory
that had prompted the impulse, knitted his brows together, and then
suddenly exclaimed, 'Where is she?'

His mother tried the last antecedent. 'Lucy? She shall come and thank
you to-morrow.'

He shook his head with a vehement negative, beckoned Cecily impatiently,
and said earnestly, 'Is it the contagion? Is she sick? I will go to
her.'

Cecily and Sir Marmaduke both replied with a 'No, no!' and were
thankful, though in much suspense at the momentary pause, while again
he leant back on the cushions, looked steadily at the pin-holes, that
formed themselves into the word 'Sweet heart,' then suddenly began to
draw up the loose sleeve of his wrapping-gown and unbutton the wristband
of his right sleeve. His mother tried to help him, asking if he had hurt
or tired his arm. They would have been almost glad to hear that it was
so, but he shook her off impatiently, and the next moment had a view of
the freshly skinned over, but still wide and gaping gash on his arm. He
looked for a brief space, and said, 'It is a sword-cut.'

'Truly it is, lad,' said Sir Marmaduke, 'and a very bad one, happily
whole! Is this the first time you have seen it?'

He did not answer, but covered his eyes with his hand, and presently
burst out again, 'Then it is no dream? Sir--have I been to France?'

'Yes, my son, you have,' said Sir Marmaduke, gently, and with more
tenderness than could have been looked for; 'but what passed there is
much better viewed as a dream, and cast behind your back.'

Berenger had, while he spoke, taken up the same little mirror where he
had once admired himself; and as he beheld the scar and plaster that
disfigured his face, with a fresh start of recollection, muttered over,
'_"Barbouiller ce chien de visage"_--ay, so he said. I felt the pistol's
muzzle touch! Narcisse! Has God had mercy on me? I prayed Him. Ah! _"le
baiser d'Eustacie"_--so he said. I was waiting in the dark. Why did he
come instead of her? Oh! father, where is she?'

It was a sore task, but Sir Marmaduke went bravely and bluntly, though
far from unkindly, to the point: 'She remains with her friends in
France.'

There the youth's look of utter horror and misery shocked and startled
them all, and he groaned rather than said, 'Left there! Left to them!
What have I done to leave her there?'

'Come, Berenger, this will not serve,' said his mother, trying to rouse
and cheer him. 'You should rather be thankful that when you had been so
foully ensnared by their wiles, good Osbert brought you off with your
life away from those bloody doings. Yes, you may thank Heaven and
Osbert, for you are the only one of them living now.'

'Of whom, mother?'

'Of all the poor Protestants that like you were deluded by the pack of
murderers over there. What,'--fancying it would exhilarate him to hear
of his own escape--'you knew not that the bloody Guise and the Paris
cut-throats rose and slew every Huguenot they could lay hands on? Why,
did not the false wench put off your foolish runaway project for the
very purpose of getting you into the trap on the night of the massacre?'

He looked with a piteous, appealing glance from her to Cecily and Sir
Marmaduke, as if in hopes that they would contradict.

'Too true, my lad,' said Sir Marmaduke. 'It is Heaven's good mercy that
Osbert carried you out alive. No other Protestant left the palace alive
but the King of Navarre and his cousin, who turned renegades.'

'And she is left there?' he repeated.

'Heed her not, my dear boy,' began his mother; 'you are safe, and must
forget her ill-faith and----'

Berenger seemed scarcely to hear this speech--he held out his hands as
if stunned and dizzied, and only said, or rather indicated, 'Let me lie
down.'

His stepfather almost carried him across the room, and laid him on his
bed, where he turned away from the light and shut his eyes; but the knot
of ribbon and the pin-pricked word was still in his hand, and his mother
longed to take away the token of this false love, as she believed it.
The great clock struck the hour for her to go. 'Leave him quiet,'
said Cecily, gently; 'he can bear no more now. I will send over in the
evening to let you know how he fares.'

'But that he should be so set on the little bloodthirsty baggage,'
sighed Lady Thistlewood; and then going up to her son, she poured out
her explanation of being unable to stay, as her parents were already
at the Manor, with no better entertainers than Lucy, Philip, and the
children. She thanked him for the gifts, which she would take to them
with his love. All this passed by him as though he heard it not, but
when leaning down, she kissed his forehead, and at the same time tried
to withdraw the knot of ribbon: his fingers closed on it with a grasp
like steel, so cold were they, yet so fast.

Sir Masmaduke lingered a few moments behind her, and Berenger opening
his eyes, as if to see whether solitude had been achieved, found the
kind-hearted knight gazing at him with eyes full of tears. 'Berry, my
lad,' he said, 'bear it like a man. I know how hard it is. There's not
a woman of them all that an honest, plain Englishman has a chance with,
when a smooth-tongued Frenchman comes round her! But a man may live a
true and honest life however sore his heart may be, and God Almighty
makes it up to him if he faces it out manfully.'

Good Sir Marmaduke in his sympathy had utterly forgotten both Berenger's
French blood, and that he was the son of the very smooth-tongued
interloper who had robbed his life of its first bloom. Berenger was
altogether unequal to do more than murmur, as he held out his hand in
response to the kindness, 'You do not know her.'

'Ah! Poor lad.' Sir Marmaduke shook his head and left him to Cecily.

After the first shock, Berenger never rested till he had made Osbert,
Mr. Adderley, and Cecily tell him all they knew, and asked by name after
those whom he had known best at Paris. Alas! of all those, save such as
had been in the Ambassador's house, there was but one account to give.
Venerable warrior, noble-hearted youth, devoted pastor, all alike had
perished!

This frightful part of the story was altogether new to him. He had been
probably the earliest victim in the Louvre, as being the special object
of private malice, which had contrived to involve him in the general
catastrophe; and his own recollections carried him only to the flitting
of lights and ringing of bells, that has made him imagine that an alarm
of fire would afford a good opportunity of escape if SHE would but come.
A cloaked figure had approached,--he had held out his arms--met that
deadly stroke--heard the words hissed in his ear.

He owned that for some time past strange recollections had been flitting
though his mind--a perpetual unsatisfied longing for and expectation of
his wife, and confused impressions of scenes and people had harassed him
perpetually, even when he could not discern between dreams and reality;
but knowing that he had been very ill, he had endeavoured to account for
everything as delirious fancies, but had become increasingly distressed
by their vividness, confusion, and want of outward confirmation. At
last these solid tokens and pledges from that time had brought certainty
back, and with it the harmony and clearness of his memory: and the
strong affection, that even his oblivion had not extinguished, now
recurred in all its warmth to its object.

Four months had passed, as he now discovered, since that night when he
had hoped to have met Euctacie, and she must be believing him dead. His
first measure on the following day when he had been dressed and seated
in his chair was to send for his casket, and with his slow stiff arm
write thus:--

'Mon Coeur, My own sweetheart,--Hast thou thought me dead, and thyself
deserted? Osbert will tell thee all, and why I can scarce write. Trust
thyself to him to bring to me. I shall be whole seeing thee. Or if thou
canst not come with him, write or send me the least token by him, and I
will come and bear thee home so soon as I can put foot in stirrup. Would
that I could write all that is in my heart!

                                            'Thy Husband.'


It was all that either head or hand would enable him to say, but he
had the fullest confidence in Landry Osbert, who was one of the few who
understood him at half a word. He desired Osbert to seek the lady out
wherever she might be, whether still at court or in a convent, convey
the letter to her if possible, and, if she could by any means escape,
obtain from Chateau Leurre such an escort as she could come to England
with. If, as was too much to be feared, she was under too close
restraint, Osbert should send intelligence home, as he could readily do
through the Ambassador's household, and Berenger trusted by that time to
be able to take measures for claiming her in person.

Osbert readily undertook everything, but supplies for his journey were
needed, and there was an absolute commotion in the house when it was
known that Berenger had been writing to his faithless spouse, and
wishing to send for her. Lord Walwyn came up to visit his grandson, and
explain to him with much pity and consideration that he considered such
a step as vain, and only likely to lead to further insult. Berenger's
respect forced him to listen without interruption, and though he panted
to answer, it was a matter of much difficulty, for the old lord was
becoming deaf, and could not catch the indistinct, agitated words--

'My Lord, she is innocent as day.'

'Ah! Anan, boy.'

'I pledge my life on her love and innocence.'

'Love! Yes, my poor boy; but if she be unworthy?--Eh? Cecily, what says
he?'

'He is sure of her innocence, sir?'

'That is of course. But, my dear lad, you will soon learn that even a
gentle, good woman who has a conscience-keeper is too apt to think
her very sense of right ought to be sacrificed to what she calls her
religion.--What is it, what is he telling you, Cecily?'

'She was ready to be one of us,' Berenger said, with a great effort to
make it clear.

'Ah, a further snare. Poor child! The very softest of them become the
worst deceivers, and the kindred who have had the charge of her all
their life could no doubt bend her will.'

'Sir,' said Berenger, finding argument impossible, 'if you will but let
me dispatch Osbert, her answer will prove to you what she is.'

'There is something in that,' said Lord Walwyn, when he had heard it
repeated by Cecily. 'It is, of course, needful that both she and her
relations should be aware of Berenger's life, and I trow nothing but the
reply will convince him.'

'Convince him!' muttered Berenger. 'Oh that I could make him understand.
What a wretch I am to have no voice to defend her!'

'What?' said the old lord again.

'Only that I could speak, sir; you should know why it is sacrilege to
doubt her.'

'Ah! well, we will not wound you, my son, while talk is vain. You shall
have the means of sending your groom, if thus you will set your mind at
rest, though I had rather have trusted to Walsingham's dealing. I will
myself give him a letter to Sir Francis, to forward him on his way; and
should the young lady prove willing to hold to her contract and come
to you here, I will pray him to do everything to aid her that may be
consistent with his duty in his post.'

This was a great and wonderful concession for Lord Walwyn, and Berenger
was forced to be contented with it, though it galled him terribly to
have Eustacie distrusted, and be unable to make his vindication even
heard or understood, as well as to be forced to leave her rescue, and
even his own explanation to her, to a mere servant.

This revival of his memory had not at all conduced to his progress in
recovery. His brain was in no state for excitement or agitation, and
pain and confusion were the consequence, and were counteracted, after
the practice of the time, by profuse bleedings, which prolonged his
weakness. The splintered state of the jaw and roof of the moth likewise
produced effects that made him suffer severely, and deprived him at
times even of the small power of speech that he usually possessed; and
though he had set his heart upon being able to start for Paris so soon
as Osbert's answer should arrive, each little imprudence he committed,
in order to convince himself of his progress, threw him back so
seriously, that he was barely able to walk down-stairs to the hall, and
sit watching--watching, so that it was piteous to see him--the gates
of the courtyard, but the time that, on a cold March day, a booted and
spurred courier (not Osbert) entered by them.

He sprang up, and faster than he had yet attempted to move, met the man
in the hall, and demanded the packet. It was a large one, done up
in canvas, and addressed to the Right Honourable and Worshipful Sir
William, Baron Walwyn of Hurst Walwyn, and he had further to endure the
delay of carrying it to his grandfather's library, which he entered with
far less delay and ceremony than was his wont. 'Sit down, Berenger,'
said the old man, while addressing himself to the fastenings; and the
permission was needed, for he could hardly have stood another minute.
The covering contained a letter to Lord Walwyn himself, and a packet
addressed to the Baron de Ribaumont which his trembling fingers could
scarcely succeed in cutting and tearing open.

How shall it be told what the contents of the packet were? Lord Walwyn
reading on with much concern, but little surprise, was nevertheless
startled by the fierce shout with which Berenger broke out:

'A lie! A lie forged in hell!' And then seizing the parchment, was about
to rend it with all the force of passion, when his grandfather, seizing
his hand, said, in his calm, authoritative voice, 'Patience, my poor
son.'

'How, how should I have patience when they send me such poisoned lies as
these of my wife, and she is in the power of the villains? Grandfather,
I must go instantly---'

'Let me know what you have heard,' said Lord Walwyn, holding him feebly
indeed, but with all the impressive power and gravity of his years.

'Falsehoods,' said Berenger, pushing the whole mass of papers over to
him, and then hiding his head between his arms on the table.

Lord Walwyn finished his own letter first. Walsingham wrote with
much kind compassion, but quite decisively. He had no doubt that the
Ribaumont family had acted as one wheel in the great plot that had
destroyed all the heads of Protestant families and swept away among
others, as they had hoped, the only scion of the rival house. The old
Chevalier de Ribaumont had, he said, begun by expressing sorrow for
the mischance that had exposed his brave young cousin to be lost in the
general catastrophe, and he had professed proportionate satisfaction on
hearing of the young man's safety. But the Ambassador believed him to
have been privy to his son's designs; and whether Mdlle. de Nid de Merle
herself had been a willing agent or not, she certainly had remained
in the hands of the family. The decree annulling the marriage had been
published, the lady was in a convent in Anjou, and Narcisse de Ribaumont
had just been permitted to assume the title of Marquis de Nid de Merle,
and was gone into Anjou to espouse her. Sir Francis added a message of
commiseration for the young Baron, but could not help congratulating his
old friend on having his grandson safe and free from these inconvenient
ties.

Berenger's own packet contained, in the first place, a copy of the
cassation of the marriage, on the ground of its having been contracted
when the parties were of too tender age to give their legal consent, and
its having been unsatisfied since they had reached ecclesiastical years
for lawful contraction of wedlock.

The second was one of the old Chevalier's polite productions. He was
perfectly able to ignore Berenger's revocation of his application for
the separation, since the first letter had remained unanswered, and the
King's peremptory commands had prevented Berenger from taking any open
measures after his return from Montpipeau. Thus the old gentleman, after
expressing due rejoicing at his dear young cousin's recovery, and regret
at the unfortunate mischance that had led to his confounded with the
many suspected Huguenots, proceeded as if matters stood exactly as
they had been before the pall-mall party, and as if the decree that he
enclosed were obtained in accordance with the young Baron's intentions.
He had caused it to be duly registered, and both parties were at liberty
to enter upon other contracts of matrimony. The further arrangements
which Berenger had undertaken to sell his lands in Normandy, and his
claim on the ancestral castle in Picardy, should be carried out, and
deeds sent for his signature so soon as he should be of age. In the
meantime, the Chevalier courteously imparted to his fair cousin the
marriage of his daughter, Mademoiselle Diane de Ribaumont with M. le
Comte de Selinville, which had taken place on the last St. Martin's day,
and of his niece, Mademoiselle Eustacie de Ribaumont de Nid de Merle
with his son, who had received permission to take her father's title
of Marquis de Nid de Merle. The wedding was to take place at Bellaise
before the end of the Cardinal, and would be concluded before this
letter came to hand.

Lastly, there was an ill written and spelt letter, running somewhat
thus--

'Monseigneur,--Your faithful servant hopes that Monsieur le Baron will
forgive him for not returning, since I have been assured by good priests
that it is not possible to save my soul in a country of heretics. I have
done everything as Monsieur commanded, I have gone down into Anjou,
and have had the honour to see the young lady to whom Monsieur le
Baron charged me with a commission, and I delivered to her his letter,
whereupon the lady replied that she thanked M. le Baron for the honour
he had done her, but that being on the point of marriage to M. le
Marquis de Nid de Merle, she did not deem it fitting to write to him,
nor had she any tokens to send him, save what he had received on the
St. Barthelemy midnight; they might further his suit elsewhere. These,
Monsieur, were her words, and she laughed as she said them, so gaily
that I thought her fairer than ever. I have prevailed with her to take
me into her service as intendant of the Chateau de Nid de Merle, knowing
as she does my fidelity to the name of Ribaumont. And so, trusting
Monseigneur will pardon me for what I do solely for the good of my soul,
I will ever pray for his welfare, and remain,

                               'His faithful menial and valet,
                                         'LANDRY OSBERT.'

The result was only what Lord Walwyn had anticipated, but he was
nevertheless shocked at the crushing weight of the blow. His heart was
full of compassion for the youth so cruelly treated in these his first
years of life, and as much torn in his affections as mangled in person.
After a pause, while he gathered up the sense of the letters, he laid
his hand kindly on his grandson's arm, and said, 'This is a woeful
budget, my poor son; we will do our best to help you to bear it.'

'The only way to bear it,' said Berenger, lifting up his face, 'is
for me to take horse and make for Anjou instantly. She will hold out
bravely, and I may yet save her.'

'Madness,' said his grandfather; 'you have then not read your fellow's
letter?'

'I read no letter from fellow of mine. Yonder is a vile forgery.
Narcisse's own, most likely. No one else would have so profaned her as
to put such words into her mouth! My dear faithful foster-brother--have
they murdered him?'

'Can you point to any proof that it is forged?' said Lord Walwyn, aware
that handwriting was too difficult an art, and far too crabbed,
among persons of Osbert's class, for there to be any individuality of
penmanship.

'It is all forged,' said Berenger. 'It is as false that she could frame
such a message as that poor Osbert would leave me.'

'These priests have much power over the conscience,' began Lord Walwyn;
but Berenger, interrupting his grandfather for the first time in his
life, cried, 'No priest could change her whole nature. Oh! my wife! my
darling! what may they not be inflicting on her now! Sir, I must go. She
may be saved! The deadly sin may be prevented!'

'This is mere raving, Berenger,' said Lord Walwyn, not catching half
what he said, and understanding little more than his resolution to
hasten in quest of the lady. 'You, who have not mounted a horse, nor
walked across the pleasance yet!'

'My limbs should serve me to rescue her, or they are worth nothing to
me.'

Lord Walwyn would have argued that he need not regret his incapacity
to move, since it was no doubt already too late, but Berenger burst
forth--'She will resist; she will resist to the utmost, even if she
deems me dead. Tortures will not shake her when she knows I live. I must
prepare.' And he started to his feet.

'Grandson,' said Lord Walwyn, laying a hand on his arm, 'listen to me.
You are in not state to judge for yourself. I therefore command you to
desist from this mad purpose.'

He spoke gravely, but Berenger was disobedient for the first time. 'My
Lord,' he said, 'you are but my grandfather. She is my wife. My duty is
to her.'

He had plucked his sleeve away and was gone, before Lord Walwyn had been
able to reason with him that there was no wife in the case, a conclusion
at which the old statesman would not have arrived had he known of the
ceremony at Montpipeau, and all that had there passed; but not only
did Berenger deem himself bound to respect the King's secret, but
conversation was so difficult to him that he had told very little of his
adventures, and less to Lord Walwyn than any one else. In effect,
his grandfather considered this resolution of going to France as mere
frenzy, and so it almost was, not only on the score of health
and danger, but because as a ward, he was still so entirely under
subjection, that his journey could have been hindered by absolutely
forcible detention; and to this Lord Walwyn intended to resort, unless
the poor youth either came to a more rational mind, or became absolutely
unable to travel.

The last--as he had apprehended--came to pass only too surely. The very
attempt to argue and to defend Eustacie was too much for the injured
head; and long before night Berenger full believed himself on
the journey, acted over its incidents, and struggled wildly with
difficulties, all the time lying on his bed, with the old servants
holding him down, and Cecily listening tearfully to his ravings.

For weeks longer he was to lie there in greater danger than ever. He
only seemed soothed into quiet when Cecily chanted those old Latin hymns
of her Benedictine rule, and then--when he could speak at all--he showed
himself to be in imagination praying in Eustacie's convent chapel, sure
to speak to her when the service should be over.



CHAPTER XV. NOTRE-DAME DE BELLAISE*



There came a man by middle day, He spied his sport and went away, And
brought the king that very night, And brake my bower and slew my knight.                        The Border Widow's Lament


*[footnote: Bellaise is not meant for a type of all nunneries, but
of the condition to which many of the lesser ones had come before the
general reaction and purification of the seventeenth century.]


That same Latin hymn which Cecily St. John daily chanted in her own
chamber was due from the choir of Cistercian sisters in the chapel of
the Convent of Our Lady at Bellaise, in the Bocage of Anjou; but there
was a convenient practice of lumping together the entire night and
forenoon hours at nine o'clock in the morning, and all the evening ones
at Compline, so that the sisters might have undisturbed sleep at
night and entertainment by day. Bellaise was a very comfortable little
nunnery, which only received richly dowered inmates, and was therefore
able to maintain them in much ease, though without giving occasion to a
breath of scandal. Founded by a daughter of the first Angevin Ribaumont,
it had become a sort of appanage for the superfluous daughters of the
house, and nothing would more have amazed its present head, Eustacie
Barbe de Ribaumont,--conventually known as La Mere Marie Seraphine de
St.-Louis, and to the world as Madame de Bellaise,--than to be accused
of not fulfilling the intentions of the Bienheureuse Barbe, the
foundress, or of her patron St. Bernard.

Madame de Bellaise was a fine-looking woman of forty, in a high state
of preservation, owing to the healthy life she had led. Her eyes were of
brilliant, beautiful black her complexion had a glow, her hair--for she
wore it visibly--formed crisp rolls of jetty ringlets on her temples,
almost hiding her close white cap. The heavy thick veil was tucked back
beneath the furred purple silk hood that fastened under her chin. The
white robes of her order were not of serge, but of the finest cloth, and
were almost hidden by a short purple cloak with sleeves, likewise lined
and edged with fur, and fastened on the bosom with a gold brooch. Her
fingers, bearing more rings than the signet of her house, were concealed
in embroidered gauntlets of Spanish leather. One of them held an
ivory-handled riding-rod, the other the reins of the well-fed jennet, on
which the lady, on a fine afternoon, late in the Carnival, was cantering
home through the lanes of the Bocage, after a successful morning's
hawking among the wheat-ears. She was attended by a pair of sisters,
arrayed somewhat in the same style, and by a pair of mounted grooms, the
falconer with his charge having gone home by a footway.

The sound of horses' feet approaching made her look towards a long lane
that came down at right angles to that along which she was riding, and
slacken her pace before coming to its opening. And as she arrived at the
intersection, she beheld advancing, mounted on a little rough pony, the
spare figure of her brother the Chevalier, in his home suit, so greasy
and frayed, that only his plumed hat (and a rusty plume it was) and the
old sword at his side showed his high degree.

He waved his hand to her as a sign to halt, and rode quickly up,
scarcely giving time for a greeting ere he said, 'Sister the little one
is not out with you.'

'No, truly, the little mad thing, she is stricter and more head-strong
than ever was her preceptress. Poor Monique! I had hoped that we
should be at rest when that _cass-tete_ had carried off her scruples
to Ste.-Claire, at Lucon, but here is this little droll far beyond her,
without being even a nun!'

'Assuredly not. The business must be concluded at once. She must be
married before Lent.'

'That will scarce be--in her present frame.'

'It must be. Listen, sister. Here is this miserable alive!'

'Her spouse!'

'Folly about her spouse! The decree from Rome has annulled the foolish
mummery of her infancy. It came a week after the Protestant conspiracy,
and was registered when the Norman peasants at Chateau Leurre showed
contumacy. It was well; for, behold, our gallant is among his English
friends, recovering, and even writing a billet. Anon he will be upon our
hands in person. By the best fortune, Gillot fell in with his messenger
this morning, prowling about on his way to the convent, and brought him
to me to be examined. I laid him fat in ward, and sent Gillot off to
ride day and night to bring my son down to secure the girl at once.'

'You will never obtain her consent. She is distractedly in love with his
memory! Let her guess at his life, and---'

'Precisely. Therefore must we be speedy. All Paris knows it by this
time, for the fellow went straight to the English Ambassador; and I
trust my son has been wise enough to set off already; for should we wait
till after Lent, Monsieur le Baron himself might be upon us.'

'Poor child! You men little heed how you make a woman suffer.'

'How, Reverend Mother! you pleading for a heretic marriage, that would
give our rights to a Huguenot--what say I?--an English renegade!'

'I plead not, brother. The injustice towards you must be repaired; but
I have a certain love for my niece, and I fear she will be heartbroken
when she learns the truth, the poor child.'

'Bah! The Abbess should rejoice in thus saving her soul! How if her
heretic treated Bellaise like the convents of England?'

'No threats, brother. As a daughter of Ribaumont and a mother of the
Church will I stand by you,' said the Abbess with dignity.

'And now tell me how it has been with the child. I have not seen her
since we agreed that the request did but aggravate her. You said her
health was better since her nurse had been so often with her, and that
she had ceased from her austerities.'

'Not entirely; for when first she came, in her transports of despair and
grief on finding Soeur Monique removed, she extorted from Father Bonami
a sort of hope that she might yet save her husband's, I mean the Baron's
soul. Then, truly, it was a frenzy of fasts and prayers. Father Bonami
has made his profit, and so have the fathers of Chollet--all her money
has gone in masses, and in alms to purchase the prayers of the poor,
and she herself fasting on bread and water, kneeling barefooted in the
chapel till she was transfixed with cold. No _chaufferette_, not she!
Obstinate to the last degree! Tell her she would die--it was the best
news one could bring; all her desire, to be in a more rigid house with
Soeur Monique at Lucon. At length, Mere Perrine and Veronique found her
actually fainting and powerless with cold on the chapel-floor; and since
that time she has been more reasonable. There are prayers as much as
ever; but the fancy to kill herself with fasting has passed. She begins
to recover her looks, nay, sometimes I have thought she had an air of
hope in her eyes and lips; but what know I? I have much to occupy me,
and she persists in shutting herself up with her woman.'

'You have not allowed her any communication from without?'

'Mere Perrine has come and gone freely; but she is nothing. No, the
child could have no correspondence. She did, indeed, write a letter to
the Queen, as you know, brother, six weeks ago; but that has never been
answered, nor could any letters have harmed you, since it is only now
that this young man is known to be living.'

'You are right, sister. No harm can have been done. All will go well.
The child must be wearied with her frenzy of grief and devotion! She
will catch gladly at an excuse for change. A scene or two, and she will
readily yield!'

'It is true,' said the Abbess, thoughtfully, 'that she has walked and
ridden out lately. She has asked questions about her Chateaux, and their
garrisons. I have heard nothing of the stricter convent for many weeks;
but still, brother, you must go warily to work.'

'And you, sister, must show no relenting. Let her not fancy she can work
upon you.'

By this time the brother and sister were at the gateway of the convent;
a lay sister presided there, but there was no _cloture_, as the strict
seclusion of a nunnery was called, and the Chevalier rode into the
cloistered quadrangle as naturally as if he had been entering a secular
Chateau, dismounted at the porch of the hall, and followed Madame de
Bellaise to the parlour, while she dispatched a request that her niece
would attend her there.

The parlour had no grating to divide it, but was merely a large room
furnished with tapestry, carved chests, chairs, and cushions, much
like other reception-rooms. A large, cheerful wood-fire blazed upon
the hearth, and there was a certain air of preparation, as indeed an
ecclesiastical dignity from Saumur was expected to sup with the ladies
that evening.

After some interval, spent by the Chevalier in warming himself, a low
voice at the door was heard, saying, '_Deus vobiscum_.' The Abbess
answered, '_Et cum spiritu tuo_;' and on this monastic substitute for a
knock and 'come in,' there appeared a figure draped and veiled from head
to foot in heavy black, so as to look almost like a sable moving
cone. She made an obeisance as she entered, saying, 'You commanded my
presence, Madame?'

'Your uncle would speak to you, daughter, on affairs of moment.'

'At his service. I, too, would speak to him.'

'First, then, my dear friend,' said the Chevalier, 'let me see you. That
face must not be muffled any longer from those who love you.'

She made no movement of obedience, until her aunt peremptorily bade her
turn back her veil. She did so, and disclosed the little face, so well
known to her uncle, but less childish in its form, and the dark eyes
sparkling, though at once softer and more resolute.

'Ah! my fair niece,' said the Chevalier, 'this is no visage to be
hidden! I am glad to see it re-embellished, and it will be lovelier than
ever when you have cast off this disguised.'

'That will never be,' said Eustacie.

'Ah! we know better! My daughter is sending down a counterpart of her
own wedding-dress for your bride of the _Mardi-Gras_.'

'And who may that bride be?' said Eustacie, endeavouring to speak as
though it were nothing to her.

'Nay, _ma petite_! it is too long to play the ignorant when the
bridegroom is on his way from Paris.'

'Madame,' said Eustacie, turning to her aunt, 'you cannot suffer this
scandal. The meanest peasant may weep her first year of widowhood in
peace.'

'Listen, child. There are weighty reasons. The Duke of Anjou is a
candidate for the throne of Poland, and my son is to accompany him
thither. He must go as Marquis de Nid de Merle, in full possession of
your estates.'

'Let him take them,' began Eustacie, 'who first commits a cowardly
murder, and then forces himself on the widow he has made?'

'Folly, child, folly,' said the Chevalier, who supposed her ignorant of
the circumstances of her husband's assassination; and the Abbess, who
was really ignorant, exclaimed--'_Fid donc_ niece; you know not what you
say.'

'I know, Madame--I know from an eye-witness,' said Eustacie, firmly. 'I
know the brutal words that embittered my husband's death; and were
there no other cause, they would render wedlock with him who spoke them
sacrilege.' Resolutely and steadily did the young wife speak, looking
at them with the dry fixed eye to which tears had been denied ever since
that eventful night.'

'Poor child,' said the Chevalier to his sister. 'She is under the
delusion still. Husband! There is none in the case.' Then waving his
hand as Eustacie's face grew crimson, and her eyes flashed indignation,
while her lips parted, 'It was her own folly that rendered it needful to
put an end to the boy's presumption. Had she been less willful and more
obedient, instead of turning the poor lad's head by playing at madame,
we could have let him return to his island fogs; but when SHE encouraged
him in contemplating the carrying her away, and alienating her and her
lands from the true faith, there was but one remedy--to let him perish
with the rest. My son is willing to forgive her childish pleasure in
a boy's passing homage, and has obtained the King's sanction to an
immediate marriage.'

'Which, to spare you, my dear,' added the aunt, 'shall take place in our
chapel.'

'It shall never take place anywhere,' said Eustacie, quietly, though
with a quiver in her voice; 'no priest will wed me when he has heard
me.'

'The dispensation will overcome all scruples,' said the Abbess. 'Hear
me, niece. I am sorry for you, but it is best that you should know at
once that there is nothing in heaven or earth to aid you in resisting
your duty.'

Eustacie made no answer, but there was a strange half-smile on her lip,
and a light in her eye which gave her an air not so much of entreaty as
of defiance. She glanced from one to the other, as if considering, but
then slightly shook her head. 'What does she mean?' asked the Chevalier
and the Abbess one of another, as, with a dignified gesture, she moved
to leave the room.

'Follow her. Convince her that she has no hope,' said the uncle; and
the Abbess, moving faster than her wont, came up with her at the archway
whence one corridor led to the chapel, another to her own apartments.
Her veil was down again, but her aunt roughly withdrew it, saying, 'Look
at me, Eustacie. I come to warn you that you need not look to tamper
with the sisters. Not one will aid you in your headstrong folly. If you
cast not off ere supper-time this mockery of mourning, you shall taste
of that discipline you used to sigh for. We have borne with your fancy
long enough--you, who are no more a widow than I--nor wife.'

'Wife and widow am I in the sight of Him who will protect me,' said
Eustacie, standing her ground.

'Insolent! Why, did I not excuse this as a childish delusion, should I
not spurn one who durst love--what say I--not a heretic merely, but the
foe of her father's house?'

'He!' cried Eustacie; 'what had he ever done?'

'He inherited the blood of the traitor Baron,' returned her aunt. 'Ever
have that recreant line injured us! My nephew's sword avenged the wrongs
of many generations.'

'Then,' said Eustacie, looking at her with a steady, fixed look of
inquire, 'you, Madame l'Abbesse, would have neither mercy nor pity for
the most innocent offspring of the elder line?'

'Girl, what folly is this to talk to me of innocence. That is not
the question. The question is--obey willingly as my dear daughter, or
compulsion must be used.'

'My question is answered,' said Eustacie, on her side. 'I see that there
is neither pity nor hope from you.'

And with another obeisance, she turned to ascend the stairs. Madame
paced back to her brother.

'What,' he said; 'you have not yet dealt with her?'

'No, brother, I never saw a like mood. She seems neither to fear nor
to struggle. I knew she was too true a Ribaumont for weak tears and
entreaties; but, fiery little being as once she was, I looked to see her
force spend itself in passion, and that then the victory would have been
easy; but no, she ever looks as if she had some inward resource--some
security--and therefore could be calm. I should deem it some Huguenot
fanaticism, but she is a very saint as to the prayers of the Church, the
very torment of our lives.'

'Could she escape?' exclaimed the Chevalier, who had been considering
while his sister was speaking.

'Impossible! Besides, where could she go? But the gates shall be closed.
I will warn the portress to let none pass out without my permission.'

'The Chevalier took a turn up and down the room; then exclaimed, 'It
was very ill-advised to let her women have access to her! Let us have
Veronique summoned instantly.'

At that moment, however, the ponderous carriage of Monseigneur, with
out-riders, both lay and clerical, came trampling up to the archway,
and the Abbess hurried off to her own apartment to divest herself of her
hunting-gear ere she received her guest; and the orders to one of the
nuns to keep a watch on her niece were oddly mixed with those to the
cook, confectioner, and butterer.

La Mere Marie Saraphine was not a cruel or an unkind woman. She had been
very fond of her pretty little niece in her childhood, but had
deeply resented the arrangement which had removed her from her own
superintendence to that of the Englishwoman, besides the uniting to the
young Baron one whom she deemed the absolute right of Narcisse. She had
received Eustacie on her first return with great joy, and had always
treated her with much indulgence, and when the drooping, broken-hearted
girl came back once more to the shelter of her convent, the
good-humoured Abbess only wished to make her happy again.

But Eustacie's misery was far beyond the ken of her aunt, and the jovial
turn of these consolations did but deepen her agony. To be congratulated
on her release from the heretic, assured of future happiness with her
cousin, and, above all, to hear Berenger abused with all the bitterness
of rival family and rival religion, tore up the lacerated spirit. Ill,
dejected, and broken down, too subdued to fire up in defence, and only
longing for the power of indulging in silent grief, Eustacie had shrunk
from her, and wrapped herself up in the ceaseless round of masses and
prayers, in which she was allowed to perceive a glimmering of hope for
her husband's soul. The Abbess, ever busy with affairs of her convent or
matters of pleasure, soon relinquished the vain attempt to console where
she could not sympathize, trusted that the fever of devotion would wear
itself out, and left her niece to herself. Of the seven nuns, two were
decorously gay, like their Mother Abbess; one was a prodigious worker
of tapestry, two were unrivalled save by one another as confectioners.
Eustacie had been their pet in her younger days; now she was out of
their reach, they tried in turn to comfort her; and when she would not
be comforted, they, too, felt aggrieved by the presence of one whose
austerity reproached their own laxity; they resented her disappointment
at Soeur Monique's having been transferred to Lucon, and they, too,
left her to the only persons whose presence she had ever seemed to
relish,--namely, her maid Veronique, and Veronique's mother, her old
nurse Perrine, wife of a farmer about two miles off. The woman had been
Eustacie's foster-mother, and continued to exert over her much of the
caressing care of a nurse.

After parting with her aunt, Eustacie for a moment looked towards the
chapel, then, clasping her hands, murmured to herself, 'No! no! speed is
my best hope;' and at once mounted the stairs, and entered a room, where
the large stone crucifix, a waxen Madonna, and the holy water font
gave a cell-like aspect to the room; and a straw pallet covered with
sackcloth was on the floor, a richly curtained couch driven into the
rear, as unused.

She knelt for a moment before the Madonna; 'Ave Maria, be with me and
mine. Oh! blessed Lady, thou hadst to fly with thy Holy One from cruel
men. Have thou pity on the fatherless!'

Then going to the door, she clapped her hands; and, as Veronique
entered, she bade her shut and bolt the door, and at the same moment
began in nervous haste to throw off her veil and unfasten her dress.

'Make haste, Veronique. A dress of thine---'

'All is known, then!' cried Veronique, throwing up her arms.

'No, but he is coming--Narcisse--to marry me at once--_Marde-Gras_---'

'_Et quoi_? Madame has but to speak the word, and it is impossible.'

'And after what my aunt has said, I would die a thousand deaths ere
speaking that word. I asked her, Veronique! She would have vengeance
on the most guiltless--the most guiltless--do you hear?--of the Norman
house. Never, never shall she have the chance! Come, thy striped
petticoat!'

'But, oh! what will Madame do? Where would she go? Oh! it is
impossible.'

'First to thy father's. Yes, I know. He has once called it a madness
to think of rallying my vassals to protect their lady. That was when
he heard of it from thee--thou faint of heart--and thy mother. I shall
speak to him in person now. Make haste, I tell thee, girl. I must be out
of this place before I am watched or guarded,' she added breathlessly.
'I feel as if each moment I lost might have death upon it;' and she
looked about her like a startled deer.

'To my father's. Ah! there it is not so ill! But the twilights, the
length of way,' sobbed Veronique, in grievous distress and perplexity.
'Oh! Madame, I cannot see you go. The Mother Abbess is good. She must
have pity. Oh, trust to her!'

'Trust! Did I not trust to my cousin Diane? Never! Nothing will kill me
but remaining in their hands.'

Veronique argued and implored in vain. Ever since, in the height of
those vehement austerities by which the bereaved and shattered sufferer
strove to appease her wretchedness by the utmost endeavour to save her
husband's soul, the old foster-mother had made known to her that she
might thus sacrifice another than herself. Eustacie's elastic heart had
begun to revive, with all its dauntless strength of will. What to her
women seemed only a fear, was to her only a hope.

Frank and confiding as was her nature, however, the cruel deceptions
already practiced on her by her own kindred, together with the harsh
words with which the Abbess spoke of Berenger, had made her aware
that no comfort must be looked for in that quarter. It was, after all,
perhaps her won instinct, and the aunt's want of sympathy, that withheld
her from seeking counsel of any save Perrine and her daughter, at any
rate till she could communicate with the kind young Queen. To her, then,
Eustacie had written, entreating that a royal mandate would recall her
in time to bestow herself in some trustworthy hands, or even in her
husband's won Norman castle, where his heir would be both safe and
welcome. But time has passed--the whole space that she had reckoned as
needful for the going and coming of her messenger--allowing for all the
obstructions of winter roads--nay, he had come back; she knew letter was
delivered, but answer there was none. It might yet come--perhaps a royal
carriage and escort--and day after day had she waited and hoped, only
tardily admitting the conviction that Elisabeth of Austria was as
powerless as Eustacie de Ribaumont, and meantime revolving and proposing
many a scheme that could only have entered the brain of a brave-spirited
child as she was. To appeal to her vassals, garrison with them a ruinous
old tower in the woods, and thence send for aid to the Montmorencys;
to ride to Saumur, and claim the protection of the governor of the
province; to make her way to the coast and sail for England; to start
for Paris, and throw herself in person on the Queen's protection,--all
had occurred to her, and been discussed with her two _confidantes_;
but the hope of the Queen's interference, together with the exceeding
difficulty of acting, had hitherto prevented her from taking any
steps, since no suspicion had arisen in the minds of those about
her. Veronique, caring infinitely more for her mistress's health and
well-being than for the object of Eustacie's anxieties, had always
secretly trusted that delay would last till action was impossible, and
that the discovery would be made, only without her being accused of
treason. In the present stress of danger, she could but lament and
entreat, for Eustacie's resolution bore her down; and besides, as she
said to herself, her Lady was after all going to her foster-father and
mother, who would make her hear reason, and bring her back at once,
and then there would be no anger nor disgrace incurred. The dark muddy
length of walk would be the worst of it--and, bah! most likely Madame
would be convinced by it, and return of her own accord.

So Veronique, though not intermitting her protests, adjusted her own
dress upon her mistress,--short striped petticoat, black bodice, winged
turban-like white cap, and a great muffling gray cloth cloak and hook
over the head and shoulders--the costume in which Veronique was wont to
run to her home in the twilight on various errands, chiefly to carry
her mistress's linen; for starching Eustacie's plain bands and cuffs
was Mere Perrine's special pride. The wonted bundle, therefore, now
contained a few garments, and the money and jewels, especially the
chaplet of pearls, which Eustacie regarded as a trust.

Sobbing, and still protesting, Veronique, however, engaged that if her
Lady succeeded in safely crossing the kitchen in the twilight, and in
leaving the convent, she would keep the secret of her escape as long
as possible, reporting her refusal to appear at supper, and making such
excuses as might very probably prevent the discovery of her flight till
next day.

'And then,' said Eustacie, 'I will send for thee, either to Saumur or
to the old tower! Adieu, dear Veronique, do not be frightened. Thou
dost not know how glad I am that the time for doing something is come!
To-morrow!'

'To-morrow!' thought Veronique, as she shut the door; 'before that you
will be back here again, my poor little Lady, trembling, weeping, in
dire need of being comforted. But I will make up a good fire, and shake
out the bed. I'll let her have no more of that villainous palliasse. No,
no, let her try her own way, and repent of it; then, when this matter is
over, she will turn her mind to Chevalier Narcisse, and there will be no
more languishing in this miserable hole.'



CHAPTER XVI. THE HEARTHS AND THICKETS OF THE BOCAGE.



I winna spare for his tender age,    Nor yet for his hie kin;
  But soon as ever he born is,
He shall mount the gallow's pin.--Fause Foodrage.


Dusk was closing in, but lamps had not yet been lighted, when with a
trembling, yet almost a bounding heart, Eustacie stole down the stone
staircase, leading to a back-door--an utterly uncanonical appendage to a
nunnery, but one much used among the domestic establishment of Bellaise.

A gleam of red light spread across the passage from the half-open
kitchen door, whence issued the savoury steam of the supper preparing
for Monseigneur. Eustacie had just cautiously traversed it, when the
voice of the presiding lay-sister called out, 'Veronique, is that you?'

'Sister!' returned Eustacie, with as much of the Angevin twang as she
could assume.

'Where are you going?'

'To the Orchard Farm with this linen.'

'Ah! it must be. But there are strict orders come from Madame about
nobody going out unreported, and you may chance to find the door locked
if you do not come back in good time. Oh! and I had well-night forgot;
tell your mother to be here early to-morrow, Madame would speak with
her.'

Eustacie assented, half stifled by the great throb of her fluttering
heart at the sense that she had indeed seized the last moment. Forth
then she stepped. How dark, waste, and lonely the open field looked!
But her heart did not fail her; she could only feel that a captivity was
over, and the most vague and terrible of her anxieties soothed, as she
made her way into one of the long shady lanes of the Bocage. It was
nearly dark, and very muddy, but she had all the familiarity of a native
with the way, and the farm, where she had trotted about in her infancy
like a peasant's child, always seemed like home to her. It had been a
prime treat to visit it during her time of education at the convent, and
there was an association of pleasure in treading the path that seemed to
bear her up, and give her enjoyment in the mere adventure and feeling
of escape and liberty. She had no fear of the dark, nor of the distant
barking of dogs, but the mire was deep, and it was plodding work in
those heavy _sabots_, up the lane that led from the convent; and the
poor child was sorely weary long before she came to the top of the low
hill that she used scarcely to know to be rising round at all. The stars
had come out; and as she sat for a few moments to rest on a large
stone, she saw the lights of the cottage fires in the village below, and
looking round could also see the many gleams in the convent windows, the
read fire-light in her own room among them. She shivered a little as
she thought of its glowing comfort, but turned her back resolutely,
tightened her cloak over her head, looked up to a glimmer in the
watch-tower of her own castle far above her on the hill and closed
against her; and then smiled to herself with hope at the sparkle of a
window in a lonely farmhouse among the fields.

With fresh vigour she rose, and found her way through lane and
field-path to the paddock where she had so often played. Here a couple
of huge dogs dashed forward with an explosion of barks, dying away into
low growls as she spoke to them by their names, and called aloud on
'Blaise!' and 'Mere Perrine!' The cottage door was opened, the light
streamed forth, and a man's head in a broad had appeared. 'Veronique,
girl, is this an hour to be gadding abroad?'

'Blaise, do you not know me?'

'It is our Lady. Ah!'

The next moment the wanderer was seated in the ample wooden chair of the
head of the family, the farmer and his two stout sons standing before
her as their liege Lady, and Mere Perrine hanging over her, in great
anxiety, not wholly dispelled by her low girlish laugh, partly of
exultation at her successful evasion, partly of amusement at their
wonder, and partly, too, because it was so natural to her to enjoy
herself at that hearth that she could not help it. A savoury mess from
the great caldron that was for ever stewing over the fire was at once
fished out for her, before she was allowed to explain herself; and as
she ate with the carved spoon and from the earthenware crock that had
been called Mademoiselle's ever since her baby-days, Perrine chafed
and warmed her feet, fondled her, and assured her, as if she were still
their spoiled child, that they would do all she wished.

Pierre and Tiennot, the two sons, were sent out to fodder the cattle,
and keep careful watch for any sounds of pursuers from the convent;
and Blaise, in the plenitude of his respects and deference, would have
followed them, but Eustacie desired him to remain to give her counsel.

Her first inquire was after the watch-tower. She did not care for any
discomfort if her vassals would be faithful, and hold it out for her,
till she could send for help to the allies of her husband's house, and
her eyes glanced as she spoke.

But Blaise shook his head. He had looked at the tower as Madame bade,
but it was all in ruins, crumbling away, and, moreover, M. le Chevalier
had put a forester there--a grim, bad subject, who had been in the
Italian wars, and cared neither for saint nor devil, except Chevalier
Narcisse. Indeed, even if he had not been there, the place was
untenable, it would only be getting into a trap.

'Count Hebert held it out for twelve days against the English!' said
Eustacie, proudly.

'Ah! ah! but there were none of your falconets, or what call you those
cannons then. No; if Madame would present herself as a choice morsel for
Monsieur le Chevalier to snap up, that is the place.'

Then came the other plan of getting an escort of the peasants together,
and riding with them towards the Huguenot territories around La
Rochelle, where, for her husband's sake, Eustacie could hardly fail
to obtain friends. It was the more practicable expedient, but Blaise
groaned over it, wondered how many of the farmers could be trusted,
or brought together, and finally expressed his intention of going to
consult Martin, his staunch friend, at the next farm. Meantime, Madame
had better lie down and sleep. And Madame did sleep, in Perrine's huge
box-bedstead, with a sweet, calm, childlike slumber, whilst her nurse
sat watching her with eyes full of tears of pity and distress; the poor
young thing's buoyant hopefulness and absence of all fear seemed to the
old woman especially sad, and like a sort of want of comprehension of
the full peril in which she stood.

Not till near dawn was Eustacie startled from her rest by approaching
steps. 'Nurse, is all ready?' she cried. 'Can we set off? Are the horses
there?'

'No, my child; it is but my good man and Martin who would speak with
you. Do not hasten. There is nothing amiss as yet.'

'Oh, nurse,' cried Eustacie, as she quickly arranged the dress in which
she had lain down, 'the dear old farm always makes me sleep well. This
is the first time I have had no dream of the whirling wheel and fiery
gates! Oh, is it a token that HE is indeed at rest? I am so well, so
strong. I can ride anywhere now. Let them come in and tell me.'

Martin was a younger, brisker, cleverer man than Blaise, and besides
being a vassal of the young Lady, was a sort of agent to whom the Abbess
instructed many of the matters of husbandry regarding the convent lands.
He stood, like Blaise, bareheaded as he talked to little Lady, and heard
her somewhat peremptorily demand why they had not brought the horses and
men for her escort.

It was impossible that night, explained Martin. Time was needed to bring
in the farm-horses, and summon the other peasants, without whom the
roads were unsafe in these times of disorder. He and Blaise must go
round and warn them to be ready. A man could not be ready in a wink
of the eye, as Madame seemed to think, and the two peasants looked
impenetrable in stolidity.

'Laggards that you are!' cried Eustacie, petulantly, clasping her hands;
'and meantime all will be lost. They will be upon me!'

'Not so, Madame. It is therefore that I came here,' said Martin,
deferentially, to the little fuming impatient creature; 'Madame will be
far safer close at hand while the pursuit and search are going on. But
she must not stay here. This farm is the first place they will come to,
while they will never suspect mine, and my good woman Lucette will be
proud to keep watch for her. Madame knows that the place is full of
shrubs and thickets, where one half of an army might spend a fine day in
looking for the other.'

'And at night you will get together the men and convoy me?' asked
Eustacie, eagerly.

'All in good time, Madame. Now she must be off, ere the holy mothers be
astir. I have brought an ass for her to ride.'

Eustacie had no choice but compliance. None of the Orchard family could
go with her, as it was needful that they should stay at home and appear
as unconcerned as possible; but they promised to meet her at the hour
and place to be appointed, ad if possible to bring Veronique.

Eating a piece of rye-bread as she went, Eustacie, in her gray cloak,
rode under Martin's guardianship along the deep lanes, just budding with
spring, in the chill dewiness before sunrise. She was silent, and just
a little sullen, for she had found stout shrewd Martin less easy to talk
over than the admiring Blaise, and her spirit was excessively chafed by
the tardiness of her retainers. But the sun rose and cleared away all
clouds of temper, the cocks crew, the sheep bleated, and fresh morning
sounds met her ear, and seemed to cheer and fill her with hope; and in
some compunction for her want of graciousness, she thanked Martin,
and praised his ass with a pretty cordiality that would have fully
compensated for her displeasure, even if the honest man had been
sensible of it.

He halted under the lee of a barn, and gave a low whistle. At the sound,
Lucette, a brown, sturdy young woman with a red handkerchief over her
head, and another over her shoulders, came running round the corner of
the barn, and whispered eagerly under her breath, 'Ah! Madame, Madame,
what an honour!' kissing Eustacie's hand with all her might as she
spoke; 'but, alas! I fear Madame cannot come into the house. The
questing Brother Francois--plague upon him!--has taken it into his head
to drop in to breakfast. I longed to give him the cold shoulder, but it
might have brought suspicion down.'

'Right, good woman,' said Martin; 'but what shall Madame do? It is broad
way, and no longer safe to run the lanes!'

'Give me a distaff,' said Eustacie, rising to the occasion; 'I will go
to that bushy field, and herd the cows.'

Madame was right, the husband and wife unwillingly agreed. There, in her
peasant dress, in the remote field, sloping up into a thick wood, she
was unlikely to attract attention; and though the field was bordered on
one side by the lane leading to the road to Paris, it was separated from
it by a steep bank, crowned by one of the thick hedgerows characteristic
of the Bocage.

Here, then, they were forced to leave her, seated on a stone beneath a
thorn-bush, distaff in hand, with bread, cheese, and a pitcher of milk
for her provisions, and three or four cows grazing before her. From
the higher ground below the wood of ash and hazel, she could see the
undulating fields and orchards, a few houses, and that inhospitable
castle of her own.

She had spent many a drearier day in the convent than this, in the free
sun and air, with the feeling of liberty, and unbounded hopes founded
on this first success. She told her beads diligently, trusting that the
tale of devotions for her husband's spirit would be equally made up in
the field as in the church, and intently all day were her ears and
eyes on the alert. Once Lucette visited her, to bring her a basin of
porridge, and to tell her that all the world at the convent was in
confusion, that messengers had been sent out in all directions, and that
M. le Chevalier had ridden out himself in pursuit; but they should soon
hear all about it, for Martin was pretending to be amongst the busiest,
and he would know how to turn them away. Again, much later in the day,
Martin came striding across the field, and had just reached her, as she
sat in the hedgerow, when the great dog who followed him pricked his
ears, and a tramping and jingling was audible in the distance in the
lane. Eustacie held up her finger, her eyes dilating.

'It must be M. le Chevalier returning. Madame must wait a little longer.
I must be at home, or they may send out to seek me here, and that
would be ruin. I will return as soon as it is safe, if Madame will hide
herself in the hedgerow.'

Into the hedgerow accordingly crept Eustacie, cowering close to
a holly-tree at the very summit of the bank, and led by a strange
fascination to choose a spot where, unseen herself, she could gaze down
on the party who came clanking along the hollow road beneath. Nearer,
nearer, they came; and she shuddered with more of passion than of fear,
as she beheld, not only her uncle in his best well-preserved green suit,
but Narcisse, muddy with riding, though in his court braveries. Suddenly
they came to a halt close beneath her! Was she detected? Ah! just below
was the spot where the road to the convent parted from the road to the
farm; and, as Martin had apprehended, they were stopping for him. The
Chevalier ordered one of the armed men behind him to ride up to the
farm and summon Martin to speak with him; and then he and his son, while
waiting under the holly-bush, continued their conversation.

'So that is the state of things! A fine overthrow!' quoth Narcisse.

'Bah! not at all. She will soon be in our hands again. I have spoken
with, or written to, every governor of the cities she must pass through,
and not one will abet the little runaway. At the first barrier she is
ours.'

'_Et puis_?'

'Oh, we shall have her mild as a sheep.' (Eustacie set her teeth.)
'Every one will be in the same story, that her marriage was a nullity;
she cannot choose but believe, and can only be thankful that we overlook
the escapade and rehabilitate her.'

'Thank you, my good uncle,' almost uttered his unseen auditor.

'Well! There is too much land down here to throw away; but the affair
has become horribly complicated and distasteful.'

'No such thing. All the easier. She can no longer play the spotless
saint--get weak-minded priests on her side--be all for strict convents.
No, no; her time for that is past! Shut her up with trustworthy persons
from whom she will hear nothing from without, and she will understand
her case. The child? It will scarce be born alive, or at any rate she
need not know whether it is. Then, with no resource, no hope, what can
she do but be too thankful for pardon, and as glad to conceal the past
as we could wish?'

Eustacie clenched her fist. Had a pistol been within her reach,
the speaker's tenure of life had been short! She was no chastened,
self-restrained, forgiving saint, the poor little thing, only a
hot-tempered, generous, keenly-sensitive being, well-nigh a child in
years and in impulses, though with the instincts of a mother awakening
within her, and of a mother who heard the life of her unborn babe
plotted against. She was absolutely forced to hold her lips together,
to repress the sobbing scream of fury that came to her throat; and the
struggles with her gasping breath, the surging of the blood in her ears,
hindered her from hearing or seeing anything for some seconds,
though she kept her station. By the time her perceptions had cleared
themselves, Martin, cap in hand, was in the lane below, listening
deferentially to the two gentlemen, who were assuring him that inquiry
had been made, and a guard carefully set at the fugitive could have
passed those, or be able to do so. She must certainly be hidden
somewhere near home, and Martin had better warn all his friends against
hiding her, unless they wished to be hung up on the thresholds of their
burning farm-steads. Martin bowed, and thought the fellows would know
their own interest and Mademoiselle's better.

'Well,' said the Chevalier, 'we must begin without loss of time. My son
has brought down a set of fellows here, who are trained to ferret out
heretics. Not a runaway weasel cold escape them! We will set them on as
soon as ever they have taken a bit of supper up there at the Chateau;
and do you come up with us just to show them the way across to
Leonard's. That's no unlikely place for her to lurk in, as you said this
morning, good fellow.'

It was the most remote farm from that of Martin, and Eustacie felt how
great were his services, even while she flushed with anger to hear him
speaking of her as Mademoiselle. He was promising to follow immediately
to the castle, to meet _ces Messieurs_ there almost as soon as they
could arrive, but excusing himself from accompanying them, by the need
of driving home the big bull, whom no one else could manage.

They consented, and rode on. Martin watched them out of sight, then
sprang up by some stepping-stones in the bank, a little below where
Eustacie sat, and came crackling through the boughs to where she was
crouching down, with fierce glittering eyes and panting breath, like a
wild animal ready to spring.

'Madame has heard,' said Martin, under his breath.

'If I have heard! Oh that I were a man, to slay them where they stood!
Martin, Martin! you will not betray me. Some day WE will reward you.'

'Madame need not have said THAT to me,' said Martin, rather hurt. 'I am
only thinking what she can do. Alas! I fear that she must remain in this
covert till it is dark, for these men's eyes are all on the alert. At
dark, I or Lucette will come and find a shelter for her for the night.'

Long, long, then, did Eustacie sit, muffled in her gray cloak, shrinking
together to shelter herself from the sunset chill of early spring, but
shuddering more with horror than with cold as the cruel cold-blooded
words she had heard recurred to her, and feeling as if she were fast
within a net, every outlet guarded against her, and search everywhere;
yet still with the indomitable determination to dare and suffer to the
utmost ere that which was dearer than her own life should come into
peril from her enemies.

The twilight closed in, the stars came out, sounds of life died away,
and still she sat on, becoming almost torpid in the cold darkness, until
at length she heard the low call of Lucette, 'MADAME! AH!_la pauvre
Madame_.' She started up, so stiff that she could hardly more, and only
guided by the voice to feel her way through the hedgerow in the right
direction. Another moment, and Lucette's warn arms had received her; and
she was guided, scarce knowing how or where, in cautious silence to the
farmyard, and into the house, where a most welcome sight, a huge fire,
blazed cheerfully on the hearth, and Martin himself held open the door
for her. The other occupants of the kitchen were the sleeping child
in its wooden cradle, some cocks and hens upon the rafters, and a big
sheep-dog before the fire.

The warmth, and the chicken that Lucette had killed and dressed, brought
the colour back to the exhausted wanderer's cheek, and enabled her again
to hold council for her safety. It was plain, as Martin had found in
conversation with the men-at-arms, that precautions had been taken
against her escaping in any of the directions where she might hope to
have reached friends. Alone she could not go, and any escort sufficient
to protect her would assuredly be stopped at the first town;
besides which, collecting it in secret was impossible under present
circumstances, and it would be sure to be at once overtaken and
demolished by the Chevalier Narcisse's well-armed followers. Martin,
therefore, saw no alternative but for her to lurk about in such
hiding-places as her faithful vassals could afford her, until the search
should blow over, and the vigilance of her uncle and cousin relax. Hope,
the high-spirited hope of early youth, looked beyond to indefinite but
infinite possibility. Anything was better than the shame and horror
of yielding, and Eustacie trusted herself with all her heart for the
present, fancying, she knew not what, the future.

Indeed, the Vendean fidelity has often been tested, and she made full
proof of it among the lanes, copses, and homesteads of her own broad
lands. The whole country was a network of deep lanes, sunk between
impenetrable hedgerows, inclosing small fields, orchards, and thickets,
and gently undulating in low hills and shallow valleys, interspersed
with tall wasp-waisted windmills airily waving their arms on the top
of lofty masts. It was partitioned into small farms, inhabited by a
simple-hearted peasantry, religious and diligent, with a fair amount of
rural wealth and comfort. Their love for their lords was loyally warm,
and Eustacie monopolized it, from their detestation of her uncle's
exactions; they would risk any of the savage punishments with which they
were threatened for concealing her; and as one by one it was needful to
take them into the secret, so as to disarm suspicion, and she was passed
from one farm to another, each proved his faithful attachment, and
though himself repaid by her thankful smile and confiding manner.

The Chevalier and his son searched vigorously. On the slightest
suspicion, they came down to the farm, closed up the outlets, threatened
the owners, turned out the house, and the very place they had last
searched would become her quarters on the next night! Messages always
had warned her in time. Intelligence was obtained by Martin, who
contrived to remain a confidential agent, and warnings were dispatched
to her by many a strange messenger--by little children, by old women, or
even by the village innocent.

The most alarming days were those when she was not the avowed object
of the chase, but when the pursuit of game rendered the coverts in the
woods and fields unsafe, and the hounds might lead to her discovery. On
one of these occasions Martin locked her up in the great hayloft of the
convent, where she could actually hear the chants in the chapel, and
distinguish the chatter of the lay-sisters in the yard. Another time, in
conjunction with the sacristan, he bestowed her in the great seigneurial
tribune (or squire's pew) in the village church, a tall carved box,
where she was completely hidden; and the only time when she had failed
to obtain warning beforehand, she stood kneading bread at a tub in
Martin's cottage, while the hunt passed by, and a man-at-arms looked in
and questioned the master on the last traces of the runaway.

It was seldom possible to see Mere Perrine, who was carefully watched,
under the conviction that she must know where her nursling was; but one
evening Veronique ventured up to Martin's farm, trusting to tidings that
the gentlemen had been Eustacie's only secure harbour; and when, in
a bright evening gleam of the setting sun from beneath the clouds,
Veronique came in sight of her Lady, the Queen's favourite, it was to
see her leading by a string a little shaggy cow, with a bell round its
neck, her gray cloak huddled round her, though dank with wet, a long
lock of black hair streaming over her brow, her garments clinging with
damp, her bare ankles scratched with thorns, her heavy SABOTS covered
with mire, her cheeks pale with cold and wet.

The contrast overwhelmed poor Veronique. She dropped on her knees,
sobbing as if her heart would break, and declaring that this was what
the Abbess had feared; her Lady was fast killing herself.

'Hush! Veronique,' said Eustacie; 'that is all folly. I am wet and weary
now, but oh! if you knew how much sweeter to me life is now than it
was, shut up down there, with my fears. See,' and she held up a bunch
of purple pasque-flowers and wood-sorrel, 'this is what I found in the
wood, growing out of a rugged old dead root; and just by, sheltered
by the threefold leaves of the alleluia-flower, was a bird's nest, the
mother-bird on her eggs, watching me with the wise black eye that saw I
would not hurt her. And it brought back the words I had heard long ago,
of the good God caring for the sparrows; and I knew He would care the
more for me and mine, because I have not where to lay my head.'

'Alas!' sobbed Veronique, 'now she is getting to be a saint outright.
She will be sure to die! Ah, Madame--dear Madame! do but listen to me.
If you did but know how Madame de Bellaise is afflicting herself on your
account! She sent for me--ah! do not be angry, dear Lady?'

'I wish to hear nothing about her,' said Eustacie.

'Nay, listen, _de grace_--one moment, Madame! She has wept, she has
feared for you, all the lay-sisters say so. She takes no pleasure in
hawking, nor in visiting; and she did not eat more than six of Soeur
Bernardine's best conserves. She does nothing but watch for tidings of
Madame. And she sent for me, as I told you, and conjured me, if I knew
where you were, or had any means of finding out, to implore you to trust
to her. She will swear on all the relics in the chapel never to give a
hint to Messieurs les Chevaliers if only you would trust her, and not
slay yourself with all this dreadful wandering.'

'Never!' said Eustacie; 'she said too much!'

'Ah! but she declares that, had she known the truth, she never would
have said that. Ah, yes, Madame, the Abbess is good!' And Veronique,
holding her mistress's cloak to secure a hearing, detailed the Abbess'
plan for lodging her niece in secret apartments within the thickness
of the convent walls, where Mere Perrine could be with her, and every
sacred pledge should be given that could remove her fears.

'And could they make me believe them, so that the doubt and dread would
not kill me in themselves?' said Eustacie.

'But it is death--certain death, as it is. Oh, if Madame would hear
reason!--but she is headstrong! She will grieve when it is too late!'

'Listen, Veronique. I have a far better plan. The sacristan has a sister
who weaves red handkerchiefs at Chollet. She will receive me, and keep
me as long as there is need. Martin is to take me in his cart when he
carries the hay to the garrison. I shall be well hidden, and within
reach of your mother. And then, when my son is once come--then all will
be well! The peasants will rise in behalf of their young Lord, though
not for a poor helpless woman. No one will dare to dispute his claim,
when I have appealed to the King; and then, Veronique, you shall come
back to me, and all will be well!'

Veronique only began to wail aloud at her mistress' obstinacy. Martin
came up, and rudely silenced her, and said afterwards to his wife, 'Have
a care! That girl has--I verily believe--betrayed her Lady once; and if
she do not do so again, from pure pity and faintness of heart, I shall
be much surprised.'



CHAPTER XVII. THE GHOSTS OF THE TEMPLARS



 'Tis said, as through the aisles they passed,
 They heard strange voices on the blast,
 And through the cloister galleries small,
 Which at mid-height thread the chancel wall,
 Loud sobs and laughter louder ran,
 And voices unlike the voice of man,
 As if the fiends kept holiday.
                    Scott, LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL


'Ill news, Martin, I see by your look!' cried Eustacie, starting to her
feet from the heap of straw on which she was sitting in his cowhouse,
one early April day, about seven weeks since her evasion from the
convent.

'Not so, I hope, Madame, but I do not feel at ease. Monsieur has not
sent for me, nor told me his plans for the morrow, and I much doubt me
whether that bode not a search here. Now I see a plan, provided Madame
would trust herself to a Huguenot.'

'They would guard me for my husband's sake.'

'And could Madame walk half a league, as far as the Grange du Temple?
There live Matthieu Rotrou and his wife, who have, they say, baffled
a hundred times the gendarmes who sought their ministers. No one ever
found a pastor, they say, when Rotrou had been of the congregation; and
if they can do so much for an old preacher with a long tongue, surely
they can for a sweet young lady; and if they could shelter her just for
tomorrow, till the suspicion is over, then would I come for Madame with
my cart, and carry her into Chollet among the trusses of hay, as we had
fixed.'

Eustacie was already tying her cloak, and asking for Lucette; but
she was grieved to hear that Martin had sent her to vespers to disarm
suspicion, and moreover that he meant not to tell her of his new device.
'The creature is honest enough,' he said, 'but the way to be safe with
women is not to let them know.'

He cut short all messages and expressions of gratitude, and leading
Eustacie to a small stream, he made her creep along its course, with her
feet in the water so as to be sheltered by the boughs that hung over the
banks, while he used his ling strides to enable him to double back
and enter into conversation with passers-by, quite of the track of the
Grange du Temple, but always telling her where he should join her again,
and leaving with her the great dog, whom she had come to regard as a
friend and protector. Leaving the brook, he conducted her beneath hedges
and by lonely woodland paths beyond the confines of her own property,
to a secluded valley, so shut in by wooded hills that she had not been
aware of its existence. Through an extensive orchard, she at length,
when nearly spent with the walk, beheld the cluster of stone buildings,
substantial as the erections of religious orders were wont to be.

Martin found a seat for her, where she might wait while he went on alone
to the house, and presently returned with both the good people of the
farm. They were more offhand and less deferential than were her own
people, but were full of kindliness. They were middle-aged folk, most
neatly clad, and with a grave, thoughtful look about them, as if
life were a much heavier charge to them than to their light-hearted
neighbours.

'A fair day to you, Madame,' said the farmer, doffing his wide-flapped
hat. 'I am glad to serve a sufferer for the truth's sake.'

'My husband was,' faltered Eustacie.

'AH! _la pauvre_,' cried the good woman, pressing forward as she saw how
faint, heated, and exhausted was the wanderer. 'Come in, _ma pauvrette_.
Only a bride at the Bartholomew! Alas! There, lean on me, my dear.'

To be _tutoyee_ by the Fermiere Rotrou was a shock; yet the kind manner
was comfortable, and Eustacie suffered herself to be led into
the farm-house, where, as the dame observed, she need not fear
chance-comers, for they lived much to themselves, and no one would be
about till their boy Robinet came in with the cows. She might rest and
eat there in security, and after that they would find a hiding-place for
her--safe as the horns of the altar--for a night or two; only for two
nights at most.

'Nor do I ask more,' said Eustacie. 'Then Martin will come for me.'

'Ah, I or Blaise, or whichever of us can do it with least suspicion.'

'She shall meet you here,' added Rotrou.

'All right, good man; I understand; it is best I should not know where
you hide her. Those rogues have tricks that make it as well to know
nothing. Farewell, Madame, I commend you to all the saints till I come
for you on Monday morning.'

Eustacie gave him her hand to kiss, and tried to thank him, but somehow
her heart sank, and she felt more lonely than ever, when entirely cast
loose among these absolute strangers, than amongst her own vassals. Even
the farm-kitchen, large, stone-built, and scrupulously clean, seemed
strange and dreary after the little, smoky, earth-built living-rooms in
which her peasantry were content to live, and she never had seemed to
herself so completely desolate; but all the time she was so wearied out
with her long and painful walk, that she had no sooner taken some food
than she began to doze in her chair.

'Father,' said the good wife, 'we had better take _la pauvrette_ to her
rest at once.'

'Ah! must I go any farther?' sighed Eustacie.

'It is but a few fields beyond the yard, _ma petite_,' said the good
woman consolingly; 'and it will be safer to take you there ere we need a
light.'

The sun had just set on a beautiful evening of a spring that happily for
Eustacie had been unusually warm and mild, when they set forth, the dame
having loaded her husband with a roll of bedding, and herself taking a
pitcher of mild and a loaf of bread, whilst Eustacie, as usual, carried
her own small parcel of clothes and jewels. The way was certainly
not long to any one less exhausted than she; it was along a couple of
fields, and then through a piece of thicket, where Rotrou held back the
boughs and his wife almost dragged her on with kind encouraging words,
till they came up to a stone ivy-covered wall, and coasting along it
to a tower, evidently a staircase turret. Here Rotrou, holding aside an
enormous bush of ivy, showed the foot of a winding staircase, and his
wife assured her that she would not have far to climb.

She knew where she was now. She had heard of the old Refectory of the
Knights Templars. Partly demolished by the hatred of the people upon the
abolition of the Order, it had ever since lain waste, and had become the
centre of all the ghostly traditions of the country; the locality of
all the most horrid tales of REVENANTS told under the breath at Dame
Perrine's hearth or at recreation hour at Bellaise. Her courage was not
proof against spiritual terrors. She panted and leant against the wall,
as she faintly exclaimed, 'The Temple--there--and alone!'

'Nay, Lady, methought as _Monsieur votre mari_ knew the true light, you
would fear no vain terror nor power of darkness.'

Should these peasants--these villeins--be bold, and see the descendant
of the 'bravest of knights,' the daughter of the house of Ribaumont,
afraid? She rallied herself, and replied manfully, 'I FEAR not, no!' but
then, womanfully, 'But it is the Temple! It is haunted! Tell me what I
must expect.'

'I tell you truly, Madame,' said Rotrou; 'none whom I have sheltered
here have seen aught. On the faith of a Christian, no evil spirit--no
ghost--has ever alarmed them; but they were fortified by prayer and
psalm.'

'I do pray! I have a psalm-book,' said Eustacie, and she added to
herself, 'No, they shall never see that I fear. After all, REVENANTS can
do nothing worse than scare one; they cannot touch one; the saints and
angels will not let them--and my uncle would do much worse.'

But to climb those winding stairs, and resign herself to be left alone
with the Templars for the night, was by far the severest trial that had
yet befallen the poor young fugitive. As her tire feet dragged up the
crumbling steps, her memory reverted to the many tales of the sounds
heard by night within those walls--church chants turning into diabolical
songs, and bewildered travelers into thickets and morasses, where they
had been found in the morning, shuddering as they told of a huge white
monk, with clanking weapons, and a burning cross of fire printed on his
shoulder and breast, who stood on the walls and hurled a shrieking babe
into the abyss. Were such spectacles awaiting her? Must she bear them?
And could her endurance hold out? Our Lady be her aid, and spare her in
her need!

At the top of the stairs she found Rotrou's hand, ready to help her
out on a stone floor, quite dark, but thickly covered, as she felt and
smelt, with trusses of hay, between which a glimmering light showed a
narrow passage. A few steps, guided by Rotrou's hand, brought her out
into light again, and she found herself in a large chamber, with the
stone floor broken away in some places, and with a circular window,
thickly veiled with ivy, but still admitting a good deal of evening
light.

It was in fact a chamber over the vaulted refectory of the knights. The
walls and vaults still standing in their massive solidity, must have
tempted some peasant, or mayhap some adventurer, rudely to cover in the
roof (which had of course been stripped of its leading), and thus in
the unsuspected space to secure a hiding-place, often for less innocent
commodities than the salt, which the iniquitous and oppressive _gabelle_
had always led the French peasant to smuggle, ever since the days of the
first Valois. The room had a certain appearance of comfort; there was a
partition across it, a hearth with some remains of wood-ashes, a shelf,
holding a plate, cup, lamp, and a few other necessaries; and altogether
the aspect of the place was so unlike what Eustacie had expected, that
she almost forgot the Templar as she saw the dame begin to arrange
a comfortable-looking couch for her wearied limbs. Yet she felt very
unwilling to let them depart, and even ventured on faltering out the
inquiry whether the good woman could not stay with her,--she would
reward her largely.

'It is for the love of Heaven, Madame, not for gain,' said Nanon Rotrou,
rather stiffly. 'If you were ill, or needed me, all must then give way;
but for me to be absent this evening would soon be reported around the
village down there, for there are many who would find occasion against
us.' But, by way of consolation, they gave her a whistle, and showed
her that the window of their cottage was much nearer to a loophole-slit
looking towards the east than she had fancied. The whistle perpetrated
a mist unearthly screech, a good deal like that of an owl, but more
discordant, and Nanon assured her that the sound would assuredly break
her slumbers, and bring her in a few minutes at any moment of need.
In fact, the noise was so like the best authenticated accounts of the
shrieks indulged in by the spirits of the Temple, that Eustacie had
wit enough to suspect that it might be the foundation of some of the
stories; and with that solace to her alarms, she endured the departure
of her hosts, Nanon promising a visit in the early morning.

The poor child was too weary to indulge in many terrors, the beneficent
torpor of excessive fatigue was upon her, happily bringing slumberous
oblivion instead of feverish restlessness. She strove to repeat her
accustomed orisons; but sleep was too strong for her, and she was soon
lying dreamlessly upon the clean homely couch prepared for her.

When she awoke, it was with a start. The moon was shining in through the
circular window, making strange white shapes on the floor, all quivering
with the shadows of the ivy sprays. It looked strange and eerie enough
at the moment, but she understood it the next, and would have been
reassured if she had not become aware that there was a low sound, a
tramp, tramp, below her. 'Gracious saints! The Templar! Have mercy on
me! Oh! I was too sleepy to pray! Guard me from being driven wild by
fright!' She sat upright, with wide-spread eyes, and, finding that she
herself was in the moonlight, through some opening in the roof, she took
refuge in the darkest corner, though aware as she crouched there,
that if this were indeed the Templar, concealment would be vain, and
remembering suddenly that she was out of reach of the loophole-window.

And therewith there was a tired sound in the tread, as if the Templar
found his weird a very length one; then a long heavy breath, with
something so essentially human in its sound that the fluttering heart
beat more steadily. If reason told her that the living were more
perilous to her than the dead, yet feeling infinitely preferred them! It
might be Nanon Rotrou after all; then how foolish to be crouching there
in a fright! It was rustling through the hay. No-no Nanon; it is a
male figure, it has a long cloak on. Ah! it is in the moonlight-silver
hair--silver beard. The Templar! Fascinated with dismay, yet calling to
mind that no ghost has power unless addressed, she sat still, crossing
herself in silence, but unable to call to mind any prayer or invocation
save a continuous 'Ave Mary,' and trying to restrain her gasping breath,
lest, if he were not the Templar after all, he might discover her
presence.

He moved about, took off his cloak, laid it down near the hay, then his
cap, not a helmet after all, and there was no fiery cross.

He was in the gloom again, and she heard him moving much as though he
were pulling down the hay to form a bed. Did ghosts ever do anything so
sensible? If he were an embodied spirit, would it be possible to
creep past him and escape while he lay asleep? She was almost becoming
familiarized with the presence, and the supernatural terror was passing
off into a consideration of resources, when, behold, he was beginning to
sing. To sing was the very way the ghosts began ere they came to their
devilish outcries. 'Our Lady keep it from bringing frenzy. But hark!
hark!' It was not one of the chants, it was a tune and words heard
in older times of her life; it was the evening hymn, that the little
husband and wife had been wont to sing to the Baron in the Chateau de
Leurre--Marot's version of the 4th Psalm.

                     '_Plus de joie m'est donnee_
                      _Par ce moyen, O Dieu Tres-Haut_,
                      _Que n'ont ceux qui ont grand annee_
                      _De froment et bonne vinee_,
                      _D'huile et tout ce qu'il leur faut_.'

If it had indeed been the ghostly chant, perhaps Eustacie would not
have been able to help joining it. As it was, the familiar home words
irresistibly impelled her to mingle her voice, scarce knowing what she
did, in the verse--

                    '_Si qu'en paix et surete bonne_
                     _Coucherai et reposerai_;
                     _Car, Seigneur, ta bonte tout ordonne_
                     _Et elle seule espoir me donne_
                     _Que sur et seul regnant serai_.'

The hymn died away in its low cadence, and then, ere Eustacie had
had time to think of the consequences of thus raising her voice, the
new-comer demanded:

'Is there then another wanderer here?'

'Ah! sir, pardon me!' she exclaimed. 'I will not long importune you, but
only till morning light--only till the Fermiere Rotrou comes.'

'If Matthieu and Anne Rotrou placed you here, then all is well,' replied
the stranger. 'Fear not, daughter, but tell me. Are you one of my
scattered flock, or one whose parents are known to me?' Then, as she
hesitated, 'I am Isaac Gardon--escaped, alas! alone, from the slaughter
of the Barthelemy.'

'Master Gardon!' cried Eustacie. 'Oh, I know! O sir, my husband loved
and honoured you.'

'Your husband?'

'Yes, sir, le Baron de Ribaumont.'

'That fair and godly youth! My dear old patron's son! You--you! But--'
with a shade of doubt, almost of dismay, 'the boy was wedded--wedded to
the heiress---'

'Yes, yes, I am that unhappy one! We were to have fled together on that
dreadful night. He came to meet me to the Louvre--to his doom!' she
gasped out, nearer to tears than she had ever been since that time, such
a novelty was it to her to hear Berenger spoken of in kind or tender
terms; and in her warmth of feeling, she came out of her corner, and
held our her hand to him.

'Alas! poor thing!' said the minister, compassionately, 'Heaven has
tried you sorely. Had I known of your presence here, I would not have
entered; but I have been absent long, and stole into my lair here
without disturbing the good people below. Forgive the intrusion,
Madame.'

The minister replied warmly that surely persecution was a brotherhood,
even had she not been the window of one he had loved and lamented.

'Ah! sir, it does me good to hear you say so.'

And therewith Eustacie remembered the hospitalities of her loft. She
perceived by the tones of the old man's voice that he was tired, and
probably fasting, and she felt about for the milk and bread with which
she had been supplied. It was a most welcome refreshment, though he only
partook sparingly; and while he ate, the two, so strangely met, came to
a fuller knowledge of one another's circumstances.

Master Isaac Gardon had, it appeared, been residing at Paris, in the
house of the watchmaker whose daughter had been newly married to his
son; but on the fatal eve of St. Bartholomew, he had been sent for to
pray with a sick person in another quarter of the city. The Catholic
friends of the invalid were humane, and when the horrors began, not only
concealed their kinsman, but almost forcibly shut up the minister in
the same cellar with him. And thus, most reluctantly, had he been spared
from the fate that overtook his son and daughter-in-law. A lone and
well-night broken-hearted man, he had been smuggled out of the city,
and had since that time been wandering from one to another of the many
scattered settlements of Huguenots in the northern part of France,
who, being left pastorless, welcomed visits from the minister of their
religion, and passed him on from one place to another, as his stay in
each began to be suspected by the authorities. He was now on his way
along the west side of France, with no fixed purpose, except so far as,
since Heaven had spared his life when all that made it dear had been
taken from him, he resigned himself to believe that there was yet some
duty left for him to fulfil.

Meantime the old man was wearied out; and after due courtesies had
passed between him and the lady in the dark, he prayed long and
fervently, as Eustacie could judge from the intensity of the low murmurs
she heard; and then she heard him, with a heavy irrepressible sigh, lie
down on the couch of hay he had already prepared for himself, and soon
his regular breathings announced his sound slumbers. She was already on
the bed she had so precipitately quitted, and not a thought more did
she give to the Templars, living or dead, even though she heard an
extraordinary snapping and hissing, and in the dawn of the morning saw
a white weird thing, like a huge moth, flit in through the circular
window, take up its station on a beam above the hay, and look down with
the brightest, roundest eyes she had ever beheld. Let owls and bats
come where they would, she was happier than she had been for months.
Compassion for herself was plentiful enough, but to have heard Berenger
spoken of with love and admiration seemed to quiet the worst ache of her
lonely heart.



CHAPTER XVIII. THE MOONBEAM



     She wandered east, she wandered west,
       She wandered out and in;
     And at last into the very swine's stythe
       The queen brought forth a son.--Fause Foodrage


The morrow was Sunday, and in the old refectory, in the late afternoon,
a few Huguenots, warned by messages from the farm, met to profit by one
of their scanty secret opportunities for public worship. The hum of the
prayer, and discourse of the pastor, rose up through the broken vaulting
to Eustacie, still lying on her bed; for she had been much shaken by the
fatigues of the day and alarm of the night, and bitterly grieved, too,
by a message which Nanon conveyed to her, that poor Martin was in no
state to come for her in the next day; but he and his wife having been
seized upon by Narcisse and his men, and so savagely beaten in order to
force from them a confession of her hiding-place, that both were
lying helpless on their bed; and could only send an entreaty by the
trustworthy fool, that Rotrou would find means of conveying Madame into
Chollet in some cart of hay or corn, in which she could be taken past
the barriers.

But this was not to be. Good Nanon had sacrificed the sermon to creep up
to Eustacie, and when the congregation were dispersing in the dusk, she
stole down the stairs to her husband; and a few seconds after he was
hurrying as fast as _detours_ would allow him to Blaise's farm. An hour
and a half later, Dame Perrine, closely blindfolded for the last mile,
was dragged up the spiral staircase, and ere the bandage was removed
heard Eustacie's voice, with a certain cheeriness, say, 'Oh! nurse; my
son will soon come!'

The full moon gave her light, and the woman durst not have any other,
save from the wood-fire that Nanon had cautiously lighted and screened.
The moonshine was still supreme, when some time later a certain ominous
silence and half-whisper between the two women at the hearth made
Eustacie, with a low cry of terror, exclaim, 'Nurse, nurse, what means
this? Oh! He lives! I know he lives! Perrine, I command you tell me!'

'Living! Oh, yes, my love, my Lady,' answered Perrine, returning towards
her; 'fair and perfect as the day. Be not disquieted for a moment.'

'I will--I will disquiet myself,' panted Eustacie, 'unless you tell me
what is amiss.'

'Nothing amiss,' said Nanon, gruffly. 'Madame will give thanks for this
fair gift of a daughter.'

It must be owned the words felt chill. She had never thought of this! It
was as if the being for whom she had dared and suffered so much, in the
trust that he would be Berenger's representative and avenger, had failed
her and disappointed her. No defender, no paladin, no so to be proud of!
Her heart and courage sank down in her weakness as they had never done
before; and, without speaking, she turned her head away towards the
darkness, feeling as if had been for nothing, and she might as well
sink away in her exhaustion. Mere Perrine was more angry with Nanon than
conscious of her Lady's weakness. 'Woman, you speak as if you knew not
the blow to this family, and to all who hoped for better days. What,
that my Lady, the heiress, who ought to be in a bed of state, with
velvet curtains, lace pillows, gold caudle-cups, should be here in a
vile ruin, among owls and bats, like any beggar, and all for the sake,
not of a young Lord to raise up the family, but of a miserable little
girl! Had I known how it would turn out, I had never meddled in this mad
scheme.'

Before Nanon could express her indignation, Eustacie had turned her head
opened her eyes, and called out, 'Miserable! Oh! what do you mean? Oh,
it is true, Nanon? is it well with her?

'As well as heart could wish,' answered Nanon, cheerily. 'Small, but
a perfect little piece of sugar. There, Lady, she shall speak for
herself.'

And as Nanon laid the babe on the young mother's bosom, the thrilling
touch at once put an end to all the repinings of the heiress, and awoke
far other instincts.

'My child! my little one, my poor little orphan--all cruel to her! Oh,
no welcome even from thy mother! Babe, babe, pardon me, I will make it
up to thee; indeed I will! Oh! let me see her! Do not take her away,
dear good woman, only hold her in the moonlight!'

The full rays of the moon, shining through the gable window, streamed
down very near where Eustacie lay, and by a slight movement Dame Rotrou
was able to render the little face as distinctly visible to her as if
it had been daylight, save that the blanching light was somewhat
embellishing to the new-born complexion, and increased that curious
resemblance so often borne for the first few hours of life to the future
self. Eustacie's cry at once was, 'Himself, himself--his very face! Let
me have her, my own moonbeam--his child--my joy!'

The tears, so long denied, rushed down like summer rain as she clasped
the child in her arms. Dame Perrine wandered to and fro, like one beside
herself, not only at her Lady's wretched accommodations, but at the ill
omens of the moonlight illumination, of the owls who snapped and hissed
incessantly over the hay, and above all the tears over the babe's face.
She tried to remonstrate with Eustacie, but was answered only, 'Let me
weep! Oh, let me weep! It eases my heart! It cannot hurt my little one!
She cannot weep for her father herself, so I must weep for her.'

The weeping was gentle, not violent; and Dame Rotrou thought it did good
rather than harm. She was chiefly anxious to be quit of Perrine, who,
however faithful to the Lady of Ribaumont, must not be trusted to learn
the way to this Huguenot asylum, and must be escorted back by Rotrou ere
peep of dawn. The old woman knew that her own absence from home would be
suspicious, and with many grumblings submitted; but first she took the
child from Eustacie's reluctant arms, promising to restore her in a few
moments, after finishing dressing her in the lace-edged swaddling bands
so carefully preserved ever since Eustacie's own baby hood. In these
moments she had taken them all by surprise by, without asking any
questions, sprinkling the babe with water, and baptizing her by the
hereditary name of Berangere, the feminine of the only name Eustacie had
always declared her son should bear. Such baptisms were not unfrequently
performed by French nurses, but Eustacie exclaimed with a sound half
dismay, half indignation.

'_Eh quoi_!' said Perrine, 'it is only _ondoyee_. You can have all the
ceremonies if ever time shall fit; but do you think I could leave my
Lady's child--mere girl though it be--alone with owls, and _follets_,
and REVENANTS, and heretics, and she unbaptized? She would be a
changeling long ere morning, I trow.'

'Come, good woman,' said Rotrou, from between the trusses of hay at the
entrance; 'you and I must begin our Colin-Mail-lard again, or it may be
the worse for us both.'

And with the promise of being conducted to Eustacie again in three
nights' time, if she would meet her guide at the cross-roads after dark,
Perrine was forced to take her leave. She had never suspected that all
this time Maitre Gardon had been hidden in the refectory below, and
still less did she guess that soon after her departure the old man was
installed as her Lady's chief attendant. It was impossible that Nanon
should stay with Eustacie; she had her day's work to attend to, and her
absence would have excited suspicion. He, therefore, came partly up
the stairs, and calling to Nanon, proffered himself to sit with '_cette
pauvre_,' and make a signal in case Nanon should be wanted. The good
woman was thus relieved of a great care. She would not have dared to
ask it of him, but with a low reverence, she owned that it was an act of
great charity towards the poor lady, who, she hoped, was falling into
a tranquil sleep, but who she would hardly have dared to leave. The
pastor, though hardships, battles, and persecutions had left him
childless, had been the father of a large family; and perhaps he was
drawn the more strongly towards the mother and child, because he almost
felt as if, in fulfilling the part of a father towards the widow of
Berenger de Ribaumont, he was taking her in the stead of the widow of
his own Theodore.

Had the little Baronne de Ribaumont been lodged in a tapes-tried
chamber, between curtains of velvet and gold, with a _beauffet_ by her
side glistening with gold and silver plate, as would have befitted her
station, instead of lying on a bed of straw, with no hangings to the
walls save cobwebs and hay, and wallflowers, no _beauffet_ but the old
rickety table, no attendants but Nanon and M. Gardon, no visitors but
the two white owls, no provisions save the homely fare that rustic
mothers lived upon--neither she nor her babe could have thriven better,
and probably not half so well. She had been used to a hardy, out-of-door
life, like the peasant women; and she was young and strong, so that she
recovered as they did. If the April shower beat in at the window, or the
hole in the roof, they made a screen of canvas, covered her with cloaks,
and heaped them with hay, and she took no harm; and the pure open
air that blew in was soft with all the southern sweetness of early
spring-tide, and the little one throve in it like the puff-ball owlets
in the hayloft, or the little ring-doves in the ivy, whose parent's
cooing voice was Eustacie's favourite music. Almost as good as these
her fellow-nestlings was the little Moonbeam, _la petite Rayonette_,
as Eustacie fondly called this light that had come back to her from the
sunshine she had lost. Had she cried or been heard, the sounds would
probably have passed for the wailings of the ghostly victims of the
Templars, but she exercised an exemplary forbearance in that respect,
for which Eustacie thought she could not be sufficiently admired.

Like the child she was, Eustacie seemed to have put care from her, and
to be solely taken up with the baby, and the amusement of watching the
owl family.

There was a lull in the search at this moment, for the Chevalier had
been recalled to Paris by the fatal illness of his son-in-law, M. de
Selinvine. The old soldier, after living half his life on bread and
salad, that he might keep up a grand appearance at Paris, had, on coming
into the wealth of the family, and marrying a beautiful wife, returned
to the luxuries he had been wont only to enjoy for a few weeks at a
time, with in military occupation of some Italian town. Three months of
festivities had been enough to cause his death; and the Chevalier was
summoned to assist his daughter in providing for his obsequies, and in
taking possession of the huge endowments which, as the last of his race,
he had been able to bequeath to her. Such was the news brought by the
old nurse Perrine, who took advantage of the slackening vigilance of the
enemy to come to see Eustacie. The old woman was highly satisfied;
for one of the peasants' wives had--as if on purpose to oblige her
Lady--given birth to twins, one of whom had died almost immediately; and
the parents had consented to conceal their loss, and at once take the
little Demoiselle de Ribaumont as their own--guarding the secret till
her mother should be able to claim her. It was so entirely the practice,
under the most favourable circumstances, for French mothers to send
their infants to be nursed in cottages, that Perrine was amazed by the
cry of angry refusal that burst from Eustacie: 'Part with my child!
leave her to her enemies!--never! never! Hold your tongue, Perrine! I
will not hear of such a thing!'

'But, Madame, hear reason. She will pass for one of Simonette's!'

'She shall pass for none but mine!--I part with thee, indeed! All that
is left me of thy father!--the poor little orphaned innocent, that no
one loves but her mother!'

'Madame--Mademoiselle, this is not common sense! Why, how can you hide
yourself? how travel with a baby on your neck, whose crying may betray
you?'

'She never cries--never, never! And better I were betrayed than she.'

'If it were a boy---' began Perrine.

'If it were a boy, there would be plenty to care for it. I should not
care for it half so much. As for my poor little lonely girl, whom
every one wishes away but her mother--ah! yes, baby, thy mother will go
through fire and water for thee yet. Never fear, thou shalt not leave
her!'

'No nurse can go with Madame. Simonette could not leave her home.'

'What needs a nurse when she has me?'

'But, Madame,' proceeded the old woman, out of patience, 'you are beside
yourself! What noble lady ever nursed her babe?'

'I don't care noble ladies--I care for my child,' said the vehement,
petulant little thing.

'And how--what good will Madame's caring for it do? What knows she of
infants? How can she take care of it?'

'Our Lady will teach me,' said Eustacie, still pressing the child
passionately to her heart; 'and see--the owl--the ring-dove--can take
care of their little ones; the good God shows them how--He will tell me
how!'

Perrine regarded her Lady much as if she were in a naughty fit, refusing
unreasonably to part with a new toy, and Nanon Rotrou was much of the
same mind; but it was evident that if at the moment they attempted
to carry off the babe, the other would put herself into an agony of
passion, that they durst not call forth; and they found it needful to do
their best to soothe her out of the deluge of agitated tears that fell
from her eyes, as she grasped the child so convulsively that she might
almost have stifled it at once. They assured her that they would not
take it away now--not now, at any rate; and when the latent meaning
made her fiercely insist that it was to leave her neither now nor
ever, Perrine made pacifying declarations that it should be just as she
pleased--promises that she knew well, when in that coaxing voice, meant
nothing at all. Nothing calmed her till Perrine had been conducted away;
and even then Nanon could not hush her into anything like repose, and at
last called in the minister, in despair.

'Ah! sir, you are a wise man; can you find how to quiet the poor little
thing? Her nurse has nearly driven her distracted with talking of the
foster-parents she has found for the child.'

'Not found!' cried Eustacie. 'No, for she shall never go!'

'There!' lamented Nanon--'so she agitates herself, when it is but spoken
of. And surely she had better make up her mind, for there is no other
choice.'

'Nay, Nanon,' said M. Gardon, 'wherefore should she part with the charge
that God has laid on her?'

Eustacie gave a little cry of grateful joy. 'Oh, sir, come nearer! Do
you, indeed, say that they have no right to tear her from me?'

'Surely not, Lady. It is you whose duty it is to shield and guard her.'

'Oh, sir, tell me again! Yours is the right religion. Oh, you are the
minister for me! If you will tell me I ought to keep my child, then I
will believe everything else. I will do just as you tell me.' And she
stretched out both hands to him, with vehement eagerness.

'Poor thing! This is no matter of one religion or another,' said the
minister; 'it is rather the duty that the Almighty hath imposed, and
that He hath made an eternal joy.'

'Truly,' said Nanon, ashamed at having taken the other side: 'the good
_pasteur_ says what is according to nature. It would have gone hard with
me if any one had wished to part me from Robin or Sara; but these fine
ladies, and, for that matter, BOURGEOISES too, always do put out their
babes; and it seemed to me that Madame would find it hard to contrive
for herself--let alone the little one.'

'Ah! but what would be the use of contriving for myself, without her?'
said Eustacie.

If all had gone well and prosperously with Madame de Ribaumont, probably
she would have surrendered an infant born in purple and in pall to the
ordinary lot of its contemporaries; but the exertions and suffering
she had undergone on behalf of her child, its orphanhood, her own
loneliness, and even the general disappointment in its sex, had given it
a hold on her vehement, determined heart, that intensified to the utmost
the instincts of motherhood; and she listened as if to an angle's voice
as Maitre Gardon replied to Nanon--

'I say not that it is not the custom; nay, that my blessed wife and
myself have not followed it; but we have so oft had cause to repent
the necessity, that far be it from me ever to bid a woman forsake her
sucking child.'

'Is that Scripture?' asked Eustacie. 'Ah! sir, sir, tell me more! You
are giving me all--all--my child! I will be--I am--a Huguenot like her
father! and, when my vassals come, I will make them ride with you to La
Rochelle, and fight in your cause!'

'Nay,' said Maitre Gardon, taken by surprise; 'but, Lady, your vassals
are Catholic.'

'What matters it? In my cause they shall fight!' said the feudal Lady,
'for me and my daughter!'

And as the pastor uttered a sound of interrogative astonishment, she
continued--

'As soon as I am well enough, Blaise will send out messages, and they
will meet me at midnight at the cross-roads, Martin and all, for
dear good Martin is quite well now, and we shall ride across country,
avoiding towns, wherever I choose to lead them. I had thought of
Chantilly, for I know M. de Montmorency would stand my friend against a
Guisard; but now, now I know you, sir, let me escort you to La Rochelle,
and do your cause service worthy of Nid de Merle and Ribaumont!' And as
she sat up on her bed, she held up her little proud head, and waved her
right hand with the grace and dignity of a queen offering an alliance of
her realm.

Maitre Gardon, who had hitherto seen her as a childish though cheerful
and patient sufferer, was greatly amazed, but he could not regard her
project as practicable, or in his conscience approve it; and after a
moment's consideration he answered, 'I am a man of peace, Lady, and
seldom side with armed men, nor would I lightly make one of those who
enroll themselves against the King.'

'Not after all the Queen-mother had done!' cried Eustacie.

'Martyrdom is better than rebellion,' quietly answered the old man,
folding his hands. Then he added 'Far be it from me to blame those who
have drawn the sword for the faith; yet, Lady, it would not be even thus
with your peasants; they might not follow you.'

'Then,' said Eustacie, with flashing eyes, 'they would be traitors.'

'Not to the King,' said the pastor, gently. 'Also, Lady, how will it
be with their homes and families--the hearths that have given you such
faithful shelter?'

'The women would take to the woods,' readily answered she; 'it is
summer-time, and they should be willing to bear something for my sake.
I should grieve indeed,' she added, 'if my uncle misused them. They have
been very good to me, but then they belong to me.'

'Ah! Lady, put from you that hardening belief of seigneurs. Think what
their fidelity deserves from their Lady.'

'I will be good to them! I do love them! I will be their very good
mistress,' said Eustacie, her eyes filling.

'The question is rather of forbearing than of doing,' said the minister.

'But what would you have me do?' asked Eustacie, petulantly.

'This, Lady. I gather that you would not return to your relations.'

'Never! never! They would rend my babe from me; they would kill her, or
at least hide her for ever in a convent--they would force me into this
abhorrent marriage. No--no--no--my child and I would die a hundred
deaths together rather than fall into the hands of Narcisse.'

'Calm yourself, Lady; there is no present fear, but I deem that the
safest course for the little one would be to place her in England. She
must be heiress to lands and estates there; is she not?'

'Yes; and in Normandy.'

'And your husband's mother lives? Wherefore then should you not take me
for your guide, and make your way--more secretly than would be possible
with a peasant escort--to one of your Huguenot towns on the coast,
whence you could escape with the child to England?'

'My _belle-mere_ has re-married! She has children! I would not bring
the daughter of Ribaumont as a suppliant to be scorned!' said Eustacie,
pouting. 'She has lands enough of her own.'

'There is no need to discuss the question now,' said M. Gardon, gravely;
for a most kind offer, involving much peril and inconvenience to
himself, was thus petulantly flouted. 'Madame will think at her leisure
of what would have been the wishes of Monsieur le Baron for his child.'

He then held himself aloof, knowing that it was not well for her health,
mental or bodily, to talk any more, and a good deal perplexed himself by
the moods of his strange little impetuous convert, if convert she could
be termed. He himself was a deeply learned scholar, who had studied
all the bearings of the controversy; and, though bound to the French
Reformers who would gladly have come to terms with the Catholics at the
Conference of Plassy, and regretted the more decided Calvinism that
his party had since professed, and in which the Day of St. Bartholomew
confirmed them. He had a strong sense of the grievous losses they
suffered by their disunion from the Church. The Reformed were less and
less what his ardent youthful hopes had trusted to see them; and in his
old age he was a sorrow-stricken man, as much for the cause of religion
as for personal bereavements. He had little desire to win proselytes,
but rather laid his hand to build up true religion where he found it
suffering shocks in these unsettled, neglected times; and his present
wish was rather to form and guide this little willful warm-hearted
mother--whom he could not help regarding with as much affection as
pity--to find a home in the Church that had been her husband's, than
to gain her to his own party. And most assuredly he would never let her
involve herself, as she was ready to do, in the civil war, without even
knowing the doctrine which grave and earnest men had preferred to their
loyalty.

He could hear her murmuring to her baby, 'No, no, little one, we are not
fallen so low as to beg our bread among strangers.' To live upon her own
vassals had seemed to her only claiming her just rights, but it galled
her to think of being beholden to stranger Huguenots; and England
and her mother-in-law, without Berenger, were utterly foreign and
distasteful to her.

Her mood was variable. Messages from Blaise and Martin came and went,
and it became known that her intended shelter at Chollet, together
with all the adjacent houses, had been closely searched by the younger
Ribaumont in conjunction with the governor; so that it was plain that
some treachery must exist, and that she only owed her present freedom to
her detention in the ruined temple; and it would be necessary to leave
that as soon as it was possible for her to attempt the journey.

The plan that seemed most feasible to the vassals was, that Rotrou
should convey her in a cart of fagots as far as possible on the road
to Paris; that there his men should meet her by different roads, riding
their farm-horses--and Martin even hoped to be able to convey her own
palfrey to her from the monastery stable, and thence, taking a long
stretch across country, they trusted to be able to reach the lands of a
dependant of the house of Montmorency, who would not readily yield her
up to a Guise's man. But, whether instigated by Perrine, or by their own
judgment, the vassals declared that, though Madame should be conducted
wherever she desired, it was impossible to encumber themselves with the
infant. Concealment would be impossible; rough, hasty rides would be
retarded, her difficulties would be tenfold increased, and the little
one would become a means of tracing her. There was no choice but to
leave it with Simonette.

Angrily and haughtily did Eustacie always reject this alternative, and
send fresh commands back by her messenger, to meet the same reply in
another form. The strong will and practical resolution of the stout
farmers, who were about to make a terrible venture for her, and might
reasonably think they had a right to prescribe the terms that they
thought best. All this time Maitre Gardon felt it impossible to leave
her, still weak and convalescent, alone in the desolate ruin with her
young child; though still her pride would not bend again to seek the
counsel that she had so much detested, nor to ask for the instruction
that was to make her 'believe like her husband.' If she might not fight
for the Reformed, it seemed as if she would none of their doctrine!

But, true lady that she was, she sunk the differences in her intercourse
with him. She was always prettily and affectionately grateful for every
service that he rendered her, and as graciously polite as though she had
been keeping house in the halls of Ribaumont. Then her intense love
for her child was so beautiful, and there was so much sweetness in
the cheerful patience with which she endured the many hardships of
her situation, that he could not help being strongly interested in the
willful, spirited little being.

And thus time passed, until one night, when Martin ventured over the
farm with a report so serious that Rotrou, at all risks, brought him
up to communicate his own tidings. Some one had given information,
Veronique he suspected, and the two Chevaliers were certainly coming
the next day to search with fire the old buildings of the temple. It was
already dawning towards morning, and it would be impossible to do more
at present than to let Rotrou build up the lady in a vault, some little
way off, whence, after the search was over, she could be released, and
join her vassals the next night according to the original design. As
to the child, her presence in the vault was impossible, and Martin had
actually brought her intended nurse, Simonette, to Rotrou's cottage to
receive her.

'Never!' was all Eustacie answered. 'Save both of us, or neither.'

'Lady,' said M. Gardon as she looked towards him, 'I go my way with my
staff.'

'And you--you more faithful than her vassals--will let me take her?'

'Assuredly.'

'Then, sir, even to the world's end will I go with you'

Martin would have argued, have asked, but she would not listen to him.
It was Maitre Gardon who made him understand the project. There was
what in later times has been termed an underground railway amid the
persecuted Calvinists, and M. Gardon knew his ground well enough to have
little doubt of being able to conduct the lady safely to some town
on the coast, whence she might reach her friends in England. The plan
highly satisfied Martin. It relieved him and his neighbours from the
necessity of provoking perilous wrath, and it was far safer for her
herself than endeavouing to force her way with an escort too large not
to attract notice, yet not warlike enough for efficient defence. He
offered no further opposition, but augured that after all she would come
back a fine lady, and right them all.

Eustacie, recovering from her anger, and recollecting his services, gave
him her hand to kiss, and bade him farewell with a sudden effusion of
gratitude and affection that warmed the honest fellow's heart. Rewards
could not be given, lest they should become a clue for her uncle; and
perhaps they would have wounded both him and their kind hosts, who did
their best to assist her in their departure. A hasty meal was provided
by Nanon, and a basket so stored as to obviate the need of entering a
village, on that day at least, to purchase provisions; Eustacie's money
and jewels again formed the nucleus of the bundle of clothes and spare
swaddling-banks of her babe; her peasant dress was carefully arranged--a
stout striped cloth skit and black bodice, the latter covered by a
scarlet Chollet kerchief. The winged white cap entirely hid her hair; a
gray cloak with a hood could either fold round her and her child or be
strapped on her shoulders. Her _sabots_ were hung on her shoulder, for
she had learnt to go barefoot, and walked much more lightly thus; and
her little bundle was slung on a staff on the back of Maitre Gardon,
who in his great peasant's hat and coat looked so like a picture of St.
Joseph, that Eustacie, as the light of the rising sun fell on his white
beard and hair, was reminded of the Flight into Egypt, and came close
to him, saying shyly, 'Our Blessed Lady will bless and feel for my baby.
She knows what this journey is.'

'The Son of the Blessed Mary assuredly knows and blesses,' he answered.



CHAPTER XIX. _LA RUE DES TROIS FEES_



And round the baby fast and close  Her trembling grasp she folds.
And with a strong convulsive grasp  The little infant holds.--SOUTHEY.


A wild storm had raged all the afternoon, hail and rain had careered on
the wings of the wind along the narrow street of the Three Fairies, at
the little Huguenot bourg of La Sablerie; torrents of rain had poached
the unpaved soil into a depth of mud, and thunder had reverberated over
the chimney-tops, and growled far away over the Atlantic, whose angry
waves were tossing on the low sandy coast about two miles from the town.

The evening had closed in with a chill, misty drizzle, and, almost May
though it were, the Widow Noemi Laurent gladly closed the shutters of
her unglazed window, where small cakes and other delicate confections
were displayed, and felt the genial warmth of the little fire with which
she heated her tiny oven. She was the widow of a pastor who had suffered
for his faith in the last open persecution, and being the daughter of a
baker, the authorities of the town had permitted her to support herself
and her son by carrying on a trade in the more delicate 'subtilties' of
the art, which were greatly relished at the civic feasts. Noemi was a
grave, sad woman, very lonely ever since she had saved enough to send
her son to study for the ministry in Switzerland, and with an aching
heart that longed to be at rest from the toil that she looked on as a
steep ladder on her way to a better home. She occupied two tiny rooms
on the ground-floor of a tall house; and she had just arranged her few
articles of furniture with the utmost neatness, when there was a low
knock at her door, a knock that the persecuted well understood, and as
she lifted the latch, a voice she had known of old spoke the scriptural
salutation, 'Peace be with this house.'

'_Eh quoi_, Master Issac, is it thou? Come in--in a good hour--ah!'

As, dripping all round his broad hat and from every thread of his gray
mantle, the aged traveller drew into the house a female figure whom he
had been supporting on his other arm, muffled head and shoulders in a
soaked cloak, with a petticoat streaming with wet, and feet and ankles
covered with mire, 'Here we are, my child,' he said tenderly, as he
almost carried her to Noemi's chair. Noemi, with kind exclamations of
'_La pauvre_! _la pauvre_!' helped the trembling cold hand to open the
wet cloak, and then cried out with fresh surprise and pity at the sight
of the fresh little infant face, nestled warm and snug under all the
wrappings in those weary arms.

'See,' said the poor wanderer, looking up to the old man, with a faint
smile; 'she is well--she is warm--it hurts her not.'

'Can you take us in?' added M. Gardon, hastily; 'have you room?'

'Oh yes; if you can sleep on the floor here, I will take this poor dear
to my own bed directly,' said Noemi. '_Tenez_' opening a chest; 'you
will find dry clothes there, of my husband's. And thou,' helping
Eustacie up with her strong arm, and trying to take the little one, 'let
me warm and dry thee within.'

Too much worn out to make resistance, almost past speaking, knowing
merely that she had reached the goal that had been promised her
throughout these weary days, feeling warmth, and hearing kind tones,
Eustacie submitted to be led into the inner room; and when the good
widow returned again, it was in haste to fetch some of the warm _potage_
she had already been cooking over the fire, and hastily bade M. Gardon
help himself to the rest. She came back again with the babe, to wash
and dress it in the warmth of her oven fire. Maitre Gardon, in the black
suit of a Calvinist pastor, had eaten his _potage_, and was anxiously
awaiting her report. 'Ah! _la pauvre_, with His blessing she will sleep!
she will do well. But how far did you come to-day?'

'From Sainte Lucie. From the Grange du Temple since Monday.'

'Ah! is it possible? The poor child! And this little one--sure, it is
scarce four weeks old?'

'Four weeks this coming Sunday.'

'Ah! the poor thing. The blessing of Heaven must have been with you to
bear her through. And what a lovely infant--how white--what beauteous
little limbs! Truly, she has sped well. Little did I think, good friend,
that you had this comfort left, or that our poor Theodore's young wife
had escaped.'

'Alas! no, Noemi; this is no child of Theodore's. His wife shared his
martyrdom. It is I who am escaped alone to tell thee. But, nevertheless,
this babe is an orphan of that same day. Her father was the son of the
pious Baron de Ribaumont, the patron of your husband, and of myself in
earlier days.'

'Ah!' exclaimed Noemi, startled. 'Then the poor young mother--is
she--can she be the lost Demoiselle de Nid de Merle?'

'Is the thing known here? The will of Heaven be done; but she can send
to her husband's kindred in England.'

'She might rest safely enough, if others beside myself believed in
her being your son's widow,' said Noemi. 'Wherefore should she not be
thought so?'

'Poor Esperance! She would willingly have lent her name to guard
another,' said Master Gardon, thoughtfully; 'and, for the sake of
the child, my little lady may endure it. Ah! there is the making of a
faithful and noble woman in that poor young thing. Bravely, patiently,
cheerfully, hath she plodded this weary way; and, verily, she hath grown
like my own daughter to me--as I never thought to love earthly thing
again; and had this been indeed my Theodore's child, I could hardly care
for it more.'

And as he related how he had fallen in with the forlorn Lady of
Ribaumont, and all that she had dared, done, and left undone for the
sake of her little daughter, good Noemi Laurent wept, and agreed with
him that a special providence must have directed them to his care, and
that some good work must await one who had been carried through so much.
His project was to remain here for a short time, to visit the flock who
had lost their pastor on the day of the massacre, and to recruit his own
strength; for he, too, had suffered severely from the long travelling,
and the exposure during many nights, especially since all that was warm
and sheltered had been devoted to Eustacie. And after this he proposed
to go to La Rochelle, and make inquiries for a trusty messenger
who could be sent to England to seek out the family of the Baron de
Ribaumont, or, mayhap, a sufficient escort with whom the lady could
travel; though he had nearly made up his mind that he would not
relinquish the care of her until he had safely delivered her to her
husband's mother.

Health and life were very vigorous in Eustacie; and though at first she
had been completely worn out, a few days of comfort, entire rest, and
good nursing restored her. Noemi dressed her much like herself, in a
black gown, prim little white starched ruff, and white cap,--a thorough
Calvinist dress, and befitting a minister's widow. Eustacie winced a
little at hearing of the character that had been fastened upon her;
she disliked for her child, still more than for herself, to take this
_bourgeois_ name of Gardon; but there was no help for it, since, though
he chief personages of the town were Huguenot, there could be no safety
for her if the report were once allowed to arise that the Baronne de
Ribaumont had taken refuge there.

It was best that she should be as little noticed as possible; nor,
indeed, had good Noemi many visitors. The sad and sorrowful woman had
always shut herself up with her Bible and her meditations, and sought no
sympathy from her neighbours, nor encourage gossip in her shop. In the
first days, when purchasers lingered to ask if it were true that Maitre
Gardon had brought his daughter-in-law and grandchild, her stern-faced,
almost grim answer, that '_la pauvre_ was ill at ease,' silenced them,
and forced them to carry off their curiosity unsatisfied; but it became
less easy to arrange when Eustacie herself was on foot again--refreshed,
active, and with an irrepressible spring of energy and eagerness that
could hardly be caged down in the Widow Laurent's tiny rooms. Poor
child, had she not been ill and prostrate at first, and fastened herself
on the tender side of the good woman's heart by the sweetness of an
unselfish and buoyant nature in illness, Noemi could hardly have endured
such an inmate, not even half a Huguenot, full of little Catholic
observances like second nature to her; listening indeed to the Bible
for the short time, but always, when it was expounded, either asleep, or
finding some amusement indispensable for her baby; eager for the least
variety, and above all spoilt by Maitre Gardon to a degree absolutely
perplexing to the grave woman.

He would not bid her lay aside the observances that, to Noemi, seemed
almost worship of the beast. He rather reverted to the piety which
originated them; and argued with his old friend that it was better
to build than to destroy, and that, before the fabric of truth,
superstition would crumble away of itself. The little he taught
her sounded to Noemi's puzzled ears mere Christianity instead of
controversial Calvinism. And, moreover, he never blamed her for wicked
worldliness when she yawned; but even devised opportunities for taking
her out for a walk, to see as much life as might be on a market-day. He
could certainly not forget--as much as would have been prudent--that she
was a high-born lady; and even seemed taken aback when he found her with
her sleeves turned up over her shapely-delicate arms, and a thick apron
before her, with her hands in Veuve Laurent's flour, showing her some
of those special mysterious arts of confectionery in which she had been
initiated by Soeur Bernardine, when, not three years ago, she had been
the pet of the convent at Bellaise. At first it was half sport and
the desire of occupation, but the produce of her manipulations was
so excellent as to excite quite a sensation in La Sablerie, and the
echevins and baillis sent in quite considerable orders for the cakes and
patties of Maitre Gardon's Paris-bred daughter-in-law.

Maitre Gardon hesitated. Noemi Laurent told him she cared little for the
gain--Heaven knew it was nothing to her--but that she thought it wrong
and inconsistent in him to wish to spare the poor child's pride, which
was unchristian enough already. 'Nay,' he said sadly, 'mortifications
from without do little to tame pride; nor did I mean to bring her here
that she should turn cook and confectioner to pamper the appetite of
Baillis La Grasse.'

But Eustacie's first view was a bright pleasure in the triumph of her
skill; and when her considerate guardian endeavoured to impress on her
that there was no necessity for vexing herself with the task, she turned
round on him with the exclamation, 'Nay, dear father, do you not see
it is my great satisfaction to be able to do something for our good
hostess, so that my daughter and I be not a burden to her?'

'Well spoken, my Lady,' said the pastor; 'there is real nobility in that
way of thinking. Yet, remember, Noemi is not without means; she feels
not the burden. And the flock contribute enough for the shepherd's
support, and yours likewise.'

'Then let her give it to the poor creatures who so often come in
begging, and saying they have been burned out of house and home by one
party or the other,' said Eustacie. 'Let me have my way, dear sir;
Soeur Bernadine always said I should be a prime _menagere_. I like it so
much.'

And Madame de Ribaumont mixed sugar and dough, and twisted quaint
shapes, and felt important and almost light-hearted, and sang over her
work and over her child songs that were not always Marot's psalms; and
that gave the more umbrage to Noemi, because she feared that Maitre
Gardon actually like to hear them, though, should their echo reach the
street, why it would be a peril, and still worse, a horrible scandal
that out of that sober, afflicted household should proceed profane tunes
such as court ladies sang.



CHAPTER XX. THE ABBE.



     By the day and night her sorrows fall
       Where miscreant hands and rude
     Have stained her pure, ethereal pall
       With many a martyr's blood.
     And yearns not her maternal heart
       To hear their secret sighs,
     Upon whose doubting way apart
       Bewildering shadows rise?--KEBLE


It was in the summer twilight that Eustacie, sitting on the doorstep
between the two rooms, with her baby on her knees, was dreamily humming
to her a tune, without even words, but one that she loved, because she
had first learnt to sing it with Berenger and his friend Sidney to the
lute of the latter; and its notes always brought before her eyes the
woods of Montpipeau. Then it was that, low and soft as was the voice,
that befell which Noemi had feared: a worn, ragged-looking young man,
who had been bargaining at the door for a morsel of bread in exchange
for a handkerchief, started at the sound, and moved so as to like into
the house.

Noemi was at the moment not attending, being absorbed in the study of
the handkerchief, which was of such fine, delicate texture that an
idea of its having been stolen possessed her; and she sought the corner
where, as she expected, a coat-of-arms was embroidered. Just as she was
looking up to demand explanation, the stranger, with a sudden cry of
'Good heavens, it is she!' pushed past her into the house, and falling
on his knee before Eustacie, exclaimed, 'O Lady, Lady, is it thus that I
see you?'

Eustacie had started up in dismay, crying out, 'Ah! M. l'Abbe, as you
are a gentleman, betray me not. Oh! have they sent you to find me? Have
pity on us! You loved my husband!'

'You have nothing to fear from me, Lady,' said the young man, still
kneeling; 'if you are indeed a distressed fugitive--so am I. If you have
shelter and friends--I have none.'

'Is it indeed so?' said Eustacie, wistfully, yet scarce reassured. 'You
are truly not come from my uncle. Indeed, Monsieur, I would not doubt
you, but you see I have so much at stake. I have my little one here, and
they mean so cruelly by her.'

'Madame, I swear by the honour of a nobleman--nay, by all that is
sacred--that I know nothing of your uncle. I have been a wanderer for
many weeks past; proscribed and hunted down because I wished to seek
into the truth.'

'Ah!' said Eustacie, with a sound of relief, and of apology, 'pardon
me, sir; indeed, I know you were good. You loved my husband;' and she
reached out her hand to raise him, when he kissed it reverently. Little
_bourgeoise_ and worn mendicant as they were in dress, the air of the
Louvre breathed round them; and there was all its grace and dignity as
the lady turned round to her astonished hosts, saying, 'Good sir, kind
mother, this gentleman is, indeed, what you took me for, a fugitive for
the truth. Permit me to present to you, Monsieur l'Abbe de Mericour--at
least, so he was, when last I had the honour to see him.'

The last time HE had seen her, poor Eustacie had been incapable of
seeing anything save that bloody pool at the foot of the stairs.

Mericour now turned and explained. 'Good friends,' he said courteously,
but with the _fierete_ of the noble not quite out of his tone, 'I beg
your grace. I would not have used so little ceremony, if I had not been
out of myself at recognizing a voice and a tune that could belong to
none but Madame---'

'Sit down, sir,' said Noemi, a little coldly and stiffly--for Mericour
was a terrible name to Huguenots ears; 'a true friend to this lady must
needs be welcome, above all if he comes in Heaven's name.'

'Sit down and eat, sir,' added Gardon, much more heartily; 'and forgive
us for not having been more hospitable--but the times have taught us to
be cautious, and in that lady we have a precious charge. Rest; for you
look both weary and hungry.'

Eustacie added an invitation, understanding that he would not sit
without her permission, and then, as he dropped into a chair, she
exclaimed, 'Ah! sir, you are faint, but you are famished.'

'It will pass,' he said; 'I have not eaten to-day.'

Instantly a meal was set before him, and ere long he revived; and as
the shutters were closed, and shelter for the night promised to him by a
Huguenot family lodging in the same house, he began to answer Eustacie's
anxious questions, as well as to learn from her in return what had
brought her into her present situation.

Then it was that she recollected that it had been he who, at her cousin
Diane's call, had seized her when she was rushing out of the palace
in her first frenzy of grief, and had carried her back to the women's
apartments.

'It was that day which brought me here,' he said.

And he told how, bred up in his own distant province, by a pious and
excellent tutor, he had devoutly believed in the extreme wickedness of
the Reformers; but in his seclusion he had been trained to such purity
of faith and morals, that, when his brother summoned him to court to
solicit a benefice, he had been appalled at the aspect of vice, and had,
at the same time, been struck by the pure lives of the Huguenots; for
truly, as things then were at the French court, crime seemed to have
arrayed itself on the side of the orthodox party, all virtue on that of
the schismatics.

De Mericour consulted spiritual advisers, who told him that none but
Catholics could be truly holy, and that what he admired were merely
heathen virtues that the devil permitted the Huguenots to display in
order to delude the unwary. With this explanation he had striven to be
satisfied, though eyes unblended by guilt and a pure heart continued to
be revolted at the practices which his Church, scared at the evil
times, and forgetful of her own true strength, left undenounced in her
partisans. And the more that the Huguenot gentlemen thronged the court,
and the young Abbe was thrown into intercourse with them, and the more
he perplexed himself how the truth, the faith, the uprightness, the
forbearance, the purity that they evinced could indeed be wanting in
the zeal that made them acceptable. Then came the frightful morning when
carnage reigned in every street, and the men who had been treated as
favourite boon companions were hunted down like wild beasts in every
street. He had endeavoured to save life, but would have speedily been
slaughtered himself except for his soutane; and in all good faith he
had hurried to the Louvre, to inform royalty of the horrors that, as he
thought, a fanatic passion was causing the populace to commit.

He found the palace become shambles--the King himself, wrought up to
frenzy, firing on the fugitives. And the next day, while his brain still
seemed frozen with horror, he was called on to join in the procession of
thanksgiving for the King's deliverance from a dangerous plot. Surely,
if the plot were genuine, he thought, the procession should have
savoured of penance and humiliation rather than of barbarous exultation!
Yet these might be only the individual crimes of the Queen-mother, and
of the Guises seeking to mask themselves under the semblance of
zeal; and the infallible head of the visible Church would disown the
slaughter, and cast it from the Church with loathing as a blood-stained
garment. Behold, Rome was full of rejoicing, and sent sanction and
commendation of the pious zeal of the King! Had the voice of Holy Church
become indeed as the voice of the bloodhound? Was this indeed her call?

The young man, whose life from infancy had been marked out for the
service of the Church--so destined by his parents as securing a wealthy
provision for a younger son, but educated by his good tutor with more
real sense of his obligations--felt the question in its full import.
He was under no vows; he had, indeed, received the tonsure, but was
otherwise unpledged, and he was bent on proving all things. The gaieties
in which he had at first mingled had become abhorrent to him, and he
studied with the earnestness of a newly-awakened mind in search of true
light. The very face of study and inquiry, in one of such a family as
that of his brother the Duke de Mericour, was enough to excite suspicion
of Huguenot inclinations. The elder brother tried to quash the folly of
the younger, by insisting on his sharing the debaucheries which, whether
as priest or monk, or simply as Christian man, it would be his duty to
abjure; and at length, by way of bringing things to a test, insisted
on his making one of a party who were about to break up and destroy a
Huguenot assembly. Unable, in his present mood, to endure the thought
of further cruelty, the young Abbe fled, gave secret warning to the
endangered congregation, and hastened to the old castle in Brittany,
where he had been brought up, to pour out his perplexities, and seek the
counsel of the good old chaplain who had educated him. Whether the kind,
learned, simple-hearted tutor could have settled his mind, he had no
time to discover, for he had scarcely unfolded his troubles before
warnings came down that he had better secure himself--his brother, as
head of the family, had obtained the royal assent to the imprisonment of
the rebellious junior, so as to bring him to a better mind, and cure
him of the Huguenot inclinations, which in the poor lad were simply
undeveloped. But in all the Catholic eyes he was a tainted man, and
his almost inevitable course was to take refuge with some Huguenot
relations. There he was eagerly welcome; instruction was poured in on
him; but as he showed a disposition to inquire and examine, and needed
time to look into what they taught him, as one who feared to break
his link with the Church, and still longed to find her blameless and
glorious, the righteous nation that keepeth the truth, they turned on
him and regarded him as a traitor and a spy, who had come among them on
false pretences.

All the poor lad wanted was time to think, time to examine, time to
consult authorities, living and dead. The Catholics called this treason
to the Church, the Huguenots called it halting between two opinions; and
between them he was a proscribed, distrusted vagabond, branded on one
side as a recreant, and on the other as a traitor. He had asked for a
few months of quiet, and where could they be had? His grand-mother had
been the daughter of a Scottish nobleman in the French service, and he
had once seen a nephew of hers who had come to Paris during the time of
Queen Mary's residence there. He imagined that if he were once out of
this distracted land of France, he might find respite for study, for
which he longed; and utterly ignorant of the real state of Scotland,
he had determined to make his way to his kindred there; and he had
struggled on the way to La Rochelle, cheated out of the small remains
of his money, selling his last jewels and all the clothing that was
not indispensable, and becoming so utterly unable to pay his passage to
England, that he could only trust to Providence to find him some means
of reaching his present goal.

He had been listened to with kindness, and a sympathy such as M.
Gardon's large mind enable him to bestow, where his brethren had been
incapable of comprehending that a man could sincerely doubt between them
and Rome. When the history was finished, Eustacie exclaimed, turning
to Maitre Gardon, 'Ah! sir, is not this just what we sought? If this
gentleman would but convey a letter to my mother-in-law---'

M. Gardon smiled. 'Scotland and England are by no means the same place,
Lady,' he said.

'Whatever this lady would command, wherever she would send me, I am at
her service,' cried the Abbe, fervently.

And, after a little further debate, it was decided that it might really
be the best course, for him as for Madame de Ribaumont, to become the
bearer of a letter and token from her, entreating her mother-in-law to
notify her pleasure whether she should bring her child to England. She
had means enough to advance a sufficient sum to pay Mericour's passage,
and he accepted it most punctiliously as a loan, intending, so soon as
her despatches were ready, to go on to La Rochelle, and make inquiry for
a ship.

Chance, however, seemed unusually propitious, for the next day there
was an apparition in the streets of La Sablerie of four or five
weather-beaten, rollicking-looking men, their dress profusely adorned
with ribbons, and their language full of strange oaths. They were well
known at La Sablerie as sailors belonging to a ship of the fleet of the
Count de Montgomery, the unfortunate knight whose lance had caused the
death of King Henry II., and who, proscribed by the mortal hatred of
Catherine de Medicis, had become the admiral of a piratical fleet in the
Calvinist interest, so far winked at the Queen Elizabeth that it had its
head-quarters in the Channel Islands, and thence was a most formidable
foe to merchant vessels on the northern and eastern coasts of France;
and often indulged in descents on the coast, when the sailors--being in
general the scum of the nation--were apt to comport themselves more like
American buccaneers than like champions of any form of religion.

La Sablerie was a Huguenot town, so they used no violence, but only
swaggered about, demanding from Bailli La Grasse, in the name of their
gallant Captain Latouche, contributions and provisions, and giving him
to understand that if he did not comply to the uttermost it should be
the worse for him. Their ship, it appeared, had been forced to put into
the harbour, about two miles off, and Maitre Gardon and the young Abbe
decided on walking thither to see it, and to have an interview with the
captain, so as to secure a passage for Mericour at least. Indeed Maitre
Gardon had, in consultation with Eustacie, resolved, if he found things
suitable, to arrange for their all going together. She would be far
safer out of France; and, although the Abbe alone could not have
escorted her, yet Maitre Gardon would gladly have secured for her
the additional protection of a young, strong, and spirited man; and
Eustacie, who was no scribe, was absolutely relieved to have the voyage
set before her as an alternative to the dreadful operation of composing
a letter to the _belle-mere_, whom she had not seen since she had been
seven years old, and of whose present English name she had the most
indistinct ideas.

However, the first sight of the ship overthrew all such ideas. It was a
wretched single-decked vessel, carrying far more sail than experienced
nautical eyes would have deemed safe, and with no accommodation fit
for a woman and child, even had the aspect of captain or crew been more
satisfactory--for the ruffianly appearance and language of the former
fully rivaled that of his sailors. It would have been mere madness to
think of trusting the lady in such hands; and, without a word to each
other, Gardon and Mericour resolved to give no hint even that she and
her jewels were in La Sablerie. Mericour, however, made his bargain with
the captain, who understood to transport him as far as Guernsey, whence
he might easily make his way to Dorsetshire, where M. Gardon knew that
Berenger's English home had been.

So Eustacie, with no small trouble and consideration, indited her
letter--telling of her escape, the birth of her daughter, the dangers
that threatened her child--and begging that its grand-mother would give
it a safe home in England, and love it for the sake of its father. An
answer would find her at the Widow Noemi Laurent's, Rue des Trois
Fees, La Sablerie. She could not bring herself to speak of the name of
Eserance Gardon which had been saddled upon her; and even M. de Mericour
remained in ignorance of her bearing this disguise. She recommended him
to the kindness of her mother-in-law; and M. Gardon added another letter
to the lady, on behalf of the charge to whom he promised to devote
himself until he should see them safe in friendly hands. Both
letters were addressed, as best they might be, between Eustacie's
dim comprehension of the word Thistlewood, and M. Gardon's notion of
spelling. 'Jadis, Baronne de Ribaumont' was the securest part of the
direction.

And for a token, Eustacie looked over her jewels to find one that would
serve for a token; but the only ones she knew would be recognized, were
the brooch that had fastened the plume in Berenger's bloody cap, and the
chaplet of pearls. To part with the first, or to risk the second in the
pirate-ship, was impossible, but Eustacie at last decided upon detaching
the pear-shaped pearl which was nearest the clasp, and which was so
remarkable in form and tint that there was no doubt of its being well
known.



CHAPTER XXI. UNDER THE WALNUT-TREE



  Mistress Jean was making the elder-flower wine--
  'And what brings the
  Laird at sic a like time?'
                              LADY NAIRN, THE LAIRD OF COCKPEN


Summer was nearly ended, and Lucy Thistlewood was presiding in the great
kitchen of the Manor-house, standing under the latticed window near
the large oak-table, a white apron over her dress, presiding over the
collecting of elder-berries for the brew of household-wine for the
winter. The maids stood round her with an array of beechen bowls or red
and yellow crocks, while barefooted, bareheaded children came thronging
in with rush or wicker baskets of the crimson fruit, which the maids
poured in sanguine cascades into their earthenware; and Lucy requited
with substantial slices of bread and cheese, and stout homely garment
mostly of her own sewing.

Lucy was altogether an inmate of her father's house. She had not even
been at Hurst Walwyn for many months; for her step-mother's reiterated
hopes that Berenger would make her his consolation for all he had
suffered from his French spouse rendered it impossible to her to meet
him with sisterly unconsciousness; and she therefore kept out of the
way, and made herself so useful at home, that Dame Annora only wondered
how it had been possible to spare her so long, and always wound up her
praises by saying, that Berenger would learn in time how lucky he had
been to lose the French puppet, and win the good English housewife.

If only tidings would have come that the puppet was safe married. That
was the crisis which all the family desired yet feared for Berenger,
since nothing else they saw would so detach his thoughts from the past
as the leave him free to begin life again. The relapse brought on by the
cruel reply to Osbert's message had been very formidable: he was long
insensible or delirious and then came a state of annihilated thought,
then of frightfully sensitive organs, when light, sound, movement, or
scent were alike agony; and when he slowly revived, it was with such
sunken spirits, that his silence was as much from depression as from
difficulty of speech. His brain was weak, his limbs feeble, the wound in
his mouth never painless; and all this necessarily added to his listless
indifference and weariness, as though all youthful hope and pleasure
were extinct in him. He had ceased to refer to the past. Perhaps he had
thought it over, and seen that the deferred escape, the request for the
pearls, the tryst at the palace, and detention from the king's chamber,
made an uglier case against Eustacie than he could endure to own even to
himself. If his heart trusted, his mind could not argue out her defence,
and his tongue would not serve him for discussion with his grandfather,
the only person who could act for him. Perhaps the stunned condition of
his mind made the suspense just within the bounds of endurance, while
trust in his wife's innocence rendered his inability to come to her aid
well-nigh intolerable; and doubt of her seemed both profanity and misery
unspeakable. He could do nothing. He had shot his only shaft by sending
Landry Osbert, and had found that to endeavour to induce his grandfather
to use further measures was worse than useless, and was treated as mere
infatuation. He knew that all he had to do was to endeavour for what
patience he could win from Cecily's sweet influence and guidance, and
to wait till either certainty should come--that dreadful, miserable
certainty that all looked for, and his very helplessness might be
bringing about--or till he should regain strength to be again effective.

And miserably slow work was this recovery. No one had surgical skill to
deal with so severe a wound as that which Narcisse had inflicted; and
the daily pain and inconvenience it caused led to innumerable drawbacks
that often--even after he had come as far as the garden--brought him
back to his bed in a dark room, to blood-letting, and to speechlessness.
No one knew much of his mind--Cecily perhaps the most; and next to her,
Philip--who, from the time he had been admitted to his step-brother's
presence, had been most assiduous in tending him--seemed to understand
his least sign, and to lay aside all his boisterous roughness in his
eager desire to do him service. The lads had loved each other from the
moment they had met as children, but never so apparently as now,
when all the rude horse-play of healthy youths was over--and one was
dependent, the other considerate. And if Berenger had made on one else
believe in Eustacie, he had taught Philip to view her as the 'Queen's
men' viewed Mary of Scotland. Philip had told Lucy the rough but
wholesome truth, that 'Mother talks mere folly. Eustacie is no more to
be spoken of with you than a pheasant with old brown Partlet; and Berry
waits but to be well to bring her off from all her foes. And I'll go
with him.'

It was on Philip's arm that Berenger first crept round the
bowling-green, and with Philip at his rein that he first endured to
ride along the avenue on Lord Walwyn's smooth-paced palfrey; and it
was Philip who interrupted Lucy's household cares by rushing in and
shouting, 'Sister, here! I have wiled him to ride over the down, and
he is sitting under the walnut-tree quite spent, and the three little
wenches are standing in a row, weeping like so many little mermaids.
Come, I say!'

Lucy at once followed him through the house, through the deep porch to
the court, which was shaded by a noble walnut-tree, where Sir Marmaduke
loved to sit among his dogs. There not sat Berenger, resting against the
trunk, overcome by the heat and exertion of his ride. His cloak and
hat lay on the ground; the dogs fawned round him, eager for the wonted
caress, and his three little sisters stood a little aloof, clinging to
one another and crying piteously.

It was their first sight of him; and it seemed to them as if he were
behind a frightful mask. Even Lucy was not without a sensation of the
kind, of this effect in the change from the girlish, rosy complexion to
extreme paleness, on which was visible, in ghastly red and purple, the
great scar left by Narcisse, from the temple on the one side to the ear
on the other.

The far more serious would on the cheek was covered with a black patch,
and the hair had almost entirely disappeared from the head, only a few
light brown locks still hanging round the neck and temples, so that
the bald brow gave a strange look of age; and the disfigurement was
terrible, enhanced as it was by the wasting effect of nearly a year of
sickness. Lucy was so much shocked, that she could hardly steady her
voice to chide the children for not giving a better welcome to their
brother. They would have clung round her, but she shook them off, and
sent Annora in haste for her mother's fan; while Philip arriving with a
slice of diet-bread and a cup of sack, the one fanned him, and the other
fed him with morsels of the cake soaked in the wine, till he revived,
looked up with eyes that were unchanged, and thanked them with a few
faltering words, scarcely intelligible to Lucy. The little girls came
nearer, and curiously regarded him but when he held out his hand to his
favourite Dolly, she shrank back in reluctance.

'Do not chide her,' he said wearily. 'May she never become used to such
marks!'

'What, would you have her live among cowards?' exclaimed Philip; but
Berenger, instead of answering, looked up at the front of the house,
one of those fine Tudor facades that seem all carved timber and glass
lattice, and asked, so abruptly that Lucy doubted whether she heard him
alright,--'How many windows are there in this front?'

'I never counted,' said Philip.

'I have,' said Annora; 'there are seven and thirty, besides the two
little ones in the porch.'

'None shall make them afraid,' he muttered. 'Who would dare build such a
defenceless house over yonder?'--pointing south.

'Our hearts are guarded now,' said Philip, proudly. Berenger half
smiled, as he was wont to do when he meant more than he could
conveniently utter, and presently he asked, in the same languid, musing
tone, 'Lucy, were you ever really affrighted?'

Lucy questioned whether he could be really in his right mind, as if the
bewilderment of his brain was again returning; and while she paused,
Annora exclaimed, 'Yes, when we were gathering cowslips, and the
brindled cow ran at us, and Lucy could not run because she had Dolly in
her arm. Oh! we were frightened then, till you came, brother.'

'Yes,' added Bessie; 'and last winter too, when the owl shrieked at the
window---'

'And,' added Berenger, 'sister, what was your greatest time of revelry?'

Annora again put in her word. 'I know, brother; you remember the
fair-day, when my Lady Grandame was angered because you and Lucy went on
dancing when we and all then gentry had ceased. And when Lucy said she
had not seen that you were left alone, Aunt Cecily said it was because
the eyes of discretion were lacking.'

'Oh, the Christmas feast was far grander,' said Bessie. 'Then Lucy had
her first satin farthingale, and three gallants, besides my brother,
wanted to dance with her.'

Blushing deeply, Lucy tried to hush the little ones, much perplexed by
the questions, and confused by the answers. Could he be contrasting the
life where a vicious cow had been the most alarming object, a greensward
dance with a step-brother the greatest gaiety, dye of the elder juice
the deepest stain, with the temptations and perils that had beset one
equally young? Resting his head on his hand, his elbow on his knee,
he seemed to be musing in a reverie that he could hardly brook, as his
young brow was knitted by care and despondency.

Suddenly, the sounds in the village rose from the quiet sleepy summer
hum into a fierce yell of derisive vituperation, causing Philip at once
to leap up, and run across the court to the entrance-gate, while Lucy
called after him some vain sisterly warning against mingling in a fray.

It seemed as if his interposition had a good effect, for the uproar
lulled almost as soon as he had hurried to the scene of action; and
presently he reappeared, eager and breathless. 'I told them to bring him
up here,' he said; 'they would have flogged him at the cart's-tail, the
rogues, just because my father is out of the way. I could not make out
his jargon, but you can, brother; and make that rascal Spinks let him
go.'

'What should I have to do with it?' said Berenger, shrinking from
the sudden exposure of his scarred face and maimed speech. 'I am no
magistrate.'

'But you can understand him; he is French, the poor rogue something abut
a letter, and wanting to ask his way. Ah! I thought that would touch
you, and it will cost you little pains, and slouching it over his face,
rose, and, leaning upon Annora's shoulder, stepped forward, just as the
big burly blacksmith-constable and small shriveled cobbler advanced,
dragging along, by a cord round the wrists, a slight figure with a red
woolen sailor's shirt, ragged black hosen, bare head, and almost bare
feet.

Doffing their caps, the men began an awkward salutation to the young
Lord on his recovery, but he only touched his beaver in return, and
demanded, 'How now! what have you bound him for?'

'You see, my Lord,' began the constable, 'there have been a sort of
vagrants of late, and I'll be bound' twas no four-legged fox as took
Gaffer Shepherd's lamb.'

The peroration was broken off, for with a start as if he had been shot,
Berenger cried aloud, 'Mericour! the Abbe!'

'Ah, Monsieur, if you know me,' cried the young man, raising his head,
'free me from this shame--aid me in my mission!'

'Loose him, fellows,' shouted Berenger; 'Philip, a knife--Lucy, those
scissors.'

'Tis my duty, my Lord,' said Spinks, gruffly. 'All vagabonds to be
apprehended and flogged at the cart's-tail, by her Grace's special
commands. How is it to be answered to his Honour, Sir Marmaduke?'

'Oaf!' cried Philip, 'you durst not have used such violence had my
father been at home! Don't you see my brother knows him?'

With hands trembling with haste, Berenger had seized the scissors
that, house-wife like, hung at Lucy's waist, and was cutting the
rope, exclaiming in French, 'Pardon, pardon, friend, for so shameful a
reception.'

'Sir,' was the reply, without a sign of recognition, 'if, indeed, you
know my name, I entreat you to direct me to the chateau of Le Sieur
Tistefote, whose lady was once Baronne de Ribaumont.'

'My mother! Ah, my friend, my friend! what would you?' he cried in a
tone of tremulous hope and fear, laying one hand on Mericour's shoulder,
and about to embrace him.

Mericour retreated from him; but the high-spirited young man crossed his
arms on his breast, and gazing at the group with indignant scorn, made
answer, 'My message is from her who deems herself a widow, to the
mother of the husband whom she little imagines to be not only alive, but
consoled.'

'Faithful! Faithful!' burst out Berenger, with a wild, exultant,
strangely-ringing shout. 'Woe, woe to those who would have had me doubt
her! Philip--Lucy--hear! Her truth is clear to all the world!' Then
changing back again to French, 'Ten thousand blessings on you, Mericour!
You have seen her! Where--how?'

Mericour still spoke with frigid politeness. 'I had the honour to part
with Madame la Baronne de Ribaumont in the town of La Sablerie, among
humble, Huguenot guardians, to whom she had fled, to save her infant's
life--when no aid came.'

He was obliged to break off, for Berenger, stunned by the sudden rush
of emotion, reeled as he stood, and would have fallen but for the prompt
support of Lucy, who was near enough to guide him back to rest upon the
bench, saying resentfully in French as she did so, 'My brother is still
very ill. I pray you, sir, have a care.'

She had not half understood the rapid words of the two young men, Philip
comprehended them far less, and the constable and his crew of course
not at all; and Spinks pushed forward among the group as he saw Berenger
sink back on the bench; and once more collaring his prisoner, exclaimed
almost angrily to Philip, 'There now, sir, you've had enough of the
vagabond. We'll keep him tight ere he bewitches any more of you.'

This rude interference proved an instant restorative. Berenger sprang up
at once, and seizing Spink's arm, exclaimed, 'Hands off, fellow! This is
my friend--a gentleman. He brings me tidings of infinite gladness. Who
insults him, insults me.'

Spinks scarcely withdrew his hand from Mericour's neck; and scowling,
said, 'Very odd gentleman--very queer tidings, Master Berenger, to fell
you like an ox. I must be answerable for the fellow till his Honour
comes.'

'Ah! _Eh quoi_, wherefore not show the _canaille_ your sword?' said
Mericour, impatiently.

'It may not be here, in England,' said Berenger (who fortunately was not
wearing his weapon). 'And in good time here comes my step-father,' as
the gate swung back, and Sir Marmaduke and Lady Thistlewood rode through
it, the former sending his voice far before him to demand the meaning of
the hurly-burly that filled his court.

Philip was the first to spring to his rein, exclaiming, 'Father, it is
a Frenchman whom Spinks would have flogged at the cart's-tail; but it
seems he is a friend of Berenger's, and has brought him tidings. I know
not what--about his wife, I believe--any way he is beside himself with
joy.'

'Sir, your Honour,' shouted Spinks, again seizing Mericour, and striving
to drag him forward, 'I would know whether the law is to be hindered
from taking its course because my young Lord there is a Frenchman and
bewitched.'

'Ah,' shrieked Lady Thistlewood, 'I knew it. They will have sent secret
poison to finish him. Keep the fellow safe. He will cast it in the air.'

'Ay, ay, my Lady,' said Spinks, 'there are plenty of us to testify
that he made my young Lord fall back as in a swoon, and reel like one
distraught. Pray Heaven it have not gone further.'

'Sir,' exclaimed Berenger, who on the other side held his friend's hand
tight, 'this is a noble gentleman--the brother of the Duke de Mericour.
He has come at great risk to bring me tidings of my dear and true wife.
And not one word will these demented rascals let me hear with their
senseless clamour.'

'Berenger! You here, my boy!' exclaimed Sir Marmaduke, more amazed by
this than all the rest.

'He touches him--he holds him! Ah! will no one tear him away?' screamed
Lady Thistlewood. Nor would Spinks have been slow in obeying her if Sir
Marmaduke had not swung his substantial form to the ground, and
stepping up to the prisoner, rudely clawed on one side by Spinks, and
affectionately grasped on the other side by Berenger, shouted--

'Let go, both!' does he speak English? Peace, dame! If the lad be
bewitched, it is the right way. He looks like the other man. Eh, lad,
what does your friend say for himself?'

'Sir,' said Berenger, interpreting Mericour's words as they were spoken,
'he has been robbed and misused at sea by Montgomery's pirate crews. He
fled from court for the religion's sake; he met her--my wife' (the voice
was scarcely intelligible, so tremulously was it spoken), 'in hiding
among the Huguenots--he brings a letter and a token from her to my
mother.'

'Ha! And you know him? You avouch him to be what he represents himself?'

'I knew him at court. I know him well. Father, make these fellows cease
their insults! I have heard nothing yet. See here!' holding out what
Mericour had put into his hand; 'this you cannot doubt, mother.'

'Parted the pearls! Ah, the little minx!' cried the lady, as she
recognized the jewels.

'I thought he had been robbed?' added Sir Marmaduke.

'The gentleman doubts?' said Mericour, catching some of the words. 'He
should know that what is confided in a French gentleman is only taken
from him with his life. Much did I lose; but the pearl I kept hidden in
my mouth.'

Therewith he produced the letter. Lady Thistlewood pronounced that no
power on earth should induce her to open it, and drew off herself and
her little girls to a safe distance from the secret poison she fancied
it contained; while Sir Marmaduke was rating the constables for taking
advantage of his absence to interpret the Queen's Vagrant Act in their
own violent fashion; ending, however, by sending them round to the
buttery-hatch to drink the young Lord's health. For the messeger, the
good knight heartily grasped his hand, welcoming him and thanking him
for having 'brought comfort to you poor lad's heart.'

But there Sir Marmaduke paused, doubting whether the letter had indeed
brought comfort; for Berenger, who had seized on it, when it was refused
by his mother, was sitting under the tree--turning away indeed, but not
able to conceal that his tears were gushing down like rain. The anxious
exclamation of his step-father roused him at length, but he scarce found
power or voice to utter, as he thrust the letter into the knight's hand,
'Ah! see what has she not suffered for me! me, whom you would have had
believed her faithless!'

He then grasped his friend's arm, and with him disappeared into the
house, leaving Sir Marmaduke holding the letter in a state of the utmost
bewilderment, and calling by turns on his wife and daughter to read and
explain it to him.

And as Lucy read the letter, with her mother could not yet prevail on
herself to touch, she felt at each word more grateful to the good Aunt
Cecily, whose influence had taught her always to view Berenger as a
brother, and not to condemn unheard the poor young wife. If she had not
been thus guarded, what distress might not this day of joy to Berenger
have brought to Lucy! Indeed, Lady Thistlewood was vexed enough as
it was, and ready to carry her incredulity to the most inconsistent
lengths. 'It was all a trick for getting the poor boy back, that
they might make an end of him altogether. Tell her they thought him
dead.--'Tilley-valley! It was a mere attempt on her own good-nature, to
get a little French impostor on her hands. Let Sir Duke look well to
it, and take care that her poor boy was not decoyed among them. The
Frenchman might be cutting his throat at that moment! Where was he? Had
Sir Duke been so lost as to let them out of sight together? No one had
either pity or prudence now that her poor father was gone;' and she
began to weep.

'No great fear on that score, dame,' laughed the knight. 'Did you not
hear the lad shouting for 'Phil, Phil!' almost in a voice like old
times? It does one good to hear it.'

Just at twilight, Berenger came down the steps, conducting a graceful
gentleman in black, to whom Lady Thistlewood's instinct impelled her
to make a low courtesy, before Berenger had said, 'Madam, allow me to
present to you my friend, the Abbe de Mericour.'

'Is it the same?' whispered Bessie to Annora. 'Surely he is translated!'

'Only into Philip's old mourning suit. I know it by the stain on the
knee.

'Then it is translated too. Never did it look so well on Philip! See,
our mother is quite gracious to him; she speaks to him as though he were
some noble visitor to my Lord.'

Therewith Sir Marmaduke came forward, shook Mericour with all his might
by the hand, shouted to him his hearty thanks for the good he had done
his poor lad and assured him of a welcome from the very bottom of his
heart. The good knight would fain have kept both Berenger and his friend
at the Manor, but Berenger was far too impatient to carry home his joy,
and only begged the loan of a horse for Mericour. For himself, he felt
as if fatigue or dejection would never touch him again, and he kissed
his mother and his sisters, including Lucy, all round, with an effusion
of delight.

'Is that indeed your step-father?' said Mericour, as they rode away
together. 'And the young man, is he your half-brother?'

'Brother wholly in dear love,' said Berenger; 'no blood relation. The
little girls are my mother's children.'

'Ah! so large a family all one? All at home? None in convents?'

'We have no convents.'

'Ah, no, but all at home! All at peace! This is a strange place, your
England.'



CHAPTER XXII. DEPARTURE



             It is my mistress!
     Since she is living, let the time run on
         To good or bad.--CYMBELINE


Mericour found the welcome at Hurst Walwyn kindly and more polished than
that at Combe Manor. He was more readily understood, and found himself
at his natural element. Lord Walwyn, in especial, took much notice of
him, and conversed with him long and earnestly; while Berenger, too
happy and too weary to exert himself to say many words, sat as
near Cecily as he could, treating her as though she, who had never
contradicted in his trust in Eustacie, were the only person who could
worthily share his infinite relief, peace, and thankfulness.

Lord Walwyn said scarcely anything to his grandson that night, only when
Berenger, as usual, bent his knee to ask his blessing on parting for the
night, he said, gravely, 'Son, I am glad of your joy; I fear me you have
somewhat to pardon your grandsire. Come to my library so soon as morning
prayers be over; we will speak then. Not now, my dear lad,' he added, as
Berenger, with tears in his eyes, kissed his hand, and would have begun;
'you are too much worn and spent to make my dear ears hear. Sleep, and
take my blessing with you.'

It was a delight to see the young face freed from the haggard, dejected
expression that had been sadder than the outward wound; and yet it was
so questionable how far the French connection was acceptable to the
family, that when Berenger requested Mr. Adderley to make mention of the
mercy vouch-safed to him in the morning devotions, the chaplain bowed,
indeed, but took care to ascertain that his so doing would be agreeable
to my Lord and my Lady.

He found that if Lady Walwyn was still inclined to regret that the
Frenchwoman was so entirely a wife, and thought Berenger had been very
hasty and imprudent, yet that the old Lord was chiefly distressed at
the cruel injustice he had so long been doing this poor youth thing.
A strong sense of justice, and long habit of dignified self-restraint,
alone prevented Lord Walwyn from severely censuring Mr. Adderley for
misrepresentations; but the old nobleman recollected that Walsingham had
been in the same story, and was too upright to visit his own vexation on
the honestly-mistaken tutor.

However, when Berenger made his appearance in the study, looking as
if not one right, but weeks, had been spent in recovering health and
spirit, the old man's first word was a gentle rebuke for his having been
left unaware of how far matters had gone; but he cut short the attempted
reply, but saying he knew it was chiefly owing to his own over-hasty
conclusion, and fear of letting his grandson injure himself by vainly
discussing the subject. Now, however, he examined Berenger closely on
all the proceedings Paris and at Montpipeau, and soon understood that
the ceremony had been renewed, ratifying the vows taken in infancy. The
old statesman's face cleared up at once; for, as he explained, he had
now no anxieties as to the validity of the marriage by English law, at
least, in spite of the decree from Rome, which, as he pointed out to his
grandson, was wholly contingent on the absence of subsequent consent,
since the parties had come to an age for free-will. Had he known of
this, the re-marriage, he said, he should certainly have been less
supine. Why had Berenger been silent?

'I was commanded, sir. I fear I have transgressed the command by
mentioning it now. I must pray you to be secret.'

'Secret, foolish lad. Know you not that the rights of your wife and your
children rest upon it?' and as the change in Berenger's looks showed
that he had not comprehended the full importance of the second ceremony
as nullifying the papal sentence, which could only quash the first on
the ground of want of mutual consent, he proceeded, 'Command, quotha?
Who there had any right to command you, boy?'

'Only one, sir.'

'Come, this no moment for lover's folly. It was not the girl, then? Then
it could no other than the miserable King--was it so?'

'Yes, sir,' said Berenger. 'He bade me as king, and requested me as the
friend who gave her to me. I could do no otherwise, and I thought it
would be but a matter of a few days, and that our original marriage was
the only important one.'

'Have you any parchment to prove it?'

'No, sir. It passed but as a ceremony to satisfy the Queen's scruples
ere she gave my wife to me to take home. I even think the King was
displeased at her requiring it.'

'Was Mr. Sidney a witness?'

'No, sir. None was present, save the King and Queen, her German
countess, and the German priest.'

'The day?'

'Lammas-day.'

'The 1st of August of the year of grace 1572. I will write to Walsingham
to obtain the testimony, if possible, of king or of priest; but belike
they will deny it all. It was part of the trick. Shame upon it that a
king should dig pits for so small a game as you, my poor lad!'

'Verily, my Lord,' said Berenger, 'I think the King meant us kindly,
and would gladly have sped us well away. Methought he felt his bondage
bitterly, and would fain have dared to be a true king. Even at the last,
he bade me to his _garde-robe_, and all there were unhurt.'

'And wherefore obeyed you not?'

'The carouse would have kept me too late for our flight.'

'King's behests may not lightly be disregarded,' said the old courtier,
with a smile. 'However, since he showed such seeming favour to you,
surely you might send a petition to him privately, through Sir Francis
Walsingham, to let the priest testify to your renewal of contract,
engaging not to use it to his detriment in France.'

'I will do so, sir. Meanwhile,' he added, as one who felt he had earned
a right to be heard in his turn, 'I have your permission to hasten to
bring home my wife?'

Lord Walwyn was startled at this demand from one still so far from
recovered as Berenger. Even this talk, eager as the youth was, had
not been carried on without much difficulty, repetitions, and altered
phrases, when he could not pronounce distinctly enough to be understood
and the effort brought lines of pain into his brow. He could take little
solid food, had hardly any strength for walking or riding; and, though
all his wounds were whole, except that one unmanageable shot in the
mouth, he looked entirely unfit to venture on a long journey in the very
country that had sent him home a year before scarcely alive. Lord Walwyn
had already devised what he thought a far more practicable arrangement;
namely, to send Mr. Adderley and some of my Lady's women by sea, under
the charge of Master Hobbs, a shipmaster at Weymouth, who traded with
Bordeaux for wine, and could easily put in near La Sablerie, and bring
off the lady and child, and, if she wished it, the pastor to whom such a
debt of gratitude was owing.

Berenger was delighted with the notion of the sea rather than the land
journey; but he pointed out at once that this would remove all objection
to his going in person. He had often been out whole nights with the
fishermen, and knew that a sea-voyage would be better for his health
than anything,--certainly better than pining and languishing at home,
as he had done for months. He could not bear to think of separation
from Eustacie an hour longer than needful; nay, she had been cruelly
entreated enough already; and as long as he could keep his feet, it was
absolutely due to her that he should not let others, instead of himself,
go in search of her. It would be almost death to him to stay at home.

Lord Walwyn looked at the pallid, wasted face, with all its marks
of suffering and intense eagerness of expression, increased by the
difficulty of utterance and need of subduing agitation. He felt that the
long-misunderstood patience and endurance had earned something; and he
knew, too, that for all his grandson's submission and respect, the
boy, as a husband and father, had rights and duties that would assert
themselves manfully if opposed. It was true that the sea-voyage obviated
many difficulties, and it was better to consent with a good grace than
drive one hitherto so dutiful to rebellion. He did then consent, and was
rewarded by the lightning flash of joy and gratitude in the bright
blue eyes, and the fervent pressure and kiss of his hand, as Berenger
exclaimed, 'Ah! sir, Eustacie will be such a daughter to you. You should
have seen how the Admiral liked her!'

The news of Lord Walwyn's consent raised much commotion in the family.
Dame Annora was sure her poor son would be murdered outright this time,
and that nobody cared because he was only HER son; and she strove hard
to stir up Sir Marmaduke to remonstrate with her father; but the good
knight had never disputed a judgment of 'my Lord's' in his whole life,
and had even received his first wife from his hands, when forsaken by
the gay Annora. So she could only ride over the Combe, be silenced by
her father, as effectually as if Jupiter had nodded, and bewail and
murmur to her mother till she lashed Lady Walwyn up into finding every
possible reason why Berenger should and must sail. Then she went home,
was very sharp with Lucy, and was reckoned by saucy little Nan to have
nineteen times exclaimed 'Tilley-valley' in the course of one day.

The effect upon Philip was a vehement insistence on going with his
brother. He was sure no one else would see to Berry half as well; and as
to letting Berry go to be murdered again without him, he would not hear
of it; he must go, he would not stay at home; he should not study; no,
no, he should be ready to hang himself for vexation, and thinking
what they were doing to his brother. And thus he extorted from his
kind-hearted father an avowal that he should be easier a bout the lad
if Phil were there, and that he might go, provided Berry would have him,
and my Lord saw no objection. The first point was soon settled; and
as to the second, there was no reason at all that Philip should not
go where his brother did. In fact, excepting for Berenger's state of
health, there was hardly any risk about the matter. Master Hobbs, to
whom Philip rode down ecstatically to request him to come and speak to
my Lord, was a stout, honest, experienced seaman, who was perfectly at
home in the Bay of Biscay, and had so strong a feudal feeling for the
house of Walwyn, that he placed himself and his best ship, the THROSTLE,
entirely at his disposal. The THROSTLE was a capital sailer, and carried
arms quite sufficient in English hands to protect her against Algerine
corsairs or Spanish pirates. He only asked for a week to make her cabin
ready for the reception of a lady, and this time was spent in sending
a post to London, to obtain for Berenger the permit from the Queen,
and the passport from the French Ambassador, without which he could not
safely have gone; and, as a further precaution, letters were requested
from some of the secret agents of the Huguenots to facilitate his
admission into La Sablerie.

In the meantime, poor Mr. Adderley had submitted meekly to the decree
that sentenced him to weeks of misery on board the THROSTLE, but to his
infinite relief, an inspection of the cabins proved the space so small,
that Berenger represented to him grandfather that the excellent tutor
would be only an incumbrance to himself and every one else, and that
with Philip he should need no one. Indeed, he had made such a start into
vigour and alertness during the last few days that there was far less
anxiety about him, though with several sighs for poor Osbert. Cecily
initiated Philip into her simple rules for her patient's treatment in
case of the return of his more painful symptoms. The notion of sending
female attendants for Eustacie was also abandoned: her husband's
presence rendered them unnecessary, or they might be procured at La
Sablerie; and thus it happened that the only servants whom Berenger was
to take with him were Humfrey Holt and John Smithers, the same honest
fellows whose steadiness had so much conduced to his rescue at Paris.

Claude de Mericour had in the meantime been treated as an honoured guest
at Combe Walwyn, and was in good esteem with its master. He would have
set forth at once on his journey to Scotland, but that Lord Walwyn
advised him to wait and ascertain the condition of his relatives there
before throwing himself on them. Berenger had, accordingly, when writing
to Sidney by the messenger above mentioned, begged him to find out from
Sir Robert Melville, the Scottish Envoy, all he could about the family
whose designation he wrote down at a venture from Mericour's lips.

Sidney returned a most affectionate answer, saying that he had never
been able to believe the little shepherdess a traitor and was charmed
that she had proved herself a heroine; he should endeavour to greet her
with all his best powers as a poet, when she should brighten the English
court; but his friend, Master Spenser, alone was fit to celebrate such
constancy. As to M. l'Abbe de Mericour's friends, Sir Robert Melville
had recognized their name at once, and had pronounced them to be fierce
Catholics and Queensmen, so sorely pressed by the Douglases, that it was
believed they would soon fly the country altogether; and Sidney added,
what Lord Walwyn had already said, that to seek Scotland rather than
France as a resting-place in which to weigh between Calvinism and
Catholicism, was only trebly hot and fanatical. His counsel was that M.
de Mericour should so far conform himself to the English Church as to
obtain admission to one of the universities, and, through his uncle of
Leicester, he could obtain for him an opening at Oxford, where he might
fully study the subject.

There was much to incline Mericour to accept this counsel. He had had
much conversation with Mr. Adderley, and had attended his ministrations
in the chapel, and both satisfied him far better than what he had seen
among the French Calninists; and the peace and family affection of the
two houses were like a new world to him. But he had not yet made up his
mind to that absolute disavowal of his own branch of the Church, which
alone could have rendered him eligible for any foundation at Oxford.
His attainments in classics would, Mr. Adderley thought, reach such a
standard as to gain one of the very few scholarships open to foreigners;
and his noble blood revolted at becoming a pensioner of Leicester's, or
of any other nobleman.

Lord Walwyn, upon this, made an earnest offer of his hospitality, and
entreated the young man to remain at Hurst Walwyn till the return
of Berenger and Philip, during which time he might study under the
directions of Mr. Adderley, and come to a decision whether to seek
reconciliation with his native Church and his brother, or to remain in
England. In this latter case, he might perhaps accompany both the youths
to Oxford, for, in spite of Berenger's marriage, his education was
still not supposed to be complete. And when Mericour still demurred with
reluctance to become a burden on the bounty of the noble house, he was
reminded gracefully of the debt of gratitude that the family owed to him
for the relief he had brought to Berenger; and, moreover, Dame Annora
giggled out that, 'if he would teach Nan and Bess to speak and read
French and Italian, it would be worth something to them.' The others of
the family would have hushed up this uncalled-for proposal; but Mericour
caught at it as the most congenial mode of returning the obligation.
Every morning he undertook to walk or ride over to the Manor, and
there gave his lessons to the young ladies, with whom he was extremely
popular. He was a far more brilliant teacher than Lucy, and ten thousand
times preferable to Mr. Adderley, who had once begun to teach Annora her
accidence with lamentable want of success.



CHAPTER XXIII. THE EMPTY CRADLE


            Eager to know
     The worst, and with that fatal certainty
      To terminate intolerable dread,
      He spurred his courser forward--all his fears
      Too surely are fulfilled.--SOUTHEY


Contrary winds made the voyage of the THROSTLE much more tardy than had
been reckoned on by Berenger's impatience; but hope was before him, and
he often remembered his days in the little vessel as much happier than
he had known them to be at the time.

It was in the calm days of right October that Captain Hobbs at length
was putting into the little harbour nearest to La Sablerie. Berenger, on
that morning, had for the first time been seized by a fit of anxiety as
to the impression his face would make, with its terrible purple scar,
great patch, and bald forehead, and had brought out a little black
velvet mask, called a _tour de nez_, often used in riding to protect the
complexion, intending to prepare Eustacie for his disfigurement. He had
fastened on a carnation-coloured sword-knot, would a scarf of the same
colour across his shoulder, clasped a long ostrich plume into his broad
Spanish hat, and looked out his deeply-fringed Spanish gloves; and
Philip was laughing merrily, not to say rudely, at him, for trying to
deck himself out so bravely.

'See, Master Hobbs,' cried the boy in his high spirits, as he followed
his brother on deck, 'you did not know you had so fine a gallant on
board. Here be braveries for my Lady.'

'Hush, Phil,' broke in Berenger, who had hitherto taken all the raillery
in perfect good part. 'What is amiss, Master Hobbs?'

'I cannot justly say, sir,' returned Master Hobbs, without taking his
gaze off the coast, 'but by yonder banks and creeks this should be the
Sables d'Olonne; and I do not see the steeple of La Sablerie, which has
always been the landmark for the harbour of St. Julien.'

'What do you understand by that?' asked Berenger, more struck by his
manner than his words.

'Well, sir, if I am right, a steeple that has stood three or four
hundred years does not vanish out of sight like a cloud of smoke for
nothing. I may be lightning, to be sure; or the Protestants may have
had it down for Popery; but methinks they would have too much Christian
regard for poor mariners than to knock down the only landmark on this
coast till you come to Nissard spire.' Then he hailed the man at the
mast-head, demanding if he saw the steeple of La Sablerie. 'No, no,
sir.' But as other portions of the land became clearer, there was no
doubt that the THROSTLE was right in her bearings; so the skipper
gave orders to cast anchor and lower a boat. The passengers would have
pressed him with inquiries as to what he thought the absence of his
landmark could portend; but he hurried about, and shouted orders, with
the deaf despotism of a nautical commander; and only when all was made
ready, turned round and said, 'Now, sir, maybe you had best let me go
ashore first, and find out how the land lies.'

'Never!' said Berenger, in an agony of impatience.

'I thought so,' said the captain. 'Well, then, sir, are your fellows
ready? Armed? All right.'

So Berenger descended to the boat, followed by Philip; next came the
captain, and then the two serving-men. Six of the crew were ready to row
them to the shore, and were bidden by their captain to return at once
to the vessel, and only return on a signal from him. the surging rush of
intense anxiety, sure to precede the destined moment of the consummation
of hope long deferred, kept Berenger silent, choked by something between
fear and prayer; but Philip, less engrossed, asked Master Hobbs if it
were not strange that none of the inhabitants of the squalid little huts
on the shore had not put out to greet them in some of the boats that
were drawn up on the beach.

'Poor wretches,' said Hobbs; 'they scarce know friend from foe, and are
slow to run their heads into the lion's mouth. Strange fellows have the
impudence to sail under our flag at times.'

However, as they neared the low, flat, sandy shore, a few red caps
peeped out at the cottage-doors, and then, apparently gaining confidence
from the survey, some wiry, active figures appeared, and were hailed by
Hobbs. His Bordeaux trade had rendered him master of the coast language;
and a few incomprehensible shouts between him and the natives resulted
in a line being thrown to them, and the boat dragged as near as possible
to the landing-place, when half a dozen ran up, splashing with their
bare legs, to offer their shoulders for the transport of the passengers,
both of whom were seized upon before they were aware, Philip struggling
with all his might, till a call from Captain Hobbs warned him to resign
himself; and then he became almost helpless with laughter at the figure
cut by the long-legged Berenger upon a small fisherman's back.

They were landed. Could it be that Berenger was only two miles--only
half an hour's walk form Eustacie? The bound his heart gave as he
touched the shore seemed to stifle him. He could not believe it. Yet he
knew how fully he had believed it, the next moment, when he listened to
what the fishermen were saying to Captain Hobbs.

'Did Monsieur wish to go to La Sablerie? Ah! then he did not know
what had happened. The soldiers had been there; there had been a great
burning. They had been out in their boats at sea, but they had seen the
sky red--red as a furnace, all night; and the steeple was down. Surely,
Monsieur had missed the steeple that was a guide to all poor seafarers;
and now they had to go all the way to Brancour to sell their fish.'

'And the townspeople?' Hobbs asked.

'Ah! poor things; 'twas pity of them, for they were honest folk to deal
with, even if they were heretics. They loved fish at other seasons if
not in Lent; and it seemed but a fair return to go up and bury as many
of them as were not burnt to nothing in their church; and Dom Colombeau,
the good priest of Nissard, has said it was a pious work; and he was a
saint, if any one was.'

'Alack, sir,' said Hobbs, laying his hand on the arm of Berenger, who
seemed neither to have breathed nor moved while the man was speaking:
'I feared that there had been some such bloody work when I missed the
steeple. But take heart yet: your lady is very like to have been out of
the way. We might make for La Rochelle, and there learn!' Then, again to
the fisherman, 'None escaped, fellow?'

'Not one,' replied the man. 'They say that one of the great folks was in
a special rage with them for sheltering the lady he should have wedded,
but who had broken convent and turned heretic; and they had victualled
Montgomery's pirates too.'

'And the lady?' continued Hobbs, ever trying to get a more supporting
hold of his young charge, in case the rigid tension of his limbs should
suddenly relax.'

'I cannot tell, sir. I am a poor fisher; but I could guide you to the
place where old Gillot is always poking about. He listened to their
preachings, and knows more than we do.'

'Let us go,' said Berenger, at once beginning to stride along in his
heavy boots through the deep sand. Philip, who had hardly understood a
word of the _patois_, caught hold of him, and begged to be told what had
happened; but Master Hobbs drew the boy off, and explained to him and
to the two men what were the dreadful tidings that had wrought such
a change in Berenger's demeanour. The way over the shifting sands was
toilsome enough to all the rest of the party; but Berenger scarcely
seemed to feel the deep plunge at every step as they almost ploughed
their way along for the weary two miles, before a few green bushes and
half-choked trees showed that they were reaching the confines of the
sandy waste. Berenger had not uttered a word the whole time, and his
silence hushed the others. The ground began to rise, grass was seen
still struggling to grow, and presently a large straggling mass of
black and gray ruins revealed themselves, with the remains of a once
well-trodden road leading to them. But the road led to a gate-way choked
by a fallen jamb and barred door, and the guide led them round the
ruins of the wall to the opening where the breach had been. The sand
was already blowing in, and no doubt veiled much; for the streets were
scarcely traceable through remnants of houses more or less dilapidated,
with shreds of broken or burnt household furniture within them.

'Ask him for _la rue des Trois Fees_,' hoarsely whispered Berenger.

The fisherman nodded, but soon seemed at fault; and an old man, followed
by a few children, soon appearing, laden with piece of fuel, he appealed
to him as Father Gillot, and asked whether he could find the street. The
old man seemed at home in the ruins, and led the way readily. 'Did he
know the Widow Laurent's house?'

'Mademoiselle [footnote: This was the title of _bourgeoise_ wives, for
many years, in France.] Laurent! Full well he knew her; a good pious
soul was she, always ready to die for the truth,' he added, as he read
sympathy in the faces round; 'and no doubt she had witnessed a good
confession.'

'Knew he aught of the lady she had lodged?'

'He knew nothing of ladies. Something he had heard of the good widow
having sheltered that shining light, Isaac Gardon, quenched, no doubt,
in the same destruction; but for his part, he had a daughter in one of
the isles out there, who always sent for him if she suspected danger
here on the mainland, and he had only returned to his poor farm a day
or two after Michael-mas.' So saying, he led them to the threshold of a
ruinous building, in the very centre, as it were, of the desolation, and
said, 'That, gentlemen, is where the poor honest widow kept her little
shop.'

Black, burnt, dreary, lay the hospitable abode. The building had fallen,
but the beams of the upper floor had fallen aslant, so as to shelter a
portion of the lower room, where the red-tile pavement, the hearth with
the gray ashes of the harmless home-fire, some unbroken crocks, a chain,
and a _sabot_, were still visible, making the contrast of dreariness
doubly mournful.

Berenger had stepped over the threshold, with his hat in his hand, as if
the ruin were a sacred place to him, and stood gazing in a transfixed,
deadened way. The captain asked where the remains were.

'Our people,' said the old man and the fisher, 'laid them by night in
the earth near the church.'

Just then Berenger's gaze fell on something half hidden under the fallen
timbers. He instantly sprang forward, and used all his strength to drag
it out in so headlong a manner that all the rest hurried to prevent his
reckless proceedings from bringing the heavy beams down on his head.
When brought to light, the object proved to be one of the dark, heavy,
wooden cradles used by the French peasantry, shining with age, but
untouched by fire.

'Look in,' Berenger signed to Philip, his own eyes averted, his mouth
set.

The cradle was empty, totally empty, save for a woolen covering, a
little mattress, and a string of small yellow shells threaded.

Berenger held out his hand, grasped the baby-play thing convulsively,
then dropped upon his knees, clasping his hands over his ashy face, the
string of shells still wound among his fingers. Perhaps he had hitherto
hardly realized the existence of his child, and was solely wrapped up in
the thought of his wife; but the wooden cradle, the homely toy, stirred
up fresh depths of feelings; he saw Eustacie wither tender sweetness as
a mother, he beheld the little likeness of her in the cradle; and oh!
that this should have been the end! Unable to repress a moan of anguish
from a bursting heart, he laid his face against the senseless wood, and
kissed it again and again, then lay motionless against it save for the
long-drawn gasps and sobs that shook his frame. Philip, torn to the
heart, would have almost forcibly drawn him away; but Master Hobbs,
with tears running down his honest cheeks, withheld the boy. 'Don't ye,
Master Thistlewood, 'twill do him good. Poor young gentleman! I know
how it was when I came home and found our first little lad, that we had
thought so much on, had been take. But then he was safe laid in his
own churchyard, and his mother was there to meet me; while your poor
brother---Ah! God comfort him!'

'_Le pauvre Monsieur_!' exclaimed the old peasant, struck at the sight
of his grief, 'was it then his child? And he, no doubt, lying wounded
elsewhere while God's hand was heavy on this place. Yet he might hear
more. They said the priest came down and carried off the little ones to
be bred up in convents.'

'Who?--where?' asked Berenger, raising his head as if catching at a
straw in this drowning of all his hopes.

''Tis true,' added the fisherman. 'It was the holy priest of Nissard,
for he send down to St. Julien for a woman to nurse the babes.'

'To Nissard, then,' said Berenger, rising.

'It is but a chance,' said the old Huguenot; 'many of the innocents were
with their mothers in yonder church. Better for them to perish like the
babes of Bethlehem than to be bred up in the house of Baal; but perhaps
Monsieur is English, and if so he might yet obtain the child. Yet he
must not hope too much.'

'No, for there was many a little corpse among those we buried,' said the
fisher. 'Will the gentleman see the place?'

'Oh, no!' exclaimed Philip, understanding the actions, and indeed many
of the words; 'this place will kill him.'

'To the grave,' said Berenger, as if he heard nothing.

'See,' added Philip, 'there are better things than graves,' and he
pointed to a young green sucker of a vine, which, stimulated by the
burnt soil, had shot up between the tiles of the floor. 'Look, there is
hope to meet you even here.'

Berenger merely answered by gathering a leaf from the vine and putting
it into his bosom; and Philip, whom only extreme need could have thus
inspired, perceived that he accepted it as the augury of hope.

Berenger turned to bid the two men bear the cradle with them, and then
followed the old man out into the PLACE, once a pleasant open paved
square, now grass-grown and forlorn. On one side lay the remains of the
church. The Huguenots had been so predominant at La Sablerie as to
have engrossed the building, and it had therefore shared the general
destruction, and lay in utter, desolate ruin, a mere shell, and the once
noble spire, the mariner's guiding star, blown up with gun-cruel that
ever desolated the country. Beyond lay the burial-ground, in unspeakable
dreariness. The crossed of the Catholic dead had been levelled by the
fanaticism of the Huguenots, and though a great dominant stone cross
raised on steps had been re-erected, it stood uneven, tottering and
desolate among nettles, weeds, and briers. There seemed to have been a
few deep trenches dug to receive the bodies of the many victims of the
siege, and only rudely and slightly filled in with loose earth, on which
Philippe treading had nearly sunk in, so much to his horror that he
could hardly endure the long contemplation in which his brother stood
gazing on the dismal scene, as if to bear it away with him. Did the fair
being he had left in a king's palace sleep her last sleep her last sleep
amid the tangled grass, the thistles and briers that grew so close
that it was hardly possible to keep from stumbling over them, where all
memorials of friend or foe were alike obliterated? Was a resting-place
among these nameless graves the best he could hope for the wife whose
eyes he had hoped by this time would be answering his own--was this her
shelter from foe, from sword, famine, and fire?

A great sea-bird, swooping along with broad wings and wild wailing cry,
completed the weird dismay that had seized on Philip, and clutching at
his brother's cloak, he exclaimed, 'Berry, Berry, let us be gone, or we
shall both be distraught!'

Berenger yielded passively, but when the ruins of the town had been
again crossed, and the sad little party, after amply rewarding the old
man, were about to return to St. Julien, he stood still, saying, 'Which
is the way to Nissard?' and, as the men pointed to the south, he added,
'Show me the way thither.'

Captain Hobbs now interfered. He knew the position of Nissard, among
dangerous sandbanks, between which a boat could only venture at the
higher tides, and by daylight. To go the six miles thither at present
would make it almost impossible to return to the THROSTLE that night,
and it was absolutely necessary that he at least should do this. He
therefore wished the young gentleman to return with him on board, sleep
there, and be put ashore at Nissard as soon as it should be possible in
the morning. But Berenger shook his head. He could not rest for a moment
till he had ascertained the fate of Eustacie's child. Action alone could
quench the horror of what he had recognized as her own lot, and the
very pursuit of this one thread of hope seemed needful to him to make
it substantial. He would hear of nothing but walking at once to Nissard;
and Captain Hobbs, finding it impossible to debate the point with one so
dazed and crushed with grief, and learning from the fishermen that not
only was the priest one of the kindest and most hospitable men living,
but that there was a tolerable _caberet_ not far from the house,
selected from the loiterers who had accompanied them from St. Julien
a trustworthy-looking, active lad as a guide, and agreed with the high
tide on the morrow, either to concert measures for obtaining possession
of the lost infant, or, if all were in vain, to fetch them off. Then
he, with the mass of stragglers from St. Julien, went off direct for
the coast, while the two young brothers, their two attendants, and the
fishermen, turned southwards along the summit of the dreary sandbanks.



CHAPTER XXIV. THE GOOD PRIEST OF NISSARD



Till at the set of sun all tracks and ways In darkness lay enshrouded.
And e'en thus The utmost limit of the great profound At length we
reach'd, where in dark gloom and mist Cimmeria's people and their city
lie Enveloped ever.--ODYSSEY (MUSGROVE)


The October afternoon had set in before the brothers were the way to
Nissard; and in spite of Berenger's excited mood, the walk through the
soft, sinking sand could not be speedily performed. It was that peculiar
sand-drift which is the curse of so many coasts, slowly, silently,
irresistibly flowing, blowing, creeping in, and gradually choking all
vegetation and habitation. Soft and almost impalpable, it lay heaped in
banks yielding as air, and yet far more than deep enough to swallow up
man and horse. Nay, tops of trees, summits of chimneys, told what it had
already swallowed. The whole scene far and wide presented nothing but
the lone, tame undulations, liable to be changed by every wind, and
solitary beyond expression--a few rabbits scudding hither and thither,
or a sea-gull floating with white, ghostly wings in the air, being the
only living things visible. On the one hand a dim, purple horizon showed
that the inhabited country lay miles inland; on the other lay the
pale, gray, misty expanse of sea, on which Philip's eyes could lovingly
discern the THROSTLE'S masts.

That view was Philip's chief comfort. The boy was feeling more eerie and
uncomfortable than ever he had been before as he plodded along, sinking
deep with every step almost up to his ankles in the sand, on which the
bare-footed guide ran lightly, and Berenger, though sinking no less
deeply, seemed insensible to all inconveniences. This desolateness was
well-nigh unbearable; no one dared to speak while Berenger thus moved on
in the unapproachableness of his great grief, and Philip presently began
to feel a dreamy sense that they had all thus been moving for years,
that this was the world's end, the land of shadows, and that his brother
was a ghost already. Besides vague alarms like these, there was the
dismal English and Protestant prejudice in full force in Philip's
mind, which regarded the resent ground as necessarily hostile, and
all Frenchmen, above all French priests, as in league to cut off every
Englishman and Protestant. He believed himself in a country full of
murderers, and was walking on with the one determination that his
brother should not rush on danger without him, and that the Popish
rogues should be kept in mind that there was an English ship in sight.
Alas! that consolation was soon lost, for a dense gray mist was slowly
creeping in from the sea, and blotted out the vessel, then gathered in
closer, and obliterated all landmarks. Gradually it turned to a heavy
rain, and about the same time the ground on which they walked became no
longer loose sand-hills, but smooth and level. It was harder likewise
from the wet, and this afforded better walking, but there lay upon it
fragments of weed and shell, as though it were liable to be covered by
the sea, and there was a low, languid plash of the tide, which could
not be seen. Twilight began to deepen the mist. The guide was evidently
uneasy; he sidled up to Philip, and began to ask what he--hitherto
obstinately deaf and contemptuous to French--was very slow to
comprehend. At last he found it was a question how near it was to
All Soul's day; and then came an equally amazing query whether the
gentlemen's babe had been baptized; for it appeared that on All Soul's
day the spirits of unchristened infants had the power of rising from the
sands in a bewildering mist, and leading wayfarers into the sea. And
the poor guide, white and drenched, vowed he never would have undertaken
this walk if he had only thought of this. These slaughters of heretics
must so much have augmented the number of the poor little spirits;
and no doubt Monsieur would be specially bewildered by one so nearly
concerned with him. Philip, half frightened, could not help stepping
forward and pulling Berenger by the cloak to make him aware of this
strange peril; but he did not get much comfort. 'Baptized? Yes; you
know she was, by the old nurse. Let me alone, I say. I would follow her
wherever she called me, the innocent, and glad--the sooner the better.'

And he shook his brother off with a sadness and impatience so utterly
unapproachable, that Philip, poor boy, could only watch his tall figure
in the wide cloak and slouched hat, stalking on ever more indistinct in
the gloom, while his much confused mind tried to settle the theological
point whether the old nurse's baptism were valid enough to prevent poor
little Berangere from becoming one of these mischievous deluders; and
all this was varied by the notion of Captain Hobbs picking up their
corpses on the beach, and of Sir Marmaduke bewailing his only son.

At last a strange muffled sound made him start in the dead silence, but
the guide hailed the sound with a joyful cry---

'Hola! Blessings on Notre-Dame and holy Father Colombeau, now are we
saved!' and on Philip's hasty interrogation, he explained that it was
from the bells of Nissard, which the good priest always caused to be
rung during these sea-fogs, to disperse all evil beings, and guide the
wanderers.

The guide strode on manfully, as the sound became clearer and nearer,
and Philip was infinitely relived to be free from all supernatural
anxieties, and to have merely to guard against the wiles of a Polish
priest, a being almost as fabulously endowed in his imagination as poor
little Berangere's soul could be in that of the fisherman.

The drenching Atlantic mist had wetted them all to the skin, and closed
round them so like a solid wall, that they had almost lost sight of each
other, and had nothing but the bells' voices to comfort them, till quite
suddenly there was a light upon the mist, a hazy reddish gleam--a window
seemed close to them. The guide, heartily thanking Our Lady and St.
Julian, knocked at a door, which opened at once into a warm, bright,
superior sort of kitchen, where a neatly-dressed elderly peasant woman
exclaimed, 'Welcome, poor souls! Enter, then. Here, good Father, are
some bewildered creatures. Eh! wrecked are you, good folks, or lost in
the fog?'

At the same moment there came from behind the screen that shut off the
fire from the door, a benignant-looking, hale old man in a cassock,
with long white hair on his shoulders, and a cheerful face, ruddy from
sea-wind.

'Welcome, my friends,' he said. 'Thanks to the saints who have guided
you safely. You are drenched. Come to the fire at once.'

And as they moved on into the full light of the fire and the rude iron
lamp by which he had been reading, and he saw the draggled plumes and
other appurtenances that marked the two youths as gentlemen, he
added, 'Are you wrecked, Messieurs? We will do our poor best for your
accommodation;' and while both mechanically murmured a word of thanks,
and removed their soaked hats, the good man exclaimed, as he beheld
Berenger's ashy face, with the sunken eyes and deep scars, 'Monsieur
should come to bed at once. He is apparently recovering from a severe
wound. This way, sir; Jolitte shall make you some hot tisane.'

'Wait, sir,' said Berenger, very slowly, and his voice sounding hollow
from exhaustion; 'they say that you can tell me of my child. Let me
hear.'

'Monsieur's child!' exclaimed the bewildered curate, looking from him
to Philip, and then to the guide, who poured out a whole stream of
explanation before Philip had arranged three words of French.

'You hear, sir,' said Berenger, as the man finished: 'I came hither to
seek my wife, the Lady of Ribaumont.'

'Eh!' exclaimed the _cure_, 'do I then see M. le Marquis de Nid de
Merle?'

'No!' cried Berenger; 'no, I am not that _scelerat_! I am her true
husband, the Baron de Ribaumont.'

'The Baron de Ribaumont perished at the St. Bartholomew,' said the
_cure_, fixing his eyes on him, as though to confute an impostor.

'Ah, would that I had!' said Berenger. 'I was barely saved with the life
that is but misery now. I came to seek her--I found what you know. They
told me that you saved the children. Ah, tell me where mine is!--all
that is left me.'

'A few poor babes I was permitted to rescue, but very few. But let me
understand to whom I speak,' he added, much perplexed. 'You, sir---'

'I am her husband, married at five years old--contract renewed last
year. It was he whom you call Nid de Merle who fell on me, and left
me for dead. A faithful servant saved my life, but I have lain sick
in England till now, when her letter to my mother brought me to La
Sablerie, to find--to find THIS. Oh, sir, have pity on me! Tell me if
you know anything of her, or if you can give me her child.'

'The orphans I was able to save are--the boys at nurse here, the girls
with the good nuns at Lucon,' said the priest, with infinite pity in his
look. 'Should you know it, sir?'

'I would--I should,' said Berenger. 'But it is a girl. Ah, would that it
were here! But you--you, sir--you know more than these fellows. Is there
no--no hope of herself?'

'Alas! I fear I can give you none,' said the priest; 'but I will tell
all I know; only I would fain see you eat, rest, and be dried.'

'How can I?' gasped he, allowing himself, however, to sink into a chair;
and the priest spoke:

'Perhaps you know, sir, that the poor lady fled from her friends, and
threw herself upon the Huguenots. All trace had been lost, when, at a
banquet given by the mayor of Lucon, there appeared some _patisseries_,
which some ecclesiastic, who had enjoyed the hospitality of Bellaise,
recognized as peculiar to the convent there, where she had been brought
up. They were presented to the mayor by his friend, Bailli la Grasse,
who had boasted of the excellent _confitures_ of the heretic pastor's
daughter that lodged in the town of La Sablerie. The place was in
disgrace for having afforded shelter and supplies to Montgomery's pirate
crews, and there were narrations of outrages committed on Catholics. The
army were enraged by their failure before La Rochelle; in effect, it was
resolved to make an example, when, on M. de Nid de Merle's summons, all
knowledge of the lady was denied. Is it possible that she was indeed not
there?'

Berenger shook his head. 'She was indeed there,' he said, with an
irrepressible groan. 'Was there no mercy--none?'

'Ask not, sir,' said the compassionate priest; 'the flesh shrinks,
though there may be righteous justice. A pillaged town, when men are
enraged, is like a place of devils unchained. I reached it only after it
had been taken by assault, when all was flame and blood. Ask me no
more; it would be worse for you to hear than me to tell,' he concluded,
shuddering, but laying his hand kindly on Berenger's arm. 'At least it
is ended now and God is more merciful than men. Many died by the bombs
cast into to city, and she for whom you ask certainly fell not alive
into the hands of those who sought her. Take comfort, sir; there is One
who watches and takes count of our griefs. Sir, turning to Philip, 'this
gentleman is too much spent with sorrow to bear this cold and damp. Aid
me, I entreat, to persuade him to lie down.'

Philip understood the priest's French far better than that of the
peasants, and added persuasions that Berenger was far too much exhausted
and stunned to resist. To spend a night in a Popish priest's house would
once have seemed to Philip a shocking alternative, yet here he was,
heartily assisting in removing the wet garments in which his brother
had sat only too long, and was heartily relieved to lay him down in the
priest's own bed, even though there was an image over the head, which,
indeed, the boy never saw. He only saw his brother turn away from the
light with a low, heavy moan, as if he would fain be left alone with his
sorrow and his crushed hopes.

Nothing could be kinder than Dome Colombeau, the priest of Nissard.
He saw to the whole of his guests being put into some sort of dry
habiliments before they sat round his table to eat of the savoury mess
in the great _pot-au-feu_, which had, since their arrival, received
additional ingredients, and moreover sundry villagers had crept into the
house. Whenever the good Father supped at home, any of his flock were
welcome to drop in to enjoy his hospitability. After a cup of hot cider
round, they carried off the fisherman to ledge in one of their cottages.
Shake-downs were found for the others, and Philip, wondering what was
to become of the good host himself, gathered that he meant to spend such
part of the night on the kitchen floor as he did not pass in prayer in
the church for the poor young gentleman, who was in such affliction.
Philip was not certain whether to resent this as an impertinence or an
attack on their Protestant principles; but he was not sure, either, that
the priest was aware what was their religion, and was still less certain
of his own comprehension of these pious intentions: he decided that, any
way, it was better not to make a fool of himself. Still, the notion
of the mischievousness of priests was so rooted in his head, that he
consulted Humfrey on the expedience of keeping watch all night, but was
sagaciously answered that 'these French rogues don't do any hurt unless
they be brought up to it, and the place was as safe as old Hurst.'

In fact, Philip's vigilance would have been strongly against nature. He
never awoke till full daylight and morning sun were streaming through
the vine-leaves round the window, and then, to his dismay, he saw that
Berenger had left his bed, and was gone. Suspicions of foul play coming
over him in full force as he gazed round on much that he considered as
'Popish furniture,' he threw on his clothes, and hastened to open the
door, when, to his great relief, he saw Berenger hastily writing at a
table under the window, and Smithers standing by waiting for the billet.

'I am sending Smithers on board, to ask Hobbs to bring our cloak bags,'
said Berenger, as his brother entered. 'We must go on to Lucon.'

He spoke briefly and decidedly, and Philip was satisfied to see him
quite calm and collected--white indeed, and with the old haggard look,
and the great scar very purple instead of red, which was always a bad
sign with him. He was not disposed to answer questions; he shortly said,
'He had slept not less than usual,' which Philip knew meant very little;
and he had evidently made up his mind, and was resolved not to
let himself give way. If his beacon of hope had been so suddenly,
frightfully quenched, he still was kept from utter darkness by straining
his eyes and forcing his steps to follow the tiny, flickering spark that
remained.

The priest was at his morning mass; and so soon as Berenger had given
his note to Smithers, and sent him off with a fisherman to the THROSTLE,
he took up his hat, and went out upon the beach, that lay glistening
in the morning sun, then turned straight towards the tall spire of the
church, with had been their last night's guide. Philip caught his cloak.

'You are never going there, Berenger?'

'Vex me not now,' was all the reply he got. 'There the dead and living
meet together.'

'But, brother, they will take you for one of their own sort.'

'Let them.'

Philip was right that it was neither a prudent nor consistent
proceeding, but Berenger had little power of reflection, and his impulse
at present bore him into the church belonging to his native faith and
land, without any defined felling, save that it was peace to kneel
there among the scattered worshippers, who came and went with their
fish-baskets in their hands, and to hear the low chant of the priest and
his assistant from within the screen.

Philip meantime marched up and down outside in much annoyance, until the
priest and his brother came out, when the first thing he heard the good
Colombeau say was, 'I would have called upon you before, my son, but
that I feared you were a Huguenot.'

'I am an English Protestant,' said Berenger; 'but, ah! sir, I needed
comfort too much to stay away from prayer.'

Pere Colombeau looked at him in perplexity, thinking perhaps that here
might be a promising convert, if there were only time to work on him;
but Berenger quitted the subject at once, asking the distance to Lucon.

'A full day's journey,' answered Pere Colombeau, and added, 'I am sorry
you are indeed a Huguenot. It was what I feared last night, but I feared
to add to your grief. The nuns are not permitted to deliver up children
to Huguenot relations.'

'I am her father!' exclaimed Berenger, indignantly.

'That goes for nothing, according to the rules of the Church,' said the
priest. 'The Church cannot yield her children to heresy.'

'But we in England and not Calvinists,' cried Berenger. 'We are not like
your Huguenots.'

'The Church would make no difference,' said the priest. 'Stay, sir,'
as Berenger stuck his own forehead, and was about to utter a fierce
invective. 'Remember that if your child lives, it is owing to the pity
of the good nuns. You seem not far from the bosom of the Church. Did you
but return---'

'It is vain to speak of that,' said Berenger, quickly. 'Say, sir, would
an order from the King avail to open these doors?'

'Of course it would, if you have the influence to obtain one.'

'I have, I have,' cried Berenger, eagerly. 'The King has been my good
friend already. Moreover, my English grandfather will deal with the
Queen. The heiress of our house cannot be left in a foreign nunnery.
Say, sir,' he added, turning to the priest, 'if I went to Lucon at once
know your name, and refuse all dealings with you.'

'She could not do so, if I brought an order from the King.'

'Certainly not.'

'Then to Paris!' And laying his hand on Philip's shoulder, he asked the
boy whether he had understood, ad explained that he must go at once to
Paris--riding post--and obtain the order from the King.

'To Paris--to be murdered again!' said Philip, in dismay.

'They do not spend their time there in murder,' said Berenger. 'And now
is the time, while the savage villain Narcisse is with his master in
Poland. I cannot but go, Philip; we both waste words. You shall take
home a letter to my Lord.'

'I--I go not home without you,' said Philip, doggedly.

'I cannot take you, Phil; I have no warrant.'

'I have warrant for going, though. My father said he was easier about
you with me at your side. Where you go, I go.'

The brothers understood each other's ways so well, that Berenger knew
the intonation in Philip's voice that meant that nothing should make him
give way. He persuaded no more, only took measures for the journey, in
which the kind priest gave him friendly advice. There was no doubt that
the good man pitied him sincerely, and wished him success more than
perhaps he strictly ought to have done, unless as a possible convert.
Of money for the journey there was no lack, for Berenger had brought a
considerable sum, intending to reward all who had befriended Eustacie,
as well as to fit her out for the voyage; and this, perhaps, with
his papers, he had brought ashore to facilitate his entrance into La
Sablerie,--that entrance which, alas! he had found only too easy. He had
therefore only to obtain horses and a guide, and this could be done
at la Motte-Achard, where the party could easily be guided on foot,
or conveyed in a boat if the fog should not set in again, but all the
coast-line of Nissard was dangerous in autumn and winter; nay, even this
very August an old man, with his daughter, her infant, and a donkey, had
been found bewildered between the creeks on a sandbank, where they stood
still and patient, like a picture of the Flight into Egypt, when an old
fisherman found them, and brought them to the beneficent shelter of the
Presbytere.

Stories of this kind were told at the meal that was something partaking
of the nature of both breakfast and early dinner, but where Berenger ate
little and spoke less. Philip watched him anxiously; the boy thought
the journey a perilous experiment every way, but, boyishly, was resolved
neither to own his fears of it nor to leave his brother. External perils
he was quite ready to face, and he fancied that his English birth would
give him some power of protecting Berenger, but he was more reasonably
in dread of the present shock bringing on such an illness as the last
relapse; and if Berenger lost his senses again, what should they do? He
even ventured to hint at this danger, but Berenger answered, 'That will
scarce happen again. My head is stronger now. Besides, it was doing
nothing, and hearing her truth profaned, that crazed me. No one at least
will do that again. But if you wish to drive me frantic again, the way
would be to let Hobbs carry me home without seeking her child.'

Philip bore this in mind, when, with flood-tide, Master Hobbs landed,
and showed himself utterly dismayed at the turn affairs had taken. He
saw the needlessness of going to Lucon without royal authority; indeed,
he thought it possible that the very application there might give the
alarm, and cause all tokens of the child's identity to be destroyed,
in order to save her from her heretic relations. But he did not at
all approve of the young gentlemen going off to Paris at once. It was
against his orders. He felt bound to take them home as he has brought
them, and they might then make a fresh start if it so pleased them; but
how could he return to my Lord and Sir Duke without them? 'Mr. Ribaumont
might be right--it was not for him to say a father ought not to look
after his child--yet he was but a stripling himself, and my Lord had
said, 'Master Hobbs, I trust him to you.'' He would clearly have liked
to have called in a boat's crew, mastered the young gentlemen, and
carried them on board as captives; but as this was out of his power, he
was obliged to yield the point. He disconsolately accepted the letters
in which Berenger had explained all, and in which he promised to go
at once to Sir Francis Walsingham's at Paris, to run into no needless
danger, and to watch carefully over Philip; and craved pardon, in a
respectful but yet manly and determined tone, for placing his duty to
his lost, deserted child above his submission to his grandfather. Then
engaging to look out for a signal on the coast if he should said to
Bordeaux in January, to touch and take the passengers off, Captain Hobbs
took leave, and the brothers were left to their own resources.



CHAPTER XXV. THE VELVET COACH



    No, my good Lord, Diana--
           ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL


A late autumn journey from the west coast to Paris was a more serious
undertaking in the sixteenth century than the good seaman Master Hobbs
was aware of, or he would have used stronger dissuasive measures against
such an undertaking by the two youths, when the elder was in so frail
a state of health; but there had been a certain deceptive strength
and vigour about young Ribaumont while under strong excitement and
determination, and the whole party fancied him far fitter to meet
the hardships than was really the case. Philip Thistlewood always
recollected that journey as the most distressing period of his life.

They were out of the ordinary highways, and therefore found the hiring
of horses often extremely difficult. They had intended to purchase, but
found no animals that, as Philip said, they would have accepted as a
gift, though at every wretched inn where they had to wait while the
country was scoured for the miserable jades, their proposed requirements
fell lower and lower. Dens of smoke, dirt, and boorishness were the
great proportion of those inns, where they were compelled to take refuge
by the breaking down of one or other of the beasts, or by stress of
weather. Snow, rain, thaw and frost alternated, each variety rendering
the roads impassable; and at the best, the beasts could seldom be urged
beyond a walk, fetlock-deep in mire or water. Worse than all, Berenger,
far from recovered, and under the heavy oppression of a heartrending
grief, could hardly fail to lose the ground that he had gained under
the influence of hope. The cold seemed to fix itself on the wound on
his cheek, terrible pain and swelling set in, depriving him entirely
of sleep, permitting him to take no nourishment but fragments of
soft crumbs soaked in wine or broth--when the inns afforded any
such fare--and rendering speech excessively painful, and at last
unintelligible.

Happily this was not until Philip and Humfrey both had picked up all
the most indispensable words to serve their needs, and storming could
be done in any language. Besides, they had fallen in at La Motte-Achard
with a sharp fellow named Guibert, who had been at sea, and knew a
little English, was a Norman by birth, knew who the Baron de Ribaumont
was, and was able to make himself generally useful, though ill supplying
the place of poor Osbert, who would have been invaluable in the present
predicament. Nothing was so much dreaded by any of the party as that
their chief should become utterly unable to proceed. Once let him be
laid up at one of these little _auberges_, and Philip felt as if all
would be over with him; and he himself was always the most restlessly
eager to push on, and seemed to suffer less even in the biting wind and
sleet than on the dirty pallets or in the smoky, noisy kitchens of the
inns. That there was no wavering of consciousness was the only comfort,
and Philip trusted to prevent this by bleeding him whenever his head
seemed aching or heated; and under this well-meant surgery it was no
wonder that he grew weaker every day, in spite of the most affectionate
and assiduous watching on his brother's part.

Nearly six weeks had been spent in struggling along the cross-roads, or
rather in endless delays; and when at last they came on more frequented
ways, with better inns, well-paved _chaussees_, and horses more fit for
use, Berenger was almost beyond feeling the improvement. At their last
halt, even Philip was for waiting and sending on to Paris to inform Sir
Francis Walsingham of their situation; but Berenger only shook his
head, dressed himself, and imperatively signed to go on. It was a
bright morning, with a clear frost, and the towers and steeples of Paris
presently began to appear above the poplars that bordered the way; but
by this time Berenger was reeling in his saddle, and he presently became
so faint and dizzy, that Philip and Humfrey were obliged to lift him
from his horse, and lay him under an elm-tree that stood a little back
from the road.

'Look up, sir, it is but a league further,' quoth Humfrey; 'I can see
the roof of the big church they call Notre-Dame.'

'He does not open his eyes, he is swooning,' said Philip. 'He must have
some cordial, ere he can sit his horse. Can you think of no lace where
we could get a drop of wine or strong waters?'

'Not I, Master Philip. We passed a convent wall but now, but 'twas a
nunnery, as good as a grave against poor travelers. I would ride on, and
get some of Sir Francis's folk to bring a litter or coach, but I
doubt me if I could get past the barrier without my young Lord's
safe-conduct.'

Berenger, hearing all, here made an effort to raise himself, but sank
back against Philip's shoulder. Just then, a trampling and lumbering
became audible, and on the road behind appeared first three horsemen
riding abreast, streaming with black and white ribbons; then eight pair
of black horses, a man walking at the crested heads of each couple, and
behind these a coach, shaped like an urn reversed, and with a coronet
on the top, silvered, while the vehicle itself was, melon-like, fluted,
alternately black, with silver figures, and white with black landscapes;
and with white draperies, embroidered with black and silver, floating
from the windows. Four lacqueys, in the same magpie-colouring, stood
behind, and outriders followed; but as the cavalcade approached the
group by the road-side, one of the horsemen paused, saying lightly,
'Over near the walls from an affair of honour! Has he caught it badly?
Who was the other?'

Ere Guibert could answer, the curtains were thrust aside, the coach
stopped, a lady's head and hand appeared, and a female voice exclaimed,
in much alarm, 'Halt! Ho, you there, in our colours, come here. What is
it? My brother here? Is he wounded?'

'It is no wound, Madame,' said Guibert, shoved forward by his English
comrades, 'it is M. le Baron de Ribaumont who is taken ill, and--ah! here
is Monsieur Philippe.'

For Philip, seeing a thick black veil put back from the face of the most
beautiful lady who had ever appeared to him, stepped forward, hat in
hand, as she exclaimed, 'Le Baron de Ribaumont! Can it be true? What
means this? What ails him?'

'It is his wound, Madame,' said Philip, in his best French; 'it
has broken out again, and he has almost dropped from his horse from
_defaillance_.'

'Ah, bring him here--lay him on the cushions, we will have the honour of
transporting him,' cried the lady; and, regardless of the wet road, she
sprang out of the coach, with her essences in her hand, followed by
at least three women, two pages, and two little white dogs which ran
barking towards the prostrate figure, but were caught up by their pages.
'Ah, cousin, how dreadful,' she cried, as she knelt down beside him, and
held her essences towards him. Voice and scent revived him, and with a
bewildered look and gesture half of thanks, half of refusal, he gazed
round him, then rose to his feet without assistance, bent his head, and
making a sign that he was unable to speak, turned towards his horse.

'Cousin, cousin,' exclaimed the lady, in whose fine black eyes tears
were standing, 'you will let me take you into the city--you cannot
refuse.'

'Berry, indeed you cannot ride,' entreated Philip; 'you must take her
offer. Are you getting crazed at last?'

Berenger hesitated for a moment, but he felt himself again dizzy; the
exertion of springing into his saddle was quite beyond him, and bending
his head he submitted passively to be helped into the black and white
coach. Humfrey, however, clutched Philip's arm, and said impressively,
'Have a care, sir; this is no other than the fine lady, sister to the
murderous villain that set upon him. If you would save his life, don't
quit him, nor let her take him elsewhere than to our Ambassador's. I'll
not leave the coach-door, and as soon as we are past the barriers, I'll
send Jack Smithers to make known we are coming.'

Philip, without further ceremony, followed the lady into the coach,
where he found her insisting that Berenger, who had sunk back in a
corner, should lay his length of limb, muddy boots and all, upon the
white velvet cushions richly worked in black and silver, with devices
and mottoes, in which the crescent moon, and eclipsed or setting suns,
made a great figure. The original inmates seemed to have disposed of
themselves in various nooks of the ample conveyance, and Philip, rather
at a loss to explain his intrusion, perched himself awkwardly on the
edge of the cushions in front of his brother, thinking that Humfrey
was an officious, suspicious fellow, to distrust this lovely lady, who
seemed so exceedingly shocked and grieved at Berenger's condition. 'Ah!
I never guessed it had been so frightful as this. I should not have
known him. Ah! had I imagined---' She leant back, covered her face, and
wept, as one overpowered; then, after a few seconds, she bent forward,
and would have taken the hand that hung listlessly down, but it was at
once withdrawn, and folded with the other on his breast.

'Can you be more at ease? Do you suffer much?' she asked, with sympathy
and tenderness that went to Philip's heart, and he explained. 'He cannot
speak, Madame; the shot in his cheek' (the lady shuddered, and put
her handkerchief to her eyes) 'from time to time cases this horrible
swelling and torture. After that he will be better.'

'Frightful, frightful,' she sighed, 'but we will do our best to make up.
You, sir, must be his _trucheman_.'

Philip, not catching the last word, and wondering what kind of man that
might be, made answer, 'I am his brother, Madame.'

'_Eh! Monsieur son frere_. Had _Madame sa mere_ a son so old?'

'I am Philip Thistlewood, her husband's son, at your service, Madame,'
said Philip, colouring up to the ears; 'I came with him for he is too
weak to be alone.'

'Great confidence must be reposed in you, sir,' she said, with a not
unflattering surprise. 'But whence are you come? I little looked to see
Monsieur here.'

'We came from Anjou, Madame. We went to La Sablerie,' and he broke off.

'I understand. Ah! let us say no more! It rends the heart;' and again
she wiped away tear. 'And now---'

'We are coming to the Ambassador's to obtain'--he stopped, for
Berenger gave him a touch of peremptory warning, but the lady saved his
embarrassment by exclaiming that she could not let her dear cousin go to
the Ambassador's when he was among his own kindred. Perhaps Monsieur did
not know her; she must present herself as Madame de Selinville, _nee_ de
Ribaumont, a poor cousin of _ce cher Baron_, 'and even a little to you,
_M. le frere_, if you will own me,' and she held out a hand, which he
ought to have kissed, but not knowing how, he only shook it. She further
explained that her brother was at Cracow with Monsieur, now King of
Poland, but that her father lived with her at her hotel, and would be
enchanted to see his dear cousin, only that he, like herself, would be
desolated at the effects of that most miserable of errors. She had
been returning from her Advent retreat at a convent, where she had
been praying for the soul of the late M. de Selinville, when a true
Providence had made her remark the colours of her family. And now,
nothing would serve her, but that this dear Baron should be carried at
once to their hotel, which was much nearer than that of the Ambassador,
and where every comfort should await him. She clasped her hands in
earnest entreaty, and Philip, greatly touched by her kindness and
perceiving that every jolt of the splendid by springless vehicle caused
Berenger's head a shoot of anguish, was almost acceding to her offer,
when he was checked by one of the most imperative of those silent
negatives. Hitherto, Master Thistlewood had been rather proud of his bad
French, and as long as he could be understood, considered trampling on
genders, tenses, and moods as a manful assertion of Englishry, but he
would just now have given a great deal for the command of any language
but a horseboy's, to use to this beautiful gracious personage. '_Merci,
Madame, nous ne fallons pas, nous avons passe notre parole d'aller droit
a l'Ambassadeur's et pas ou else_,' did not sound very right to his
ears; he coloured up to the roots of his hair, and knew that if Berry
had had a smile left in him, poor fellow, he would have smiled now. But
this most charming and polite of ladies never betrayed it, if it were
ever such bad French; she only bowed her head, and said something very
pretty--if only he could make it out--of being the slave of one's word,
and went on persuading. Nor did it make the conversation easier, that
she inquired after Berenger, and mourned over his injuries as if he were
unconscious, while Philip knew, nay, was reminded every instant, that
he was aware of all that was passing, most anxious that as little as
possible should be said, and determined against being taken to her
hotel. So unreasonable a prejudice did this seem to Philip, that had it
not been for Humfrey's words, he would have doubted whether, in spite of
all his bleeding, his brother's brain were not wandering.

However, what with Humfrey without, and Berenger within, the turn to
the Ambassador's hotel was duly taken, and in process of time a hearty
greeting passed between Humfrey and the porter; and by the time the
carriage drew up, half the household were assembled on the steps,
including Sir Francis himself, who had already heard more than
a fortnight back from Lord Walwyn, and had become uneasy at the
non-arrival of his two young guests. On Smithers's appearance, all had
been made ready; and as Berenger, with feeble, tardy movements, made
courteous gestures of thanks to the lady, and alighted form the coach,
he was absolutely received into the dignified arms of the Ambassador.
'Welcome, my poor lad, I am glad to see you here again, though in such
different guise. Your chamber is ready for you, and I have sent my
secretary to see if Maitre Par be at home, so we will, with God's help,
have you better at ease anon.'

Even Philip's fascination by Madame de Selinville could not hold out
against the comfort of hearing English voices all round him, and of
seeing his brother's anxious brow expand, and his hand and eyes return
no constrained thanks. Civilities were exchanged on both sides; the
Ambassador thanked the lady for the assistance she had rendered to his
young friend and guest; she answered with a shade of stiffness, that she
left her kinsman in good hands, and said she should send to inquire
that evening, and her father would call on the morrow; then, as Lady
Walsingham did not ask her in, the black and white coach drove away.

The lady threw herself back in one corner, covered her face, and spoke
no word. Her coach pursued its way through the streets, and turned at
length into another great courtyard, surrounded with buildings, where
she alighted, and stepped across a wide but dirty hall, where ranks
of servants stoop up and bowed as she passed; then she ascended a
wide carved staircase, opened a small private door, and entered a tiny
wainscoted room hardly large enough for her farthingale to turn round
in. 'You, Veronique, come in--only you,' she said, at the door; and a
waiting-woman, who had been in the carriage, obeyed, no longer clad in
the Angevin costume, but in the richer and less characteristic dress of
the ordinary Parisian _femme de chambre_.

'Undo my mantle in haste!' gasped Madame de Selinville. 'O
Veronique--you saw--what destruction!'

'Ah! if my sweet young lady only known how frightful he had become, she
had never sacrificed herself,' sighed Veronique.

'Frightful! What, with the grave blue eyes that seem like the steady
avenging judgment of St. Michael in his triumph in the picture at the
Louvre?' murmured Madame de Selinville; then she added quickly, 'Yes,
yes, it is well. She and you, Veronique, may see him frightful and
welcome. There are other eyes--make haste, girl. There--another
handerchief. Follow me not.'

And Madame de Selinville moved out of the room, past the great state
bedroom and the _salle_ beyond, to another chamber where more servants
waited and rose at her entrance.

'Is any one with my father?'

'No, Madame;' and a page knocking, opened the door and announced,
'Madame la Comtesse.'

The Chevalier, in easy _deshabille_, with a flask of good wine, iced
water, and delicate cakes and _confitures_ before him, a witty and
licentious epigrammatic poem close under his hand, sat lazily enjoying
the luxuries that it had been his daughter's satisfaction to procure for
him ever since her marriage. He sprang up to meet her with a grace
and deference that showed how different a person was the Comtesse de
Selinville from Diane de Ribaumont.

'Ah! _ma belle_, my sweet,' as there was a mutual kissing of hands,
'thou art returned. Had I known thine hour, I had gone down for thy
first embrace. But thou lookest fair, my child; the convent has made
thee lovelier than ever.'

'Father, who think you is here? It is he--the Baron.'

'The Baron? Eh, father!' she cried impetuously. 'Who could it be but
one?'

'My child, you are mistaken! That young hot-head can never be thrusting
himself here again.'

'But he is, father; I brought him into Paris in my coach! I left him at
the Ambassador's.'

'Thou shouldest have brought him here. There will be ten thousand fresh
imbroglios.'

'I could not; he is as immovable as ever, though unable to speak! Oh,
father, he is very ill, he suffers terribly. Oh, Narcisse! Ah! may I
never see him again!'

'But what brings him blundering her again?' exclaimed the Chevalier.
'Speak intelligibly, child! I thought we had guarded against that! He
knows nothing of the survivance.'

'I cannot tell much. He could not open his mouth, and his half-brother,
a big dull English boy, stammered out a few words of shocking French
against his will. But I believe they had heard of _la pauvre petite_ at
La Sablerie, came over for her, and finding the ruin my brother makes
wherever he goes, are returning seeking intelligence and succour for
HIM.'

'That may be,' said the Chevalier, thoughtfully. 'It is well thy brother
is in Poland. I would not see him suffer any more; and we may get him
back to England ere my son learns that he is here.'

'Father, there is a better way! Give him my hand.'

'_Eh quoi_, child; if thou art tired of devotion, there are a thousand
better marriages.'

'No, father, none so good for this family. See, I bring him all--all
that I was sold for. As the price of that, he resigns for ever all his
claims to the ancestral castle--to La Leurre, and above all, that claim
to Nid de Merle as Eustacie's widower, which, should he ever discover
the original contract, will lead to endless warfare.'

'His marriage with Eustacie was annulled. Yet--yet there might be
doubts. There was the protest; and who knows whether they formally
renewed their vows when so much went wrong at Montpipeau. Child, it is
a horrible perplexity. I often could wish we had had no warning, and
the poor things had made off together. We could have cried shame till we
forced out a provision for thy brother; and my poor little Eustacie---'
He had tears in his eyes as he broke off.

Diane made an impatient gesture. 'She would have died of tedium in
England, or broken forth so as to have a true scandal. That is all over,
father, now; weigh my proposal! Nothing else will save my brother from
all that his cruel hand merits! You will win infinite credit at court.
The King loved him more than you thought safe.'

'The King has not a year to live, child, and he has personally offended
the King of Poland. Besides, this youth is heretic.'

'Only by education. Have I not heard you say that he had by an
abjuration. And as to Monsieur's enmity, if it be not forgotten, the
glory of bringing about a conversion would end that at once.'

'Then, daughter, thou shouldst not have let him bury himself among the
English.'

'It was unavoidable, father, and perhaps if he were here he would live
in an untamable state of distrust, whereas we may now win him gradually.
You will go and see him to-morrow, my dear father.'

'I must have time to think of this thy sudden device.'

'Nay, he is in no condition to hear of it at present. I did but speak
now, that you might not regard it as sudden when the fit moment comes.
It is the fixed purpose of my mind. I am no girl now, and I could act
for myself if I would; but as it is for your interest and that of my
brother thus to dispose of me, it is better that you should act for me.'

'Child, headstrong child, thou wilt make no scandal,' said the
Chevalier, looking up at his daughter's handsome head drawn up proudly
with determination.

'Certainly not, sir, if you will act for me.' And Diane sailed away in
her sweeping folds of black brocade.

In a few moments more she was kneeling with hands locked together before
a much-gilded little waxem figure of St. Eustacie with his cross-bearing
stag by his side, which stood in a curtained recess in the alcove where
her stately bed was placed.

'Monseigneur St. Eustache, ten wax candles everyday to your shrine at
Bellaise, so he recovers; ten more if he listen favourably and loves me.
Nay, all--all the Selinville jewels to make you a shrine. All--all, so
he will only let me love him;' and then, while taking up the beads, and
pronouncing the repeated devotions attached to each, her mind darted
back to the day when, as young children, she had played unfairly,
defrauded Landry Osbert, and denied it; how Berenger, though himself
uninjured, had refused to speak to her all that day--how she had hated
him then--how she had thought she had hated him throughout their brief
intercourse in the previous year; how she had played into her brother's
hands; and when she thought to triumph over the man who had scorned her,
found her soul all blank desolation, and light gone out from the earth!
Reckless and weary, she had let herself be united to M. de Selinville,
and in her bridal honours and amusements had tried to crowd out the
sense of dreariness and lose herself in excitement. Then came the
illness and death of her husband, and almost at the same time the
knowledge of Berenger's existence. She sought excitement again that
feverish form of devotion then in vogue at Paris, and which resulted in
the League. She had hitherto stunned herself as it were with penances,
processions, and sermons, for which the host of religious orders then
at Paris had given ample scope; and she was constantly devising new
extravagances. Even at this moment she wore sackcloth beneath her
brocade, and her rosary was of death's heads. She was living on the
outward husk of the Roman Church not penetrating into its living power,
and the phase of religion which fostered Henry III. and the League
offered her no more.

All, all had melted away beneath the sad but steadfast glance of those
two eyes, the only feature still unchanged in the marred, wrecked
countenance. That honest, quiet refusal, that look which came from a
higher atmosphere, had filled her heart with passionate beatings and
aspirations once more, and more consciously than ever. Womanly feeling
for suffering, and a deep longing to compensate to him, and earn his
love, nay wrest it from him by the benefits she would heap upon him,
were all at work; but the primary sense was the longing to rest on the
only perfect truth she had ever known in man, and thus with passionate
ardour she poured forth her entreaties to St. Eustache, a married saint,
who had known love, and could feel for her, and could surely not object
to the affection to which she completely gave way for one whose hand was
now as free as her own.

But St. Eustache was not Diane's only hope. That evening she sent
Veronique to Rene of Milan, the court-perfumer, but also called by the
malicious, _l'empoisonneur de le Reine_, to obtain from him the most
infallible charm and love potion in his whole repertory.



CHAPTER XXVI. THE CHEVALIER'S EXPIATION



                  Next, Sirs, did he marry?
And whom, Sirs, did he marry? One like himself, Though doubtless graced
with many virtues, young, And erring, and in nothing more astray Than in
this marriage.--TAYLOR, EDWIN THE FAIR.


Nothing could be kinder than the Ambassador's family, and Philip found
himself at once at home there, at least in his brother's room, which
was all the world to him. fortunately, Ambroise Pare, the most skillful
surgeon of his day, had stolen a day from his attendance of King
Charles, at St. Germain, to visit his Paris patients, and, though
unwilling to add to the list of cases, when he heard from Walsingham's
secretary who the suffer was, and when injured, he came at once to
afford his aid.

He found, however, that there was little scope for present treatment,
he could only set his chief assistant to watch the patient and to inform
him when the crisis should be nearer; but remarking the uneasy, anxious
expression in Berenger's eyes, he desired to know whether any care
on his mind might be interfering with his recovery. A Huguenot, and
perfectly trustworthy, he was one who Walsingham knew might safely hear
the whole, and after hearing all, he at once returned to his patient,
and leaning over him, said, 'Vex not yourself, sir; your illness is
probably serving you better than health could do.'

Sir Francis thought this quite probable, since Charles was so unwell
and so beset with his mother's creatures that no open audience could
be obtained from him, and Pare, who always had access to him, might act
when no one else could reach him. Meantime the Ambassador rejoiced to
hear of the instinctive caution that had made Berenger silence Philip on
the object of the journey to Paris, since if the hostile family guessed
at the residence of the poor infant, they would have full opportunity
for obliterating all the scanty traces of her. Poor persecuted little
thing! the uncertain hope of her existence seemed really the only thread
that still bound Berenger to life. He had spent eighteen months in
hope deferred, and constant bodily pain; and when the frightful
disappointment met him at La Sablerie, it was not wonder that his heart
and hope seemed buried in the black scorched ruins where all he cared
for had perished. He was scarcely nineteen, but the life before him
seemed full of nothing but one ghastly recollection, and, as he said in
the short sad little letter which he wrote to his grandfather from his
bed, he only desired to live long enough to save Eustacie's child from
being a nameless orphan maintained for charity in a convent, and to see
her safe in Aunt Cecily's care; and then he should be content to have
done with this world for ever.

The thought that no one except himself could save the child, seemed to
give him the resolution to battle for life that often bears the
patient through illness, though now he as suffering more severely and
consciously than ever he had done before; and Lady Walsingham often gave
up hopes of him. He was tenderly cared for by her and her women; but
Philip was the most constant nurse, and his unfailing assiduity and
readiness amazed the household, who had begun by thinking him ungainly,
loutish, and fit for nothing but country sports.

The Chevalier de Ribaumont came daily to inquire; and the first time
he was admitted actually burst into tears at the sight of the swollen
disfigured face, and the long mark on the arm which lay half-uncovered.
Presents of delicacies, ointments, and cooling drinks were frequently
sent from him and from the Countess de Selinville; but Lady Walsingham
distrusted these, and kept her guest strictly to the regimen appointed
by Pare. Now and then, billets would likewise come. The first brought a
vivid crimson into Berenger's face, and both it and all its successors
he instantly tore into the smallest fragments, without letting any one
see them.

On the day of the Carnival, the young men of the household had asked
Master Thistlewood to come out with them and see the procession of the
_Boeuf Gras_; but before it could take place, reports were flying about
that put the city in commotion, caused the Ambassador to forbid all
going out, and made Philip expect another Huguenot massacre. The Duke
of Alencon and the King of Navarre had been detected, it was said, in a
conspiracy for overthrowing the power of the Queen-mother, bringing in
the Huguenots, and securing the crown to Alencon on the King's death.
Down-stairs, the Ambassador and his secretaries sat anxiously striving
to sift the various contradictory reports; up-stairs, Philip and
Lady Walsingham were anxiously watching Berenger in what seemed the
long-expected crisis, and Philip was feeling as if all the French court
were welcome to murder one another so that they would only let Ambroise
Pare come to his brother's relief. And it was impossible even to send!

At last, however, when Ash-Wednesday was half over, there was a quiet
movement, and a small pale man in black was at the bedside, without
Philip's having ever seen his entrance. He looked at his exhausted
patient, and said, 'It is well; I could not have done you any good
before.'

And when he had set Berenger more at ease, he told how great had been
the confusion at St. Germain when the plot had become known to the
Queen-mother. The poor King had been wakened at two o'clock in the
morning, and carried to his litter, when Pare and his old nurse had
tended him. He only said, 'Can they not let me die in peace?' and his
weakness had been so great on arriving, that the surgeon could hardly
have left him for M. de Ribaumont, save by his own desire. 'Yes, sir,'
added Pare, seeing Berenger attending to him, 'we must have you well
quickly; his Majesty knows all about you, and is anxious to see you.'

In spite of these good wishes, the recovery was very slow; for, as the
surgeon had suspected, the want of skill in those who had had the charge
of Berenger at the first had been the cause of much of his protracted
suffering. Pare, the inventor of trephining, was, perhaps, the only
man in Europe who could have dealt with the fracture in the back of
the head, and he likewise extracted the remaining splinters of the jaw,
though at the cost of much severe handling and almost intolerable pain:
but by Easter, Berenger found the good surgeon's encouragement verified,
and himself on the way to a far more effectual cure than he had hitherto
thought possible. Sleep had come back to him, he experienced the luxury
of being free from all pain, he could eat without difficulty; and Pare,
always an enemy to wine, assured him that half the severe headaches
for which he had been almost bled to death, were the consequence of
his living on bread soaked in sack instead of solid food; and he was
forbidden henceforth to inflame his brain with anything stronger than
sherbet. His speech, too, was much improved; he still could not utter
all the consonants perfectly, and could not speak distinctly without
articulating very slowly, but all the discomfort and pain were gone; and
though still very weak, he told Philip that now all his course seemed
clear towards his child, instead of being like a dull, distraught dream.
His plan was to write to have a vessel sent from Weymouth, to lie off
the coast till his signal should be seen from la Motte-Achard, and then
to take in the whole party and the little yearling daughter, whom
he declared he should trust to no one but himself. Lady Walsingham
remonstrated a little at the wonderful plans hatched by the two lads
together, and yet she was too glad to see a beginning of brightening
on his face to make many objections. It was only too sand to think how
likely he was again to be disappointed.

He was dressed, but had not left his room, and was lying on cushions
in the ample window overlooking the garden, while Frances and Elizabeth
Walsingham in charge of their mother tried to amuse him by their
childish airs and sports, when a message was brought that M. le
Chevalier de Ribaumont prayed to be admitted to see him privily.

'What bodes that?' he languidly said.

'Mischief, no doubt,' said Philip Walsingham. 'Send him word that you
are seriously employed.'

'Nay, that could scarce be, when he must have heard the children's
voices,' said Lady Walsingham. 'Come away, little ones.'

The ladies took the hint and vanished, but Philip remained till the
Chevalier had entered, more resplendent than ever, in a brown velvet
suit slashed with green satin, and sparkling with gold lace-a contrast
to the deep mourning habit in which Berenger was dressed. After
inquiries for his health, the Chevalier looked at Philip, and expressed
his desire of speaking with his cousin alone.

'If it be of business,' said Berenger, much on his guard, 'my head is
still weak, and I would wish to have the presence of the Ambassador or
one of his secretaries.'

'This is not so much a matte of business as of family,' said the
Chevalier, still looking so uneasily at Philip that Berenger felt
constrained to advise him to join the young ladies in the garden; but
instead of doing this, the boy paced the corridors like a restless
dog waiting for his master, and no sooner heard the old gentleman
bow himself out than he hurried back again, to find Berenger heated,
panting, agitated as by a sharp encounter.

'Brother, what is it--what has the old rogue done to you?'

'Nothing,' said Berenger, tardily and wearily; and for some minutes he
did not attempt to speak, while Philip devoured his curiosity as best he
might. At last he said, 'He was always beyond me. What think you? Now he
wants me to turn French courtier and marry his daughter.'

'His daughter!' exclaimed Philip, 'that beautiful lady I saw in the
coach?'

A nod of assent.

'I only wish it were I.'

'Philip,' half angrily, 'how can you be such a fool?'

'Of course, I know it can't be,' said Philip sheepishly, but a little
offended. 'But she's the fairest woman my eyes ever beheld.'

'And the falsest.'

'My father says all women are false; only they can't help it, and don't
mean it.'

'Only some do mean it,' said Berenger, dryly.

'Brother!' cried Philip, fiercely, as if ready to break a lance, 'what
right have you to accuse that kindly, lovely dame of falsehood?'

'It skills not going through all,' said Berenger, wearily. 'I know her
of old. She began by passing herself off on me as my wife.'

'And you were not transported?'

'I am not such a gull as you.'

'How very beautiful your wife must have been!' said Philip, with gruff
amazement overpowering his consideration.

'Much you know about it,' returned Berenger, turning his face away.

There was a long silence, first broken by Philip, asking more
cautiously, 'And what did you say to him?'

'I said whatever could show it was most impossible. Even I said the
brother's handwriting was too plain on my face for me to offer myself
to the sister. But it seems all that is to be passed over as an unlucky
mistake. I wish I could guess what the old fellow is aiming at.'

'I am sure the lady looked at you as if she loved you.'

'Simpleton! She looked to see how she could beguile me. Love! They do
nothing for love here, you foolish boy, save _par amour_. If she loved
me, her father was the last person she would have sent me. No, no;
'tis a new stratagem, if I could only seen my way into it. Perhaps Sir
Francis will when he can spend an hour on me.'

Though full of occupation, Sir Francis never failed daily to look
in upon his convalescent guest, and when he heard of the Chevalier's
interview, he took care that Berenger should have full time to consult
him; and, of course, he inquired a good deal more into the particulars
of the proposal than Philip had done. When he learnt that the Chevalier
had offered all the very considerable riches and lands that Diane
enjoyed in right of her late husband as an equivalent for Berenger's
resignation of all claims upon the Nid-de-Merle property, he noted it
on his tables, and desired to know what these claims might be. 'I cannot
tell,' said Berenger. 'You may remember, sir, the parchments with our
contract of marriage had been taken away from Chateau Leurre, and I have
never seen them.'

'Then,' said the Ambassador, 'you may hold it as certain that those
parchments give you some advantage which he hears, since he is willing
to purchase it at so heavy a price. Otherwise he himself would be the
natural heir of those lands.'

'After my child,' said Berenger, hastily.

'Were you on your guard against mentioning your trust in your child's
life?' said Sir Francis.

The long scar turned deeper purple than ever. 'Only so far as that I
said there still be rights I had no power to resign,' said Berenger.
'And then he began to prove to me---what I had no mind to hear' (and his
voice trembled) '---all that I know but too well.'

'Hum! you must not be left alone again to cope with him,' said
Walsingham. 'Did he make any question of the validity of your marriage?'

'No, sir, it was never touched on. I would not let him take her name
into his lips.'

Walsingham considered for some minutes, and then said, 'It is clear,
then, that he believes that the marriage can be sufficiently established
to enable you to disturb him in his possession of some part, at least,
of the Angevin inheritance, or he would not endeavour to purchase your
renunciation of it by the hand of a daughter so richly endowed.'

'I would willingly renounce it if that were all! I never sought it; only
I cannot give up her child's rights.'

'And that you almost declared,' proceeded Walsingham; 'so that the
Chevalier has by his negotiation gathered from you that you have not
given up hope that the infant lives. Do your men know where you believe
she is?'

'My Englishmen know it, of course,' said Berenger; 'but there is no fear
of them. The Chevalier speaks no English, and they scarcely any French;
and, besides, I believe they deem him equally my butcher with his son.
The other fellow I only picked up after I was on my way to Paris, and I
doubt his knowing my purpose.'

'The Chevalier must have had speech with him, though,' said Philip; 'for
it was he who brought word that the old rogue wished to speak with you.'

'It would be well to be quit yourself of the fellow ere leaving Paris,'
said Walsingham.

'Then, sir,' said Berenger, with an anxious voice, 'do you indeed think
I have betrayed aught that can peril the poor little one?'

Sir Francis smiled. 'We do not set lads of your age to cope with old
foxes,' he answered; 'and it seems to me that you used far discretion
in the encounter. The mere belief that the child lives does not show him
where she may be. In effect, it would seem likely to most that the
babe would be nursed in some cottage, and thus not be in the city of La
Sablerie at all. He might, mayhap, thus be put on a false scent.'

'Oh no,' exclaimed Berenger, startled; 'that might bring the death of
some other person's child on my soul.'

'That shall be guarded against,' said Sir Francis. 'In the meantime,
my fair youth, keep your matters as silent as may be---do not admit
the Chevalier again in my absence; and, as to this man Guibert, I will
confer with my steward whether he knows too much, and whether it be
safer to keep of dismiss him!'

'If only I could see the King, and leave Paris,' sighed Berenger.

And Walsingham, though unwilling to grieve the poor youth further,
bethought himself that this was the most difficult and hopeless matter
of all. As young Ribaumont grew better, the King grew worse; he himself
only saw Charles on rare occasions, surrounded by a host of watchful
eyes and ears, and every time he marked the progress of disease; and
though such a hint could be given by an Ambassador, he thought that by
far the best chance of recovery of the child lay in the confusion that
might probably follow the death of Charles IX. in the absence of his
next heir.

Berenger reckoned on the influence of Elisabeth of Austria, who had been
the real worker in his union with Eutacie; but he was told that it was
vain to expect assistance from her. In the first year of her marriage,
she had fondly hoped to enjoy her husband's confidence, and take her
natural place in his court; but she was of no mould to struggle with
Catherine de Medicis, and after a time had totally desisted. Even at the
time of the St. Bartholomew, she had endeavoured to uplift her voice
on the side of mercy, and had actually saved the lives of the King of
Navarre and Prince of Conde; and her father, the good Maximilian II.,
had written in the strongest terms to Charles IX. expressing his horror
of the massacre. Six weeks later, the first hour after the birth of her
first and only child, she had interceded with her husband for the lives
of two Huguenots who had been taken alive, and failing then either
through his want of will or want of power, she had collapsed and yielded
up the endeavour. She ceased to listen to petitions from those who had
hoped for her assistance, as if to save both them and herself useless
pain, and seemed to lapse into a sort of apathy to all public interests.
She hardly spoke, mechanically fulfilled her few offices in the court,
and seemed to have turned her entire hope and trust into prayer for her
husband. Her German confessor had been sent home, and a Jesuit given her
in his stead, but she had made no resistance; she seemed to the outer
world a dull, weary stranger, obstinate in leading a conventual life;
but those who knew her best--and of these few was the Huguenot surgeon
Pare--knew that her heart had been broken two guilty lives, or to make
her husband free himself from his bondage to bloody counsels. To pray
for him was all that remained to her--and unwearied had been
those prayers. Since his health had declined, she had been equally
indefatigable in attending on him, and did not seem to have a single
interest beyond his sick chamber.

As to the King of Navarre, for whose help Berenger had hoped, he had
been all these months in the dishonouable thraldom of Catherine de
Medicis, and was more powerless than ever at this juncture, having been
implicated in Alencon's plot, and imprisoned at Vincennes.

And thus, the more Berenger heard of the state of things, the less
hopeful did his cause appear, till he could almost have believed his
best chance lay in Philip's plan of persuading the Huguenots to storm
the convent.



CHAPTER XXVII. THE DYING KING



      Die in terror of thy guiltiness,
  Dream on, dream on of bloody deeds and death, Fainting, despair,
  despairing yield thy breath
                                     KING RICHARD III.


A few days later, when Berenger had sent out Philip, under the keeping
of the secretaries, to see the Queen-mother represent Royalty in one
of the grand processions of Rogation-tide, the gentle knock came to his
door that always announced the arrival of his good surgeon.

'You look stronger, M. le Baron; have you yet left your room?'

'I have walked round the gallery above the hall,' said Berenger. 'I have
not gone down-stairs; that is for to-morrow.'

'What would M. le Baron say if his chirurgeon took him not merely
down-stairs, but up on flight at the Louvre?'

'Ha!' cried Berenger; 'to the King?'

'It is well-nigh the last chance, Monsieur; the Queen-mother and all her
suite are occupied with services and sermons this week; and next week
private access to the King will be far more difficult. I have waited as
long as I could that you might gain strength to support the fatigue.'

'Hope cancels fatigue,' said Berenger, already at the other end of the
room searching for his long-disused cloak, sword, gloves, hat, and mask.

'Not the sword,' said Pare, 'so please you. M. le Baron must condescend
to obtain entrance as my assistant--the plain black doublet--yes, that
is admirable; but I did not know that Monsieur was so tall,' he added,
in some consternation, as, for the first time, he saw his patient
standing up at his full height--unusual even in England, and more so
in France. Indeed, Berenger had grown during his year of illness, and
being, of course, extremely thin, looked all the taller, so as to be a
very inconvenient subject to smuggle into to palace unobserved.

However, Ambroise had made up his mind to the risk, and merely assisted
Berenger in assuming his few equipments, then gave him his arm to go
down the stairs. Meeting Guibert on the way, Berenger left word with him
that he was going out to take the air with Maitre Pare; and on the man's
offering to attend him, refused the proposal.

Pare carriage waited in the court, and Berenger, seated in its depths,
rolled unseen through the streets, till he found himself at the little
postern of the Louvre, the very door whence he was to have led off his
poor Eustacie. Here Ambroise made him take off his small black mask, in
spite of all danger of his scars being remarked, since masks were not
etiquette in the palace, and, putting into his arms a small brass-bound
case of instruments, asked his pardon for preceding him, and alighted
from the carriage.

This was Ambroise's usual entrance, and it was merely guarded by a
Scottish archer, who probably observed nothing. They then mounted the
stone stair, the same where Osbert had dragged down his insensible
master; and as, at the summit, the window appeared where Berenger had
waited those weary hours, and heard the first notes of the bell of
St.-Germain-l'Auxerrois, his breath came in such hurried sobs, that Pare
would fain have given him time to recover himself, but he gasped, 'Not
here--not here;' and Pare, seeing that he could still move on, turned,
not to the corridor leading to the King's old apartments, now too full
of dreadful associations for poor Charles, but towards those of the
young Queen. Avoiding the ante-room, where no doubt waited pages, users,
and attendants, Pare presently knocked at a small door, so hidden in the
wain-scoting of the passage that only a _habitue_ could have found it
without strict search. It was at once opened, and the withered, motherly
face of an old woman, with keen black eyes under a formal tight white
cap, looked out.

'Eh! Maitre Pare,' she said, 'you have brought the poor young gentleman?
On my faith, he looks scarcely able to walk! Come in, sir, and rest a
while in my chamber while Maitre Ambroise goes on to announce you to the
King. He is more at ease to-day, the poor child, and will relish some
fresh talk.

Berenger knew this to be Philippe, the old Huguenot nurse, whom Charles
IX. loved most fondly, and in whom he found his greatest comfort. He was
very glad to sink into the seat she placed for him, the only one is her
small, bare room and recover breath there while Pare passed on to the
King, and she talked as one delighted to have a hearer.

'Ah, yes, rest yourself--stay; I will give you a few spoonfuls of the
cordial potage I have here for the King; it will comfort your heart. Ah!
you have been cruelly mauled--but he would have saved you if he could.

'Yes, good mother, I know that; the King has been my very good lord.

'Ah! blessings on you if you say so from your heart, Monsieur; you know
me for one of your poor Reformed. And I tell you--I who saw him born,
who nursed him from his birth--that, suffer as you may, you can never
suffer as he does. Maitre Ambroise may talk of his illness coming from
blowing too much on his horn; I know better. But, ah! to be here at
night would make a stone shed tears of blood. The Queen and I know it;
but we say nothing, we only pray.

The sight of a Huguenot was so great a treat to the old woman in her
isolated life, that her tongue ran thus freely while Berenger sat,
scarce daring to speak or breathe in the strange boding atmosphere of
the palace, where the nurse and surgeon moved as tolerated, privileged
persons, in virtue of the necessity of the one to the King--of the other
to all the world. After all brief interval Pare returned and beckoned
to Berenger, who followed him across a large state-bedroom to a much
smaller one, which he entered from under a heavy blue velvet curtain,
and found himself in an atmosphere heavy with warmth and perfume, and
strangely oppressed besides. On one side of the large fire sat the
young Queen, faded, wan, and with all animation or energy departed, only
gazing with a silent, wistful intentness at her husband. He was opposite
to her in a pillowed chair, his feet on a stool, with a deadly white,
padded, puffy cheek, and his great black eyes, always prominent, now
with a glassy look, and strained wide, as though always gazing after
some horrible sight. 'Madame la Comtesse stood in her old, wooden,
automaton fashion behind the Queen; otherwise, no one was present save
Pare, who, as he held up the curtain, stood back to let M. de Ribaumont
advance. He stood still, however, merely bowing low, awaiting an
invitation to come forward, and trying to repress the startled tear
called up by the very shock of pity at the mournful aspect of the young
King and Queen.

Elisabeth, absorbed in her husband, and indifferent to all besides,
did not even turn her head as he entered; but Charles signed to him
to approach, holding out a yellow, dropsical-looking hand; and as he
dropped on one knew and kissed it fervently, the King said, 'Here he is,
Madame, the Baron de Ribaumont, the same whose little pleasure-boat was
sucked down in our whirlpool.

All Elisabeth's memories seemed to have been blotted out in that
whirlpool, for she only bowed her head formally, and gave no look of
recognition, though she, too, allowed Berenger to salute her listless,
dejected hand. 'One would hardly have known him again, continued the
King, in a low husky voice; 'but I hope, sir, I see you recovering.

'Thanks, Sire, to Heaven's goodness, and to your goodness in sparing to
me the services of Maitre Pare.

'Ah! there is none like Pare for curing a wound OUTSIDE,' said Charles,
then leant back silent; and Berenger, still kneeling, was considering
whether he ought to proffer his petition, when the King continued, 'How
fares your friend Sidney, M. le Baron?

'Right well, Sire. The Queen has made him one of her gentlemen.

'Not after this fashion,' said Charles, as with his finger he traced
the long scar on Berenger's face. 'Our sister of England has different
badges of merit from ours for her good subjects. Ha! what say they of us
in England, Baron?

'I have lain sick at home, Sire, and have neither seen nor heard, said
Berenger.

'Ah! one day more at Montpipeau had served your turn,' said the King;
'but you are one who has floated up again. One--one at least whose blood
is not on my head.

The Queen looked up uneasy and imploring, as Charles continued: 'Would
that more of you would come in this way! They have scored you deep, but
know you what is gashed deeper still? Your King's heart! Ah! you will
not come, as Coligny does, from his gibbet, with his two bleeding hands.
My father was haunted to his dying day by the face of one Huguenot
tailor. Why, I see a score, night by night! You are solid; let me feel
you, man.

'M. Pare,' exclaimed the poor Queen, 'take him away.

'No, Madame,' said the King, holding tight in his hot grasp Berenger's
hand, which was as pale as his own, long, thin, and wasted, but cold
from strong emotion; 'take not away the only welcome sight I have seen
for well-nigh two years.' He coughed, and the handkerchief he put to his
lips had blood on it; but he did not quit his hold of his visitor, and
presently said in a feeble whisper, 'Tell me, how did you escape?

Pare, over the King's head, signed to him to make his narrative take
time; and indeed his speech was of necessity so slow, that by the time
he had related how Osbert had brought him safely to England, the King
had recovered himself so as to say, 'See what it is to have a faithful
servant. Which of those they have left me would do as much for me? And
now, being once away with your life, what brings you back to this realm
of ours, after your last welcome?

'I left my wife here, Sire.

'Ha! and the cousin would have married her--obtained permission to call
himself Nid de Merle--but she slipped through his clumsy fingers; did
she not? Did you know anything of her, Madame?

'No,' said the Queen, looking up. 'She wrote to me once from her
convent; but I knew I could do nothing for her but bring her enemies'
notice on her; so I made no answer.

Berenger could hardly conceal his start of indignation--less at the
absolute omission, than at the weary indifference of the Queen's
confession. Perhaps the King saw it, for he added, 'So it is, Ribaumont;
the kindest service we can do our friends is to let them alone; and,
after all, it was not the worse for her. She did evade her enemies?

'Yes, Sire,' said Berenger, commanding and steadying his voice with
great difficulty, 'she escaped in time to give birth to our child in
the ruined loft of an old grange of the Templars, under the care of a
Huguenot farmer, and a pastor who had known my father. Then she took
refuge in La Sablerie, and wrote to my mother, deeming me dead. I was
just well enough to go in quest of her. I came--ah! Sire, I found only
charred ruins. Your Majesty knows how Huguenot bourgs are dealt with.

'And she---?

Berenger answered but by a look.

'Why did you come to tell me this?' said the King, passionately. 'Do you
not know that they have killed me already? I thought you came because
there was still some one I could aid.

'There is, there is, Sire,' said Berenger, for once interrupting
royalty. 'None save you can give me my child. It is almost certain that
a good priest saved it; but it is in a convent, and only with a royal
order can one of my religion either obtain it, or even have my questions
answered.

'Nor with one in Paris,' said the King dryly; 'but in the country the
good mothers may still honour their King's hand. Here, Ambroise, take
pen and ink, and write the order. To whom?

'To the Mother Prioress of the Ursulines at Lucon, so please our
Majesty,' said Berenger, 'to let me have possession of my daughter.

'Eh! is it only a little girl?

'Yes, Sire; but my heart yearns for her all the more,' said Berenger,
with glistening eyes.

'You are right,' said the poor King. 'Mine, too, is a little girl; and
I bless God daily that she is no son--to be the most wretched thing the
France. Let her come in, Madame. She is little older than my friend's
daughter. I would show her to him.

The Queen signed to Madame la Comtesse to fetch the child, and Berenger
added, 'Sire, you could do a further benefit to my poor little one. One
more signature of yours would attest that ratification of my marriage
which took place in your Majesty's presence.

'Ah! I remember,' said Charles. 'You may have any name of mine that can
help you to oust that villain Narcisse; only wait to use it--spare me
any more storms. It will serve your turn as well when I am beyond
they, and you will make your claim good. What,' seeing Berenger's
interrogative look, 'do you not know that by the marriage-contract the
lands of each were settled on the survivor?

'No, Sire; I have never seen the marriage-contract.

'Your kinsman knew it well,' said Charles.

Just then, Madame la Comtesse returned, leading the little Princess by
the long ribbons at her waist; Charles bent forward, calling, 'Here, _ma
petite_, come here. Here is one who loves thy father. Look well at him,
that thou mayest know him.

The little Madame Elisabeth so far understood, that, with a certain
lofty condescension, she extended her hand for the stranger to kiss, and
thus drew from the King the first smile that Berenger had seen. She was
more than half a year older than the Berangere on whom his hopes were
set, and whom he trusted to find not such a pale, feeble, tottering
little creature as this poor young daughter of France, whose round black
eyes gazed wonderingly at his scar; but she was very precocious, and
even already too much of a royal lady to indulge in any awkward personal
observation.

By the time she had been rewarded for her good behaviour by one of the
dried plums in her father's comfit-box, the order had been written
by Pare, and Berenger had prepared the certificate for the King's
signature, according to the form given him by his grandfather.

'Your writing shakes nearly as much as mine,' said the poor King, as
he wrote his name to this latter. 'Now, Madame, you had better sign it
also; and tell this gentleman where to find Father Meinhard in Austria.
He was a little too true for us, do you see--would not give thanks for
shedding innocent blood. Ah!'--and with a gasp of mournful longing, the
King sank back, while Elisabeth, at his bidding, added her name to the
certificate, and murmured the name of a convent in Vienna, where her
late confessor could be found.

'I cannot thank you Majesty enough,' said Berenger; 'My child's rights
are now secure in England at least, and this'--as he held the other
paper for the King--'will give her to me.

'Ah! take it for what it is worth,' said the King, as he scrawled his
'CHARLES' upon it. 'This order must be used promptly, or it will avail
you nothing. Write to Ambroise how you speed; that is, if it will
bring me one breath of good news.' And as Berenger kissed his hand with
tearful, inarticulate thanks, he proceeded, 'Save for that cause, I
would ask you to come to me again. It does me good. It is like a breath
from Montpipeau--the last days of hope--before the frenzy--the misery.

'Whenever your Majesty does me the honour---' began Berenger, forgetting
all except the dying man.

'I am not so senseless,' interrupted the King sharply; 'it would be
losing the only chance of undoing one wrong. Only, Ribaumont,' he added
fervently, 'for once let me hear that one man has pardoned me.

'Sire, Sire,' sobbed Berenger, totally overcome, 'how can I speak the
word? How feel aught but love, loyalty, gratitude?

Charles half smiled again as he said in sad meditation--'Ah! it was in
me to have been a good king if they had let me. Think of me, bid your
friend Sidney think of me, as I would have been--not as I have been--and
pray, pray for me.' Then hiding his face in his handkerchief, in a
paroxysm of grief and horror, he murmured in a stifled tone, 'Blood,
blood, deliver me, good Lord!

In effect, there was so sudden a gush of blood from mouth and nose that
Berenger sprang to his feet in dismay, and was _bona fide_ performing
the part of assistant to the surgeon, when, at the Queen's cry, not only
the nurse Philippe hurried in, but with her a very dark, keen-looking
man, who at once began applying strong essences to the King's face,
as Berenger supported his head. In a few moments Pare looked up at
Berenger, and setting him free, intimated to him, between sign and
whisper, to go into Philippe's room and wait there; and it was high
time, for though the youth had felt nothing in the stress of the moment,
he was almost swooning when he reached the little chamber, and lay back
in the nurse's chair, with closed eyes, scarcely conscious how time
went, or even where he was, till he was partly aroused by hearing steps
returning.

'The poor young man,' said Philippe's kind voice, 'he is fainting. Ah!
no wonder it overcame any kind heart.

'How is the King?' Berenger tried to say, but his own voice still
sounded unnatural and far away.

'He is better for the time, and will sleep,' said Pare, administering to
his other patient some cordial drops as he spoke. 'There, sir; you will
soon be able to return to the carriage. This has been a sore trial to
your strength.

'But I have gained all--all I could hope,' said Berenger, looking at his
precious papers. 'But, alas! the poor King!

'You will never, never let a word of blame pass against him,' cried
Philippe earnestly. 'It is well that one of our people should have
seen how it really is with him. All I regret is that Maitre Rene thrust
himself in and saw you.

'Who?' said Berenger, who had been too much engrossed to perceive any
one.

'Maitre Rene of Milan, the Queen-mother's perfume. He came with some
plea of bringing a pouncet-box from her, but I wager it was as a spy.
I was doing my best to walk him gently off, when the Queen's cry called
me, and he must needs come in after me.

'I saw him not,' said Berenger; 'perhaps he marked not me in the
confusion.

'I fear,' said Pare gravely, 'he was more likely to have his senses
about him than you. M. le Baron; these bleedings of the King's are not
so new to us familiars to the palace. The best thing now to be done is
to have you to the carriage, if you can move.

Berenger, now quite recovered, stood up, and gave his warm thanks to the
old nurse for her kindness to him.

'Ah! sir,' she said, 'you are one of us. Pray, pray that God will have
mercy on my poor child! He has the truth in his heart. Pray that it may
save him at the last.

Ambroise, knowing that she would never cease speaking while there was
any one to hear her, almost dragged Berenger out at the little secret
door, conveyed him safely down the stairs, and placed him again in the
carriage. Neither spoke till the surgeon said, 'You have seen a sad
sight, Monsieur le Baron: I need not bid you be discreet.

'There are some things that go too deep for speech,' sighed the almost
English Berenger; then, after a pause, 'Is there no hope for him? Is he
indeed dying?

'Without a miracle, he cannot live a month. He is as truly slain by the
St. Bartholomew as ever its martyrs were,' said Pare, moved out of his
usual cautious reserve towards one who had seen so much and felt so
truly. 'I tell you, sir, that his mother hath as truly slain her sons,
as if she had sent Rene there to them with his drugs. According as they
have consciences and hearts, so they pine and perish under her rule.

Berenger shuddered, and almost sobbed, 'And hath he no better hope, no
comforter?' he asked.

'None save good old Flipote. As you heard, the Queen-mother will not
suffer his own Church to speak to him in her true voice. No confessor
but one chosen by the Cardinal of Lorraine may come near him; and with
him all is mere ceremony. But if at the last he opens his ear and heart
to take in the true hope of salvation, it will be from the voice of poor
old Philippe.

And so it was! It was Philippe, who heard him in the night sobbing over
the piteous words, 'My God, what horrors, what blood!' and, as she took
from his tear-drenched handkerchief, spoke to him of the Blood that
speakth better things than the blood of Abel; and it was she who, in the
final agony, heard and treasured these last words, 'If the Lord Jesus
will indeed receive me into the company of the blest!' Surely, never
was repentance deeper than that of Charles IX.--and these, his parting
words, were such as to inspire the trust that it was not remorse.

All-important as Berenger's expedition had been, he still could think
of little but the poor King; and, wearied out as he was, he made very
little reply to the astonished friends who gathered round him on his
return. He merely told Philip that he had succeeded, and then lay almost
without speaking on his bed till the Ambassador made his evening visit,
when he showed him the two papers. Sir Francis could hardly believe his
good fortune in having obtained this full attestation of the marriage,
and promised to send to the English Ambassador in Germany, to obtain the
like from Father Meinhard. The document itself he advised Berenger not
to expose to the dangers of the French journey, but to leave it with him
to be forwarded direct to Lord Walwyn. It was most important, both as
obviating any dispute on the legitimacy of the child, if she lived; or,
if not, it would establish those rights of Berenger to the Nid de Merle
estates, of which he had heard from the King. This information explained
what were the claims that the Chevalier was so anxious to hush up by a
marriage with Madame de Selinville. Berenger, as his wife's heir, was by
this contract the true owner of the estates seized by the Chevalier and
his son, and could only be ousted, either by his enemies proving his
contract to Eustacie invalid and to be unfulfilled, or by his own
voluntary resignation. The whole scheme was clear to Walsingham, and
he wasted advice upon unheeding ears, as to how Berenger should act to
obtain restitution so soon as he should be of age, and how he should try
to find out the notary who had drawn up the contract. If Berenger cared
at all, it was rather for the sake of punishing and balking Narcisse,
than with any desire of the inheritance; and even for righteous
indignation he was just now too weary and too sad. He could not discuss
his rights to Nid de Merle, if they passed over the rights of Eustacie's
child, round whom his affection were winding themselves as his sole
hope.

The next evening Pare came in quest of Berenger, and after a calm,
refreshing, hopeful Ascension-day, which had been a real balm to the
weary spirit, found him enjoying the sweet May sunshine under a tree
in the garden. 'I am glad to find you out of doors,' he said; 'I fear I
must hasten your departure.

'I burn to lose no time,' cried Berenger. 'Prithee tell them I may
safely go! They all call it madness to think of setting out.

'Ordinarily it would be,' said Pare; 'but Rene of Milan has sent his
underlings to see who is my new, tall assistant. He will report all to
the Queen-mother; and though in this house you could scarcely suffer
personal harm, yet the purpose of your journey might be frustrated, and
the King might have to undergo another of those _bourrasques_ which he
may well dread.

'I will go this very night,' said Berenger, starting up; 'where is
Philip?--where is Sir Francis?

Even that very night Pare thought not too soon, and the Ascension-tide
illuminations brought so many persons abroad that it would be easy to go
unnoticed; and in the general festivity, when every one was coming and
going from the country to gaze or worship at the shrines and the images
decked in every church, it would be easy for the barriers to be passed
without observation. Then the brothers would sleep at a large hostel,
the first on the road to England, where Walsingham's couriers and guest
always baited, and the next morning he would send out to them their
attendants, with houses for their further journey back into Anjou. If
any enemies were on the watch, this would probably put them off the
scent, and it only remained further to be debated, whether the Norman
Guibert had better be dismissed at once or taken with them. There was
always soft place in Berenger's heart for a Norman, and the man was
really useful; moreover, he would certainly be safer employed and in
their company, than turned loose to tell the Chevalier all he might have
picked up in the Hotel d'Angleterre. It was therefore decided that he
should be the attendant of the two young men, and he received immediate
orders that night to pack up their garments, and hold himself ready.

Nevertheless, before the hour of departure, Guibert had stolen out, had
an interview with the Chevalier de Ribaumont at the Hotel de Selinville,
and came back with more than one good French crown in his pocket, and
hopes of more.



CHAPTER XXVIII. THE ORPHANS OF LA SABLERIE



The cream tarts with pepper in them.--ARABIAN NIGHTS.


Hope, spring, and recovery carried the young Baronde Ribaumont on his
journey infinitely better than his companions had dared to expect. He
dreaded nothing so much as being overtaken by those tidings which would
make King Charles's order mere waste paper; and therefore pressed on
with little regard to his own fatigue, although happily with increasing
strength, which carried him a further stage every day.

Lucon was a closely-guarded, thoroughly Catholic city, and his
safe-conduct was jealously demanded; but the name of Ribaumont silenced
all doubt. 'A relation, apparently, of M. de Nid de Merle,' said the
officer on guard, and politely invited him to dinner and bed at the
castle; but these he thought it prudent to decline, explaining that he
brought a letter from the King to the Mother Prioress.

The convent walls were pointed out to him, and he only delayed at the
inn long enough to arrange his dress as might appear to the Abbess most
respectful, and, poor boy, be least likely to startle the babe on whom
his heart was set. At almost every inn, the little children had shrieked
and run from his white and gashed face, and his tall, lank figure in
deep black; and it was very sadly that he said to Philip, 'You must come
with me. If she turns from me as an ogre, your bright ruddy face will
win her.

The men were left at the inn with charge to let Guibert speak for them,
and to avoid showing their nationality. The three months of Paris,
and the tailors there, had rendered Philip much less conspicuous than
formerly; but still people looked at him narrowly as he followed his
brother along the street. The two lads had made up their minds to
encumber themselves with no nurses, or womanfolk. The child should be
carried, fondled, and fed by her boy-father alone. He believed that,
when he once held her in his arms, he should scarcely even wish to give
her up to any one else; and, in his concentration of mind, had hardly
thought of all the inconveniences and absurdities that would arise; but,
really, was chiefly occupied by the fear that she would not at first let
him take her in his arms, and hold her to his heart.

Philip, a little more alive to the probabilities, nevertheless was
disposed to regard them as 'fun and pastime.' He had had many a frolic
with his baby-sisters, and this would be only a prolonged one; besides,
it was 'Berry's' one hope, and to rescue any creature from a convent was
a good work, in his Protestant eyes, which had not become a whit less
prejudiced at Paris. So he was quite prepared to take his full share of
his niece, or more, if she should object to her father's looks, and he
only suggested halting at an old woman's stall to buy some sweetmeats
by way of propitiation--a proceeding which much amazed the gazing
population of Lucon. Two reports were going about, one that the King
had vowed a silver image of himself to St. Ursula, if her Prioress would
obtain his recovery by their prayers; the other that he was going to
translate her to the royal Abbey of Fontevrault to take charge of his
daughter, Madame Elisabeth. Any way, high honour by a royal messenger
must be intended to the Prioress, Mere Monique, and the Luconnais were
proud of her sanctity.

The portress had already heard the report, and opened her wicket
even before the bell could be rung, then eagerly ushered him into the
parlour, the barest and most ascetic-looking of rooms, with a boarded
partition across, unenlivened except by a grated hollow, and the outer
portion empty, save of a table, three chairs, and a rugged woodcut of a
very tall St. Ursula, with a crowd of pigmy virgins, not reaching higher
than the ample hem of her petticoat.

'Did Aunt Cecily live in such a place as this?' exclaimed Philip, gazing
round; 'or do they live on the fat among down cushions inside there?

'Hush--sh,' said Berenger, frowning with anxiety; for a rustling was
heard behind the screen, and presently a black veil and white scapulary
appeared, and a sweet calm voice said, 'Peace be with you, sir; what are
your commands?

Berenger bowed low, and replied, 'Thanks, reverend Lady; I bring a
letter from the King, to request your aid in a matter that touches me
nearly.

'His Majesty shall be obeyed. Come you from him?

He was forced to reply to her inquiries after the poor King's health
before she opened the letter, taking it under her veil to read it; so
that as he stood, trembling, almost sickening with anxiety, and scarcely
able to breathe, he could see nothing but the black folds; and at her
low murmured exclamation he started as if at a cannon-shot.

'De Ribaumont!' she said; 'can it be--the child--of--of--out poor dear
little _pensionnaire_ at Bellaise?

'It is--it is!' cried Berenger. 'O Madame, you knew her at Bellaise?

'Even so,' replied the Prioress, who was in fact the Soeur Monique so
loved and regretted by Eustacie. 'I loved and prayed for her with all my
heart when she was claimed by the world. Heaven's will be done; but the
poor little thing loved me, and I have often thought that had I been
still at Bellaise when she returned she would not have fled. But of this
child I have no knowledge.

'You took charge of the babes of La Sablerie, Madame,' said Berenger,
almost under his breath.

'Her infant among those poor orphans!' exclaimed the Prioress, more and
more startled and amazed.

'If it be anywhere in this life, it is in your good keeping, Madame,'
said Berenger, with tears in his eyes. 'Oh! I entreat, withhold her no
longer.

'But,' exclaimed the bewildered nun, 'who would you then be, sir?

'I--her husband--widower of Eustacie--father of her orphan!' cried
Berenger. 'She cannot be detained from me, either by right or law.

'Her husband,' still hesitated Monique. 'But he is dead. The poor little
one--Heaven have mercy on her soul--wrote me a piteous entreaty, and
gave large alms for prayers and masses for his soul.

The sob in his throat almost strangled his speech. 'She mourned me to
the last as dead. I was borne away senseless and desperately wounded;
and when I recovered power to seek her it was too late! O Madame! have
pity--let me see all she has left to me.

'Is it possible?' said the nun. 'We would not learn the parentage of
our nurslings since all alike become children of Mother Church.
Then, suddenly bethinking herself, 'But, surely, Monsieur cannot be a
Huguenot.

It was no doubt the first time she had been brought in contact with
a schismatic, and she could not believe that such respectful courtesy
could come from one. He saw he must curb himself, and explain. 'I am
neither Calvinist nor Sacrementaire, Madame. I was bred in England,
where we love our own Church. My aunt is a Benedictine Sister, who keeps
her rule strictly, though her convent is destroyed; and it is to her
that I shall carry my daughter. Ah, Lady, did you but know my heart's
hunger for her!

The Prioress, better read in the lives of the saints than in the sects
of heretics, did not know whether this meant that he was of her own
faith or not; and her woman's heart being much moved by his pleadings,
she said, 'I will heartily give your daughter to you, sir, as indeed I
must, if she be here; but you have never seen her?

'No; only her empty cradle in the burnt house. But I MUST know her. She
is a year old.

'We have two babes of that age; but I fear me you will scarce see much
likeness in either of them to any one you knew,' said the Prioress,
thoughtfully. 'However, there are two girls old enough to remember the
parentage of their companions, though we forbade them to mention it.
Would you see them, sir?

'And the infants, so please you, reverend Mother,' exclaimed Berenger.

She desired him to wait, and after an interval of suspense there was
a pattering of little _sabots_ behind the partition, and through the
grating he beheld six little girls in blue serge frocks and tight white
caps. Of the two infants, one with a puny, wizen, pinched face was in
the arms of the Prioress; the other, a big, stout, coarse child, with
hard brown cheeks and staring black-eyes, was on its own feet, but with
a great basket-work frame round its head to save it from falls. There
were two much more prepossessing children of three or four, and two
intelligent-looking girls of perhaps eight and ten, to the elder of whom
the Prioress turned, saying, 'Agathe, I release you from my command not
to speak of your former life, and desire you to tell this gentleman if
you know who were the parents of these two little ones.

'Yes, reverend Mother,' said Agathe, readily; 'the old name of Claire'
(touching the larger baby) 'was Salome Potier: her mother was the
washerwoman; and Nannonciade, I don't know what her name was, but her
father worked for Maitre Brassier who made the kettles.

Philip felt relieved to be free from all doubt about these very
uninviting little ones, but Berenger, though sighing heavily, asked
quickly, 'Permit me, Madame, a few questions.--Little maid, did you ever
hear of Isaac Gardon?

'Maitre Isaac! Oh yes, sir. We used to hear him preach at the church,
and sometimes he catechized us,' she said, and her lip quivered.

'He was a heretic, and I abjure him,' added the other girl, perking up
her head.

'Was he in the town? What became of him?' exclaimed Berenger.

'He would not be in the town,' said the elder girl. 'My poor father had
sent him word to go away.

'_Eh quoi_?

'Our father was Bailli la Grasse,' interposed the younger girl,
consequentially. 'Our names were Marthe and Lucie la Grasse, but Agathe
and Eulalie are much prettier.

'But Maitre Gardon?' still asked Berenger.

'He ought to be take and burnt,' said the new Eulalie; 'he brought it
all on us.

'How was it? Was my wife with him--Madame de Ribaumont? Speak, my child.

'That was the name,' said one girl.

'But Maitre Gardon had no great lady with him,' said the other, 'only
his son's widow and her baby, and they lodged with Noemi Laurent, who
made the _patisserie_.

'Ah!' cried Berenger, lighting up with the new ray of hope. 'Tell me, my
dear, that they fled with him, and where.

'I do not know of their going,' said Agathe, confused and overborne by
his eagerness.

'Curb yourself, sir,' said the Prioress, 'they will recollect themselves
and tell you what they can.

'It was the little cakes with lemoned sugar,' suggested the younger
girl. 'Maitre Tressan always said there would be a judgment on us for
our daintiness. Ah! he was very cross about them, and after all it was
the Maitre of Lucon who ate fifteen of them all at once; but then he is
not a heretic.

Happily for Berenger, Agathe unraveled this speech.

'Mademoiselle Gardon made the sugar-lemoned cakes, and the Mayor of
Lucon, one day when he supped with us, was so delighted with them that
he carried one away to show his wife, and afterwards he sent over to
order some more. Then, after a time, he sent secretly to my father to
ask him if Maitre Gardon was there; for there was a great outcry about
the lemon cakes, and the Duke of Alencon's army were coming to demand
his daughter-in-law; because it seems she was a great lady, and the only
person who could make the cakes.

'Agathe!' exclaimed the Prioress.

'I understand,' said Berenger. 'The Cure of Nissard told me that she was
traced through cakes, the secret of which was only known at Bellaise.

'That might be,' said Mere Monique. 'I remember there was something of
pride in the cakes of Bellaise, though I always tried to know nothing of
them.

'Well, little one, continue,' entreated Berenger. 'You are giving me
life and hope.

'I heard my father and mother talk about it,' said Agathe, gaining
courage. 'He said he knew nothing of great people, and would give nobody
up to the Catholics, but as to Maitre Isaac, he should let him know that
the Catholic army were coming, and that it would be the better for us
if we had no pastor within our walls; and that there was a cry that his
daughter's lemon cakes were made by the lady that was lost.

'And they escaped! Ah! would that I could thank the good man!

'Surely yes, sir, I never saw them again. Maitre Tressan the elder
prayed with us. And when the cruel soldiers came and demanded the lady
and Maitre Isaac, and all obstinate Calvinists, our mayor and my father
and the rest made answer that they had no knowledge of the lady, and did
not know where Maitre Gardon was; and as to Huguenots, we were all one
as obstinate as the other, but that we would pay any fine within our
means so they would spare our lives. Then the man in the fine coat said,
it was the lady they wanted, not the fine; and a great deal he said
besides, I know not what but my father said, 'It is our life's blood
that they want,' and he put on his breastplate and kissed us all, and
went away. Then came horrible noises and firing of cannon, and the
neighbours ran in and said that the enemy were battering down the old
crumbly bit of wall where the monastery was burnt; and just then our man
Joseph ran back all pale, and staring, to tell us my father was lying
badly hurt in the street. My mother hurried out, and locked the door to
keep us from following.

The poor child broke down in tears, and her sister went on. 'Oh, we were
so frightened--such frightful sounds came close, and people ran by all
blood and shrieking--and there was a glare in the sky--and nobody came
home--till at last it grew so dreadful that we hid in the cellar to hear
and see nothing. Only it grew hotter and hotter, and the light through
the little grating was red. And at last there was a noise louder than
thunder, and, oh, such a shaking--for it was the house falling down. But
we did not know that; we tried to open the door, and could not; then
we cried and called for father and mother--and no one heard--and we sat
still for fear, till we slept--and then it was all dark, and we were
very hungry. I don't know how time went, but at last, when I was
daylight again, there was a talking above, a little baby crying, and
a kind voice too; and then we called out, 'Oh, take us out and give us
bread.' Then a face looked down the grating. Oh, it was like the face
of an angel to us, with all the white hair flying round. It was the
holy priest of Nissard; and when one of the cruel men said we were only
little heretics who ought to die like rats in a hole, he said we were
but innocents who did not know the difference.

'Ah! we did,' said the elder girl. 'You are younger, sister, you forget
more;' and then, holding out her hands to Berenger, she exclaimed, 'Ah!
sir, take us away with you.

'My child!' exclaimed the Prioress, 'you told me you were happy to be in
the good course.

'Oh yes!' cried the poor child; 'but I don't want to be happy! I am
forgetting all my poor father and mother used to say. I can't help it,
and they would be so grieved. Oh, take me away, sir!

'Take care, Agathe, you will be a relapsed heretic,' said her sister,
solemnly. 'For me, I am a true Catholic. I love the beautiful images and
the processions.

'Ah! but what would our mother have said!' cried poor Agathe, weeping
more bitterly.

'Poor child, her old recollections have been renewed,' said the
Prioress, with unchanged sweetness; 'but it will pass. My dear, the
gentleman will tell you that it is as impossible for him to take you as
it is for me to let you go.

'It is so, truly, little one,' said Berenger. 'The only little girl I
cold have taken with me would have been my own;' and as her eyes looked
at him wistfully, he added, 'No doubt, if your poor mother could, she
would thank this good Mother-prioress for teaching you to serve God and
be a good child.

'Monsieur speaks well and kindly,' said the Prioress; 'and now, Agathe,
make your curtsey, and take away the little ones.

'Let me ask one question more, reverend Mother,' said Berenger.
'Ah! children, did you ever see her whom you call Isaac Gardon's
daughter-in-law?

'No, sir,' said the children; 'but mother did, and she promised one day
to take us to see the baby, for it was so pretty--so white, that she had
never seen the like.

'So white!' repeated Berenger to himself; and the Prioress, struck,
perhaps, by the almost flaxen locks that sparsely waved on his temples,
and the hue of the ungloved hand that rested on the edge of the
_grille_, said, smiling, 'You come of a fair family, Monsieur.

'The White Ribaumonts,' said Berenger, 'and, moreover, my mother was
called the Swan of England; my little sisters have skins like snow.
Ah! Madame, though I have failed, I go away far happier than if I had
succeeded.

'And reveal the true faith,' began the nun; but Philip in the meantime
was nudging his brother, and whispering in English, 'No Popish
prayers, I say! Stay, give these poor little prisoners one feast of the
sweetmeats we brought.

Of this last hint Berenger was glad, and the Prioress readily consented
to a distribution of the dainties among the orphans. He wished to leave
a more lasting token of his gratitude to the little maiden whose father
had perhaps saved Eustacie's life, and recollecting that he had about
him a great gold coin, bearing the heads of Philip and Mary, he begged
leave to offer it to Agathe, and found that it was received by good Mere
Monique almost in the light of a relic, as bearing the head of so pious
a queen.

Then, to complete Philip's disgust he said, 'I took with me my aunt's
blessing when I set out; let me take yours with me also, reverend
Mother.

When they were in the street again, Philip railed at him as though he
had subjected himself to a spell.

'She is almost a saint,' answered Berenger.

'And have we not saints enough of our own, without running after Popish
ones behind grates? Brother, if ever the good old days come back of
invading France, I'll march straight hither, and deliver the poor little
wretches so scandalously mewed up here, and true Protestants all the
time!

'Hush! People are noticing the sound of your English.

'Let them! I never thanked Heaven properly before that I have not a drop
of French---' Here Berenger almost shook him by the shoulder, as
men turned at his broad tones and foreign words, and he walked on in
silence, while Berenger at his side felt as one treading on air, so
infinite was the burden taken off his mind. Though for the present
absolutely at sea as to where to seek Eustacie, the relief from
acquiescence in the horrible fate that had seemed to be hers was such,
that a flood of unspeakable happiness seemed to rush in on him, and bear
him up with a new infusion of life, buoyancy, and thankfulness.



CHAPTER XXIX. IN THE KING'S NAME



  'Under which king, Bezonian? speak or die.

  'Under King Harry.
                      --KING HENRY IV.


'One bird in the hand is not always worth two in the bush, assuredly,'
said Philip, when Berenger was calm enough to hold council on what he
called this most blessed discovery; 'but where to seek them?

'I have no fears now,' returned Berenger. 'We have not been bore through
so much not to be brought together at last. Soon, soon shall we have
her! A minister so distinguished as Isaac Gardon is sure to be heard
of either at La Rochelle, Montauban, or Nimes, their great gathering
places.

'For Rochelle, then?' said Philip.

'Even so. We will be off early to-morrow, and from thence, if we do
not find her there, as I expected, we shall be able to write the thrice
happy news to those at home.

Accordingly, the little cavalcade started in good time, in the cool
of the morning of the bright long day of early June, while apple petal
floated down on them in the lanes like snow, and nightingales in every
hedge seemed to give voice and tune to Berenger's eager, yearning hopes.

Suddenly there was a sound of horse's feet in the road before them, and
as they drew aside to make way, a little troop of gendarmes filled the
narrow lane. The officer, a rough, harsh-looking man, laid his hand on
Berenger's bridle, with the words, 'In the name of the King!

Philip began to draw his sword with one hand, and with the other to urge
his horse between the officer and his brother, but Berenger called out,
'Back! This gentleman mistakes my person. I am the Baron de Ribaumont,
and have a safe-conduct from the King.

'What king?' demanded the officer.

'From King Charles.

'I arrest you,' said the officer, 'in the name of King Henry III, and of
the Queen Regent Catherine.

'The King dead?' Exclaimed Berenger.

'On the 30th of May. Now, sir.

'Your warrant--your cause?' still demanded Berenger.

'There will be time enough for that when you are safely lodged, said the
captain, roughly pulling at the rein, which he had held all the time.

'What, no warrant?' shouted Philip, 'he is a mere robber!' and with
drawn sword he was precipitating himself on the captain, when another
gendarme, who had been on the watch, grappled with him, and dragged
him off his horse before he could strike a blow. The other two English,
Humfrey Holt and John Smithers, strong full-grown men, rode in fiercely
to the rescue, and Berenger himself struggled furiously to loose himself
from the captain, and deliver his brother. Suddenly there was the report
of a pistol: poor Smithers fell, there was a moment of standing aghast,
and in that moment the one man and the two youths were each pounced on
by three or four gendarmes, thrown down and pinioned.

'Is this usage for gentlemen?' exclaimed Berenger, as he was roughly
raised to his feet.

'The King's power has been resisted,' was all the answer; and when
he would have been to see how it was with poor Smithers, one of the
men-at-arms kicked over the body with sickening brutality, saying, 'Dead
enough, heretic and English carrion!

Philip uttered a cry of loathing horror, and turned white; Berenger,
above all else, felt a sort of frenzied despair as he thought of the
peril of the boy who had been trusted to him.

'Have you had enough, sir?' said the captain. 'Mount and come.

They could only let themselves be lifted to their horses, and their
hands were then set free to use their bridles, each being guarded by
a soldier on each side of him. Philip attempted but once to speak, and
that in English: 'Next time I shall take my pistol.

He was rudely silenced, and rode on with wide-open stolid eyes and
dogged face, steadfastly resolved that no Frenchman should see him
flinch, and vexed that Berenger had his riding mask on so that his face
could not be studied; while he, on his side, was revolving all causes
possible for his arrest, and all means of enforcing he liberation,
if not of himself at least of Philip and Humfrey. He looked round for
Guibert, but could not see him.

They rode on through the intricate lanes till the sun was high and
scorching, and Berenger felt how far he was from perfect recovery. At
last, however, some little time past noon, the gendarmes halted at a
stone fountain, outside a village, and disposing a sufficient guard
around his captives, the officer permitted them to dismount and rest,
while he, with the rest of the troop and the horses, went to the village
CABARET. Philip would have asked his brother what it meant, and what was
to be done, but Berenger shook his head, and intimated that silence was
safest as present, since they might be listened to; and Philip, who
so much imagined treachery and iniquity to be the order of the day in
France that he was scarcely surprised at the present disaster, resigned
himself to the same sullen endurance. Provisions and liquor were
presently sent up from the inn, but Berenger could taste nothing but the
cold water of the fountain, which trickled out cool and fresh beneath an
arch surmounted by a figure of Our Lady. He bathed his face and head
in the refreshing spring, and lay down on a cloak in the shade, Philip
keeping a constant change of drenched kerchiefs on his brow, and
hoping that he slept, till at the end to two or three hours the
captain returned, gave the word to horse, and the party rode on through
intricate lanes, blossoming with hawthorn, and ringing with songs of
birds that spoke a very different language now to Berenger's heart from
what they had said in the hopeful morning.

A convent bell was ringing to evensong, when passing its gateway; the
escort turned up a low hill, on the summit of which stood a chateau,
covering a considerable extent of ground, with a circuit of wall,
whitewashed so as perfectly to glare in the evening sun; at every angle
a round, slim turret, crowned by a brilliant red-tiled extinguisher-like
cap; and the whole surmounted by a tall old keep in the centre. There
was a square projection containing an arched gateway, with heavy
doorways, which were thrown open as the party approached. Philip looked
up as he rode in, and over the doorway beheld the familiar fretted
shield, with the leopard in the corner, and _'A moi Ribaumont'_ round
it. Could it then be Berenger's own castle, and was it thus that he was
approaching it? He himself had not looked up; he was utterly spent with
fatigue, dejection, and the severe headache brought on by the heat of
the sun, and was only intent on rallying his powers for the crisis of
fate that was probably approaching; and thus scarcely took note of the
court into which he rode, lying between the gateway and the _corps de
logis_, a building erected when comfort demanded more space than was
afforded by the old keep, against which one end leant; but still, though
inclosed in a court, the lower windows were small and iron-barred, and
all air of luxury was reserved for the mullioned casements of the upper
storey. The court was flagged, but grass shot up between the stones, and
the trim air of ease and inhabited comfort to which the brothers were
used at home was utterly wanting. Berenger was hustled off his horse,
and roughly pushed through a deep porch, where the first thing he heard
was the Chevalier de Ribaumont's voice in displeasure.

'How now, sir; hands off! Is this the way you conduct my nephew?

'He resisted, sir.

'Sir,' said Berenger, advancing into the hall, 'I know not the meaning
of this. I am peacefully traveling with a passport from the King, when I
am set upon, no warrant shown me, my faithful servant slain, myself and
my brother, an English subject, shamefully handled.

'The violence shall be visited on whatever rascal durst insult a
gentleman and my nephew,' said the Chevalier. 'For release, it shall be
looked to; but unfortunately it is too true that there are orders
from the Queen in Council for your apprehension, and it was only on my
special entreaty for the honour of the family, and the affection I bear
you, that I was allowed to receive you here instead of your being sent
to an ordinary prison.

'On what pretext?' demanded Berenger.

'It is known that you have letters in your possession from escaped
traitors now in England, to La Noue, Duplessis Mornay, and other
heretics.

'That is easily explained,' said Berenger. 'You know well, sir, that
they were to facilitate my search at La Sablerie. You shall see them
yourself, sir.

'That I must assuredly do,' replied the Chevalier, 'for it is the
order of her Majesty, I regret to say, that your person and baggage be
searched;' then, as indignant colour rushed into Berenger's face, and an
angry exclamation was beginning, he added, 'Nay, I understand, my dear
cousin, it is very painful, but we would spare you as much as possible.
It will be quite enough if the search is made by myself in the presence
of this gentleman, who will only stand by for form's sake. I have no
doubt it will enable us quickly to clear up matters, and set you free
again. Do me the honour to follow me to the chamber destined for you.

'Let me see the order for my arrest,' said Berenger, holding his head
high.

'The English scruple must be gratified,' said the Chevalier. And
accordingly the gendarme captain unfolded before him a paper, which was
evidently a distinct order to arrest and examine the person of Henri
Beranger Eustache, Baron de Ribaumont and Sieur de Leurre, suspected of
treasonable practices--and it bore the signature of Catherine.

'There is nothing here said of my step-father's son, Philip Thistlewood,
nor of my servant, Humfrey Holt,' said Berenger, gathering the sense
with his dizzy eyes as best he could. 'They cannot be detained, being
born subjects of the Queen of England.

'They intercepted the justice of the King,' said the captain, laying
his hand on Philip's shoulder. 'I shall have them off with me to the
garrison of Lugon, and deal with them there.

'Wait!' said the Chevalier, interposing before Berenger's fierce,
horror-struck expostulation could break forth; 'this is an honourable
young gentleman, son of a chevalier of good reputation in England, and
he need not be so harshly dealt with. You will not separate either
him or the poor groom from my nephew, so the Queen's authority be now
rightly acknowledged.

The captain shrugged his shoulders, as if displeased; and the Chevalier,
turning to Berenger, said, 'You understand, nephew, the lot of you all
depends on your not giving umbrage to these officers of her Majesty. I
will do my poor best for you; but submission is first needed.

Berenger knew enough of his native country to be aware that _la justice
du Roi_ was a terrible thing, and that Philip's resistance had really
put him in so much danger that it was needful to be most careful not
further to offend the functionary of Government; and abhorrent as the
proposed search was to him, he made no further objection, but taking
Philip's arm, lest they should be separated, he prepared to follow
wherever he was to be conducted. The Chevalier led the way along a
narrow stone passage, with loophole-windows here and there; and Philip,
for all his proud, indifferent bearing, felt his flesh creep as he
looked for a stair descending into the bowels of the earth. A stair
there was, but it went up instead of down, and after mounting this, and
going through a sort of ante-room, a door was opened into a tolerably
spacious apartment, evidently in the old keep; for the two windows on
opposite sides were in an immensely massive wall, and the floor above
and vaulting below were of stone; but otherwise there was nothing
repulsive in the appearance of the room. There was a wood fire on the
hearth; the sun, setting far to the north, peeped in aslant at one
window; a mat was on the floor, tapestry on the lower part of the walls;
a table and chairs, and a walnut chest, with a chess-board and a few
books on it, were as much furniture as was to be seen in almost any
living-room of the day. Humfrey and Guibert, too, were already there,
with the small riding valises they and poor Smithers had had in charge.
These were at one opened, but contained merely clothes and linen,
nothing else that was noticed, except three books, at which the captain
looked with a stupid air; and the Chevalier did not seem capable of
discovering more than that all three were Latin--one, he believed, the
Bible.

'Yes, sir, the Vulgate--a copy older than the Reformation, so not liable
to be called an heretical version,' said Berenger, to whom a copy had
been given by Lady Walwyn, as more likely to be saved if his baggage
were searched. 'The other is the Office and Psalter after our English
rite; and this last is not mine, but Mr. Sidney's--a copy of Virgilius
Maro, which he had left behind at Paris.

The Chevalier, not willing to confess that he had taken the English
Prayer-book for Latin, hastily said, 'Nothing wrong there--no, no,
nothing that will hurt the State; may it only be so with what you carry
on your person, fair cousin. Stand back, gentleman, this is gear for
myself alone. Now, fair nephew,' he added, 'not a hand shall be laid on
you, if you will give me your honourable word, as a nobleman, that you
are laying before me all that you carry about you.

An instant's thought convinced Berenger that resistance would save
nothing, and merely lead to indignity to himself and danger to Philip;
and therefore he gave the promise to show everything about him, without
compulsion. Accordingly, he produced his purse for current expenses,
poor King Charles's safe-conduct, and other articles of no consequence,
from his pockets; then reluctantly opened his doublet, and took off
the belt containing his store of gold, which had been replenished at
Walsingham's. This was greedily eyed by the captain, but the Chevalier
at once made it over to Philip's keeping, graciously saying, 'We do no
more than duty requires;' but at the same time he made a gesture towards
another small purse that hung round Berenger's neck by a black ribbon.

'On my sacred word and honour,' said Berenger, 'it contains nothing
important to any save myself.

'Alas! my bounden duty,' urged the Chevalier.

An angry reply died on Berenger's lip. At the thought of Philip, he
opened the purse, and held out the contents on his palm: a tiny gold
ring, a tress of black hair, a fragment of carnation-ribbon pricked with
pin-holes, a string of small worthless yellow shells, and, threaded with
them, a large pear-shaped pearl of countless price. Even the Chevalier
was touched at the sight of this treasury, resting on the blanched palm
of the thin, trembling hand, and jealously watched by eyes glistening
with sudden moisture, though the lips were firm set. 'Alas! my poor
young cousin,' he said, 'you loved her well.

'Not loved, but love,' muttered Berenger to himself, as if having
recourse to the only cordial that could support him through the present
suffering; and he was closing his fingers again over his precious hoard,
when the Chevalier added, 'Stay! Nephew--that pearl?

'Is one of the chaplet; the token she sent to England,' he answered.

'_Pauvre petite!_ Then, at least a fragment remains of the reward of our
ancestor's courage,' said the Chevalier.

And Berenger did not feel it needful to yield up that still better
possession, stored within his heart, that _la petite_ and her pearls
were safe together. It was less unendurable to produce the leather case
from a secret pocket within his doublet, since, unwilling as he was that
any eye should scan the letters it contained, there was nothing in them
that could give any clue towards tracing her. Nothing had been written
or received since his interview with the children at Lucon. There was,
indeed, Eustacie's letter to his mother, a few received at Paris from
Lord Walwyn, reluctantly consenting to his journey in quest of his
child, his English passport, the unfortunate letters to La Noue; and
what evidently startled the Chevalier more than all the rest, the
copy of the certificate of the ratification of the marriage; but his
consternation was so arranged as to appear to be all on behalf of his
young kinsman. 'This is serious!' he said, striking his forehead; 'you
will be accused of forging the late King's name.

'This is but a copy,' said Berenger, pointing to the heading; 'the
original has been sent with our Ambassador's dispatches to England.

'It is a pity,' said the Chevalier, looking thoroughly vexed, 'that you
should have brought fresh difficulties on yourself for a mere piece
of waste paper to be affected by the validity of your marriage. Dear
cousin,'--he glanced at the officer and lowered his voice,--'let me tear
this paper; it would only do you harm, and the Papal decree annuls it.

'I have given my word,' said Berenger, 'that all that could do me harm
should be delivered up! Besides,' he added, 'even had I the feeling for
my own honour and that of my wife and child, living or dead, the harm,
it seems to me, would be to those who withhold her lands from me.

'Ah, fair nephew! you have fallen among designing persons who have
filled your head with absurd claims; but I will not argue the point now,
since it becomes a family, not a State matter. These papers'--and
he took them into his hand--'must be examined, and to-morrow Captain
Delarue will take them to Paris, with any explanation you may desire
to offer. Meantime you and your companions remain my guest, at full
liberty, provided you will give me your parole to attempt no escape.

'No, sir,' said Berenger, hotly, 'we will not become our own jailers,
nor acquiesce in this unjust detention. I warn you that I am a
naturalized Englishman, acknowledged by the Queen as my grandfather's
heir, and the English Ambassador will inform the court what Queen
Elizabeth thinks of such dealings with her subjects.

'Well said,' exclaimed Philip, and drawing himself up, he added,
'I refuse my parole, and warn you that it is at your peril that you
imprison an Englishman.

'Very well, gentlemen,' said the Chevalier; 'the difference will be that
I shall unwillingly be forced to let Captain Delarue post guards at the
outlets of this tower. A room beneath is prepared for your grooms,
and the court is likewise free to you. I will endeavour to make your
detention as little irksome as you will permit, and meantime allow me
to show you your sleeping chamber. He then politely, as if he had been
ushering a prince to his apartment, led the way, pointing to the door
through which they had entered the keep, and saying, 'This is the only
present communication with the dwelling-house. Two gendarmes will always
be on the outside.' He conducted the young men up a stone spiral stair
to another room, over that which they had already seen, and furnished as
fairly as ordinary sleeping chambers were wont to be.

Here, said their compulsory host, he would leave them to prepare for
supper, when they would do him the honour to join him in the eating-hall
on their summons by the steward.

His departing bow was duly returned by Berenger, but no sooner did his
steps die away on the stairs than the young man threw himself down on
his bed, in a paroxysm of suffering both mental and bodily.

'Berry, Berry, what is this? Speak to me. What does it all mean? cried
Philip.

'How can I tell?' said Berenger, showing his face for a moment, covered
with tears; 'only that my only friend is dead, and some villainous trick
has seized me, just--just as I might have found her. And I've been
the death of my poor groom, and got you into the power of these vile
dastards! Oh, would that I had come alone! Would that they had had the
sense to aim direct!

'Brother, brother, anything but this!' cried Philip. 'The rogues are not
worth it. Sir Francis will have us out in no time, or know the reason
why. I'd scorn to let them wring a tear from me.

'I hope they never may, dear Phil, nor anything worse.

'Now,' continued Philip, 'the way will be to go down to supper, since
they will have it so, and sit and eat at one's ease as if one cared for
them no more than cat and dog. Hark! there's the steward speaking to
Guibert. Come, Berry, wash your face and come.

'I--my head aches far too much, were there nothing else.

'What! it is nothing but the sun,' said Philip. 'Put a bold face on it,
man, and show them how little you heed.

'How LITTLE I heed!' bitterly repeated Berenger, turning his face away,
utterly unnerved between disappointment, fatigue, and pain; and Philip
at that moment had little mercy. Dismayed and vaguely terrified, yet too
resolute in national pride to betray his own feelings, he gave vent to
his vexation by impatience with a temperament more visibly sensitive
than his own: 'I never thought you so mere a Frenchman,' he said
contemptuously. 'If you weep and wail so like a sick wench, they will
soon have their will of you! I'd have let them kill me before they
searched me.

''Tis bad enough without this from you, Phil,' said Berenger, faintly,
for he was far too much spent for resentment or self-defence, and had
only kept up before the Chevalier by dint of strong effort. Philip was
somewhat aghast, both at the involuntary gesture of pain, and at finding
there was not even spirit to be angry with him: but his very dismay
served at the moment only to feed his displeasure; and he tramped off
in his heavy boots, which he chose to wear as a proof of disdain for his
companions. He explained that M. de Ribaumont was too much fatigued to
come to supper, and he was accordingly marched along the corridor, with
the steward before him bearing a lighted torch, and two gendarmes with
halberds behind him. And in his walk he had ample time for, first, the
resolution that illness, and not dejection, should have all the credit
of Berenger's absence; then for recollecting of how short standing
had been his brother's convalescence; and lastly, for a fury of
self-execration for his own unkindness, rude taunts, and neglect of the
recurring illness. He would have turned about and gone back at once, but
the two gendarmes were close behind, and he knew Humfrey would attend to
his brother; so he walked on to the hall--a handsome chamber, hung with
armour and spoils of hunting, with a few pictures on the panels, and a
great carved music-gallery at one end. The table was laid out somewhat
luxuriously for four, according to the innovation which was beginning to
separate the meals of the grandees from those of their household.

Great concern was expressed by the Chevalier, as Philip, in French, much
improved since the time of his conversation with Madame de Selinville,
spoke of his brother's indisposition, saying with emphasis, as he glared
at Captain Delarue, that Maitre Pare had forbidden all exposure to
mid-day heat, and that all their journeys had been made in morning or
evening coolness. 'My young friend,' as his host called him, 'should,
he was assured, have mentioned this, since Captain Delarue had no
desire but to make his situation as little painful as possible.' And
the Chevalier sent his steward at once to offer everything the house
contained that his prisoner could relish for supper; and then anxiously
questioned Philip on his health and diet, obtaining very short and glum
answers. The Chevalier and the captain glanced at each other with little
shrugs; and Philip, becoming conscious of his shock hair, splashed
doublet, and dirty boots, had vague doubts whether his English dignity
were not being regarded as English lubberliness; but, of course, he
hated the two Frenchmen all the more, and received their civility
with greater gruffness. They asked him the present object of his
journey--though, probably, the Chevalier knew it before, and he told of
the hope that they had of finding the child at Lucon.

'Vain, of course?' said the Chevalier. 'Poor infant! It is well for
itself, as for the rest of us, that its troubles were ended long ago.'

Philip started indignantly.

'Does your brother still nurture any vain hope?' said the Chevalier.

'Not vain, I trust,' said Philip.

'Indeed! Who can foolishly have so inspired him with a hope that merely
wears out his youth, and leads him into danger?'

Philip held his tongue, resolved to be impenetrable; and he was so far
successful, that the Chevalier merely became convinced that the brothers
were not simply riding to La Rochelle to embark for England, but had
some hope and purpose in view; though as to what that might be, Philip's
bluff replies and stubborn silence were baffling.

After the meal, the Chevalier insisted on coming to see how his guest
fared; and Philip could not prevent him. They found Berenger sitting on
the side of his bed, having evidently just started up on hearing their
approach. Otherwise he did not seem to have moved since Philip left him;
he had not attempted to undress; and Humfrey told Philip that not a word
had been extracted from him, but commands to let him alone.

However, he had rallied his forces to meet the Chevalier, and answered
manfully to his excuses for the broiling ride to which he had been
exposed, that it mattered not, the effect would pass, it was a mere
chance; and refused all offers of medicaments, potions, and TISANES,
till his host at length left the room with a most correct exchange of
good nights.

'Berry, Berry, what a brute I have been!' cried Philip.

'Foolish lad!' and Berenger half smiled. 'Now help me to bed, for the
room turns round!'



CHAPTER XXX. CAGED IN THE BLACKBIRD'S NEST



      Let him shun castles;
Safer shall he be on the sandy plain Than where castles mounted
stand.--KING HENRY VI.


While Berenger slept a heavy morning's sleep after a resless night,
Philip explored the narrow domain above and below. The keep and its
little court had evidently been the original castle, built when the
oddly-nicknamed Fulkes and Geoffreys of Anjou had been at daggers drawn
with the Dukes of Normandy and Brittany, but it had since, like most
other such ancient feudal fortresses, become the nucleus of walls and
buildings for use, defence, or ornament, that lay beneath him like a
spider's web, when he had gained the roof of the keep, garnished with
pepper-box turrets at each of the four angles. Beyond lay the green
copses and orchards of the Bocage, for it was true, as he had at first
suspected, that this was the chateau de Nid de Merle, and that Berenger
was a captive in his wife's own castle.

Chances of escape were the lad's chief thought, but the building on
which he stood went sheer down for a considerable way. Then on the north
side there came out the sharp, high-pitched, tiled roof of the _corps du
logis_; on the south, another roof, surmounted by a cross at the gable,
and evidently belonging to the chapel; on the other two sides lay
courts--that to the east, a stable-yard; that to the west, a small
narrow, chilly-looking, paved inclosure, with enormously-massive walls,
the doorway walled up, and looking like a true prison-yard. Beyond
this wall--indeed, on every side--extended offices, servants' houses,
stables, untidy desolate-looking gardens, and the whole was inclosed by
the white wall with flanking red-tiled turrets, whose gaudy appearance
had last night made Philip regard the whole as a flimsy, Frenchchified
erection, but he now saw it to be of extremely solid stone and lime,
and with no entrance but the great barbican gateway they had entered by;
moreover, with a yawning dry moat all round. Wherever he looked he saw
these tall, pointed red caps, resembling, he thought, those worn by
the victims of an _auto-de-fe_, as one of Walsingham's secretaries had
described them to him; and he ground his teeth at them, as thought they
grinned at him like emissaries of the Inquisition.

Descending, he found Berenger dressing in haste to avoid receiving an
invalid visit from the Chevalier, looking indeed greatly shaken, but
hardly so as would have been detected by eyes that had not seen him
during his weeks of hope and recovery. He was as resolved as Philip
could wish against any sign of weakness before his enemy, and altogether
disclaimed illness, refusing the stock of cooling drinks, cordials, and
febrifuges, which the Chevalier said had been sent by his sister the
Abbess of Bellaise. He put the subject of his health aside, only asking
if this were the day that the gendarme-captain would return to
Paris, and then begging to see that officer, so as to have a distinct
understanding of the grounds of his imprisonment. The captain had,
however, been a mere instrument; and when Philip clamoured to be taken
before the next justice of the peace, even Berenger smiled at him for
thinking that such a being existed in France. The only cause alleged was
the vague but dangerous suspicion of conveying correspondence between
England and the heretics, and this might become extremely perilous to
one undeniably half English, regarded as whole Huguenot, caught on
the way to La Rochelle with a letter to La Noue in his pocket; and,
moreover, to one who had had a personal affray with a king famous for
storing up petty offences, whom the last poor king had favoured,
and who, in fine, had claims to estates that could not spared to the
Huguenot interest.

He was really not sure that there was not some truth in the professions
of the Chevalier being anxious to protect him from the Queen-mother and
the Guises; he had never been able to divest himself of a certain trust
in his old kinsman's friendliness, and he was obliged to be beholden
to him for the forms in which to couch his defence. At the same time he
wrote to Sir Francis Walsingham, and to his grandfather, but with great
caution, lest his letters should be inspected by his enemies, and with
the less hope of their availing him because it was probable that the
Ambassador would return home on the king's death. No answer could be
expected for at least a fortnight, and even then it was possible that
the Queen-mother might choose to refer the cause to King Henry, who was
then in Poland.

Berenger wrote these letters with much thought and care, but when they
were once sealed, he collapsed again into despair and impatience, and
frantically paced the little court as if he would dash himself against
the walls that detained him from Eustacie; then threw himself moodily
into a chair, hid his face in his crossed arms, and fell a prey to all
the wretched visions called up by an excited brain.

However, he was equally alive with Philip to the high-spirited
resolution that his enemies should not perceive or triumph in his
dejection. He showed himself at the noon-day dinner, before Captain
Delarue departed, grave and silent, but betraying no agitation; and he
roused himself from his sad musings at the supper-hour, to arrange his
hair, and assume the ordinary dress of gentlemen in the evening; though
Philip laughed at the roses adorning his shoes, and his fresh ruff,
as needless attentions to an old ruffian like the Chevalier. However,
Philip started when he entered the hall, and beheld, not the Chevalier
alone, but with him the beautiful lady of the velvet coach, and another
stately, extremely handsome dame, no longer in her first youth, and
in costly black and white garments. When the Chevalier called her his
sister, Madame de Bellaise, Philip had no notion that she was anything
but a widow, living a secular life; and though a couple of nuns attended
her, their dress was so much less conventual than Cecily's that he did
not at first find them out. It was explained that Madame de Selinville
was residing with her aunt, and that, having come to visit her father,
he had detained the ladies to supper, hoping to enliven the sojourn of
his _beaux cousins_.

Madame de Selinville, looking anxiously at Berenger, hoped she saw him
in better health. He replied, stiffly, that he was perfectly well;
and then, by way of safety, repaired to the society of the Abbess, who
immediately began plying him with questions about England, its court,
and especially the secret marriage of Queen Elisabeth and '_ce_ Comte
de Dudley,' on which she was so minutely informed as to put him to the
blush. Then she was very curious about the dispersed convents, and how
many of the nuns had married; and she seemed altogether delighted to
have secured the attention of a youth from the outer world. His soul at
first recoiled from her as one of Eustacie's oppressors, and from her
unconvent-like talk; and yet he could not but think her a good-natured
person, and wonder if she could rally have been hard upon his poor
little wife. And she, who had told Eustacie she would strangle with her
own hands the scion of the rival house!--she, like most women, was
much more bitter against an unseen being out of reach, than towards a
courteously-mannered, pale, suffering-looking youth close beside her.
She had enough affection for Eustacie to have grieved much at her
wanderings and at her fate; and now the sorrow-stricken look that by no
effort could be concealed really moved her towards the youth bereaved
husband. Besides, were not all feuds on the point of being made up by
the excellent device concocted between her brother and her niece?

Meantime, Philip was in raptures with the kindness of the beautiful
Madame de Selinville. He, whom the Mistresses Walsingham treated as a
mere clumsy boy, was promoted by her manner to be a man and a cavalier.
He blushed up to the roots of his hair and looked sheepish whenever one
of her entrancing smiles lit upon him; but then she inquired after his
brother so cordially, she told him so openly how brilliant had been
Berenger's career at the court, she regretted so heartily their present
danger and detention, and promised so warmly to use her interest with
Queen Catherine, that in the delight of being so talked to, he
forgot his awkwardness and spoke freely and confidentially, maybe too
confidentially, for he caught Berenger frowning at him, and made a
sudden halt in his narrative, disconcerted but very angry with his
brother for his distrust.

When the ladies had ridden away to the convent in the summer evening,
and the two brothers had returned to their prison, Philip would have
begun to rave about Madame de Selinville, but his mouth was stopped at
once with 'Don't be such a fool, Phil!' and when Perrine shut his eyes,
leant back, and folded his arms together, there was no more use in
talking to him.

This exceeding defection continued for a day or two, while Berenger's
whole spirit chafed in agony at his helplessness, and like demons there
ever haunted him the thoughts of what might betide Eustacie, young,
fair, forsaken, and believing herself a widow. Proudly defiant as
he showed himself to all eyes beyond his tower, he seemed to be fast
gnawing and pining himself away in the anguish he suffered through these
long days of captivity.

Perhaps it was Philip's excitement about any chance of meeting Madame
de Selinville that first roused him from the contemplation of his own
misery. It struck him that if he did not rouse himself to exert his
influence, the boy, left to no companionship save what he could make for
himself, might be led away by intercourse with the gendarmes, or by the
blandishments of Diane, whatever might be her game. He must be watched
over, and returned to Sir Marmaduke the same true-hearted honest lad
who had left home. Nor had Berenger lain so long under Cecily St. John's
tender watching without bearing away some notes of patience, trust, and
dutifulness that returned upon him as his mind recovered tone after the
first shock. The whispers that had bidden him tarry the Lord's leisure,
be strong, and commit his way to Him who could bring it to pass, and
could save Eustacie as she had already been saved, returned to him once
more: he chid himself for his faintness of heart, rallied his powers,
and determined that cheerfulness, dutifulness, and care for Philip
should no longer fail.

So he reviewed his resources, and in the first place arranged for a
brief daily worship with his two English fellow-prisoners, corresponding
to the home hours of chapel service. Then he proposed to Philip to spend
an hour every day over the study of the Latin Bible; and when Philip
showed himself reluctant to give up his habit of staring over the
battlements, he represented that an attack on their faith was not so
improbable but that they ought to be prepared for it.

'I'm quite prepared,' quoth Philip; 'I shall not listen to a word they
say.'

However, he submitted to this, but was more contumacious as to
Berenger's other proposal of profiting by Sidney's copy of Virgil.
Here at least he was away from Mr. Adderley and study, and it passed
endurance to have Latin and captivity both at once. He was more obliged
for Berenger's offer to impart to him the instruction in fencing he
had received during his first visit to Paris; the Chevalier made no
difficulty about lending them foils, and their little court became the
scene of numerous encounters, as well as of other games and exercises.
More sedentary sports were at their service, chess, tables, dice, or
cards, but Philip detested these, and they were only played in the
evening, or on a rainy afternoon, by Berenger and the Chevalier.

It was clearly no part of the old gentleman's plan to break their health
or spirits. He insisted on taking them out riding frequently, though
always with four gendarmes with loaded arquebuses, so as to preclude
all attempt at escape, or conversation with the peasants. The rides were
hateful to both youths, but Berenger knew that so many hours of tedium
were thus disposed of, and hoped also to acquire some knowledge of
the country; indeed, he looked at every cottage and every peasant with
affectionate eyes, as probably having sheltered Eustacie; and Philip,
after one visit paid to the convent at Bellaise, was always in hopes of
making such another. His boyish admiration of Madame de Selinville was
his chief distraction, coming on in accesses whenever there was a hope
of seeing her, and often diverting Berenger by its absurdities, even
though at other times he feared that the lad might be led away by it, or
dissension sown between them. Meetings were rare--now and then Madame
de Selinville would appear at dinner or at supper as her father's
guest; and more rarely, the Chevalier would turn his horse's head in the
direction of Bellaise, and the three gentlemen would be received in the
unpartitioned parlour, and there treated to such lemon cakes as had been
the ruin of La Sablerie; but in general the castle and the convent had
little intercourse, or only just enough to whet the appetite of the
prisoners for what constituted their only variety.

Six weeks had lagged by before any answer from Paris was received, and
then there was no reply from Walsingham, who had, it appeared, returned
home immediately after King Charles's funeral. The letter from the
Council bore that the Queen-mother was ready to accept the Baron de
Ribaumont's excuses in good part, and to consider his youth; and she
had no doubt of his being treated with the like indulgence by the
King, provided he would prove himself a loyal subject, by embracing the
Catholic faith, renouncing all his illegitimate claims to the estates of
Nid de Merle, and, in pledge of his sincerity, wedding his cousin,
the Countess de Selinville, so soon as a dispensation should have been
procured. On no other consideration could he be pardoned or set at
liberty.

'Then,' said Berenger, slowly, 'a prisoner I must remain until it be the
will of Heaven to open the doors.'

'Fair nephew!' exclaimed the Chevalier, 'make no rash replies. Bethink
you to what you expose yourself by obstinacy; I may no longer be able to
protect you when the King returns. And he further went on to represent
that, by renouncing voluntarily all possible claims on the Nid de Merle
estates, the Baron would save the honour of poor Eustacie (which indeed
equally concerned the rest of the family), since they then would gladly
drop all dispute of the validity of the marriage; and the lands of
Selinville would be an ample equivalent for these, as well as for all
expectations in England.

'Sir, it is impossible!' said Berenger. 'My wife lives.'

'Comment! when you wear mourning for her.'

'I wear black because I have been able to procure nothing else since I
have been convinced that she did not perish at La Sablerie. I was on my
way to seek her when I was seized and detained here.'

'Where would you have sought her, my poor cousin?' compassionately asked
the Chevalier.

'That I know not. She may be in England by this time; but that she
escaped from La Sablerie, I am well assured.'

'Alas! my poor friend, you feed on delusion. I have surer evidence--you
shall see the man yourself--one of my son's people, who was actually at
the assault, and had strict orders to seek and save her. Would that I
could feel the least hope left!'

'Is the man here? Let me see him,' said Berenger, hastily.

He was at once sent for, and proved to be one of the stable servants, a
rough, soldierly-looking man, who made no difficulty in telling that M.
de Nid de Merle had bidden his own troop to use every effort to reach
the Widow Laurent's house, and secure the lady. They had made for
it, but missed the way, and met with various obstacles; and when they
reached it, it was already in flames, and he had seen for a moment
Mademoiselle de Nid de Merle, whom he well knew by sight, with an infant
in her arms at an upper window. He had called to her by name, and was
about to send for a ladder, when recognizing the Ribaumont colours, she
had turned back, and thrown herself and her child into the flames. M. de
Nid de Merle was frantic when he heard of it, and they had searched for
the remains among the ruins; but, bah! it was like a lime-kiln, nothing
was to be found--all was calcined.

'No fragment left?' said Berenger; 'not a corner of tile or beam?'

'Not so much wood as you could boil an egg with; I will swear it on the
Mass.'

'That is needless,' said Berenger. 'I have seen the spot myself. That is
all I desired to ask.'

The Chevalier would have taken his hand and condoled with him over
the horrible story; but he drew back, repeating that he had seen Widow
Laurent's house, and that he saw that some parts of the man's story were
so much falsified that he could not believe the rest. Moreover, he knew
that Eustacie had not been in the town at the time of the siege.

Now the Chevalier _bona fide_ believed the man's story, so far as that
he never doubted that Eustacie had perished, and he looked on Berenger's
refusal to accept the tale as the mournful last clinging to a vain hope.
In his eyes, the actual sight of Eustacie, and the total destruction of
the house, were mere matters of embellishment, possibly untrue, but not
invalidating the main fact. He only said, 'Well, my friend, I will not
press you while the pain of this narration is still fresh.'

'Thank you, sir; but this is not pain, for I believe not a word of it;
therefore it is impossible for me to entertain the proposal, even if I
could forsake my faith or my English kindred. You remember, sir, that
I returned this same answer at Paris, when I had no hope that my wife
survived.'

'True, my fair cousin, but I fear time will convince you that this
constancy is unhappily misplaced. You shall have time to consider; and
when it is proved to you that my poor niece is out of the reach of your
fidelity, and when you have become better acquainted with the claims
of the Church to your allegiance, then may it only prove that your
conversion does not come too late. I have the honour to take my leave.'

'One moment more, sir. Is there no answer as to my brother?'

'None, cousin. As I told you, your country has at present no Ambassador;
but, of course, on your fulfillment of the conditions, he would be
released with you.'

'So,' said Philip, when the old knight had quitted the room, 'of course
you cannot marry while Eustacie lives; but if---'

'Not another word, profane boy!' angrily cried Berenger.

'I was only going to say, it is a pity of one so goodly not to bring her
over to the true faith, and take her to England.'

'Much would she be beholden to you!' said Berenger. 'So!' he added,
sighing, 'I had little hope but that it would be thus. I believe it is
all a web of this old plotter's weaving, and that the Queen-mother acts
in it at his request. He wants only to buy me off with his daughter's
estates from asserting my claim to this castle and lands; and I trow he
will never rise up here till--till---'

'Till when, Berry?'

'Till mayhap my grandfather can move the Queen to do something for
us; or till Madame de Selinville sees a face she likes better than her
brother's carving; or, what can I tell? till malice is tired out, and
Heaven's will sets us free. May Eustacie only have reached home! But I'm
sorry for you, my poor Phil.'

'Never heed, brother,' said Philip; 'what is prison to me, so that I can
now and then see those lovely eyes?'

And the languishing air of the clumsy lad was so comical as to beguile
Berenger into a laugh. Yet Berenger's own feeling would go back to his
first meeting with Diane; and as he thought of the eyes then fixed on
him, he felt that he was under a trial that might become more severe.



CHAPTER XXXI. THE DARK POOL OF THE FUTURE



      Triumph, triumph, only she
      That knit his bonds can set him free.
                              --SOUTHEY


No change was made in the life of the captives of Nid de Merle after
the answer from Paris, except that Pere Bonami, who had already once
or twice dined at the Chevalier's table, was requested to make formal
exposition of the errors of the Reformers and of the tenets of his own
Church to the Baron de Ribaumont.

Philip took such good care not to be deluded that, though he sat by to
see fair play, yet it was always with his elbows on the table and
his fingers in his ears, regardless of appearing to the priest in the
character of the deaf adder. After all, he was not the object, and good
Pere Bonami at first thought the day his own, when he found that
almost all his arguments against Calvinism were equally impressed upon
Berenger's mind, but the differences soon revealed themselves; and the
priest, though a good man, was not a very happily-chosen champion, for
he was one of the old-fashioned, scantily-instructed country priests,
who were more numerous before the Jesuit revival of learning, and knew
nothing of controversy save that adapted to the doctrines of Calvin; so
that in dealing with an Anglican of the school of Ridley and Hooker,
it was like bow ad arrow against sword. And tin those days of change,
controversial reading was one of the primary studies even of young
laymen, and Lord Walwyn, with a view to his grandson's peculiar
position, had taken care that he should be well instructed, so that he
was not at all unequal to the contest. Moreover, apart from argument,
he clung as a point of honour to the Church as to the wife that he had
accepted in his childhood; and often tried to recall the sketch that
Philip Sidney had once given him of a tale that a friend of his designed
to turn into a poem, like Ariosto's, in _terza rima_, of a Red Cross
knight separated from his Una as the true faith, and tempted by a
treacherous Duessa, who impersonated at once Falsehood and Rome. And he
knew so well that the last relaxation of his almost terrified resistance
would make him so entirely succumb to Diane's beauty and brilliancy,
that he kept himself stiffly frigid and reserved.

Diane never openly alluded to the terms on which he stood, but he often
found gifts from unknown hands placed in his room. The books which he
had found there were changed when he had had time to study them; and
marks were placed in some of the most striking passages. They were of
the class that turned the brain of the Knight of La Mancha, but with a
predominance of the pastoral, such as Diane of George of Montemayor and
his numerous imitators--which Philip thought horrible stuff--enduring
nothing but a few of the combats of Amadis de Gaul or Palmerin of
England, until he found that Madame de Selinville prodigiously admired
the 'silly swains more silly than their sheep,' and was very anxious
that M. le Baron should be touched by their beauties; whereupon honest
Philip made desperate efforts to swallow them in his brother's stead,
but was always found fast asleep in the very middle of arguments between
Damon and Thyrsis upon the _devoirs_ of love, or the mournings of some
disconsolate nymph over her jealousies of a favoured rival.

One day, a beautiful ivory box, exhaling sweet perfume, appeared in the
prison chamber, and therewith a sealed letter in verse, containing an
affecting description of how Corydon had been cruelly torn by the lions
in endeavouring to bear away Sylvie from her cavern, how Sylvie had been
rent from him and lost, and how vainly he continued to bewail her, and
disregard the loving lament of Daphne, who had ever mourned and pined
for him as she kept her flock, made the rivulets, the brooks, the
mountains re-echo with her sighs and plaints, and had wandered through
the hills and valleys, gathering simples wherewith she had compounded a
balsam that might do away with the scars that the claws of the lions had
left, so that he might again appear with the glowing cheeks and radiant
locks that had excited the envy of the god of day.

Berenger burst out laughing over the practical part of this poetical
performance, and laughed the more at Philip's hurt, injured air at his
mirth. Philip, who would have been the first to see the absurdity in any
other Daphne, thought this a passing pleasant device, and considered it
very unkind in his brother not even to make experiment of the balsam
of simples, but to declare that he had much rather keep his scars for
Eustacie's sake than wear a smooth face to please Diane.

Still Berenger's natural courtesy stood in his way. He could not help
being respectful and attentive to the old Chevalier, when their terms
were, apparently at least, those of host and guest; and to a lady he
COULD not be rude and repellant, though he could be reserved. So, when
the kinsfolk met, no stranger would have discovered that one was a
prisoner and the others his captors.

One August day, when Madame de Selinville and her lady attendants were
supping at the castle at the early hour of six, a servant brought in
word that an Italian pedlar craved leave to display his wares. He
was welcome, both for need's sake and for amusement, and was readily
admitted. He was a handsome olive-faced Italian, and was followed by a
little boy with a skin of almost Moorish dye--and great was the display
at once made on the tables, of

   'Lawn as white as driven snow,
    Cyprus, black as e'er was crow;
    Gloves as sweet as fragrant posies,
    Masks for faces and for noses;'

and there was a good deal of the eager, desultory bargaining that
naturally took place where purchasing was an unusual excitement and
novelty, and was to form a whole evening's amusement. Berenger, while
supplying the defects of his scanty traveling wardrobe, was trying to
make out whether he had seen the man before, wondering if he were
the same whom he had met in the forest of Montipipeau, though a few
differences in dress, hair, and beard made him somewhat doubtful.

'Perfumes? Yes, lady, I have store of perfumes: ambergris and violet
dew, and the Turkish essence distilled from roses; yea, and the finest
spirit of the Venus myrtle-tree, the secret known to the Roman dames of
old, whereby they secured perpetual beauty and love--though truly Madame
should need no such essence. That which nature has bestowed on her
secures to her all hearts--and one valued more than all.'

'Enough,' said Diane, blushing somewhat, though with an effort at
laughing off his words; 'these are the tricks of your trade.'

'Madame is incredulous; yet, lady, I have been in the East. Yonder boy
comes from the land where there are spells that make known the secrets
of lives.'

The old Chevalier, who had hitherto been taken up with the abstruse
calculation--derived from his past days of economy--how much ribbon
would be needed to retrim his murrey _just-au-corps_, here began to lend
an ear, though saying nothing. Philip looked on in open-eyed wonder, and
nudged his brother, who muttered in return, 'Jugglery!'

'Ah, the fair company are all slow to believe,' said the pedlar. 'Hola,
Alessio!' and taking a glove that Philip had left on the table, he held
it to the boy. A few unintelligible words passed between them; then the
boy pointed direct to Philip, and waved his hand northwards. 'He says
the gentleman who owns this glove comes from the North, from far away,'
interpreted the Italian; then as the boy made the gesture of walking in
chains, 'that he is a captive.'

'Ay,' cried Philip, 'right, lad; and can he tell how long I shall be
so?'

'Things yet to come,' said the mountebank, 'are only revealed after long
preparation. For them must he gaze into the dark poor of the future.
The present and the past he can divine by the mere touch of what has
belonged to the person.'

'It is passing strange,' said Philip to Madame de Selinville. 'You
credit it, Madame?'

'Ah, have we not seen the wonders come to pass that a like diviner
fortold to the Queen-mother?' said Diane: 'her sons should be all
kings--that was told her when the eldest was yet Dauphin.'

'And there is only one yet to come,' said Philip, awe-struck. 'But see,
what has he now?'

'Veronique's kerchief,' returned Madame de Selinville, as the Italian
began to interpret the boy's gesture.

'Pretty maidens, he says, serve fair ladies--bear tokens for them. This
damsel has once been the bearer of a bouquet of heather of the pink and
white, whose bells were to ring hope.'

'Eh, eh, Madame, it is true?' cried Veronique, crimson with surprise and
alarm. 'M. le Baron knows it is true.'

Berenger had started at this revelation, and uttered an inarticulate
exclamation; but at that moment the boy, in whose hand his master
had placed a crown from the money newly paid, began to make vehement
gestures, which the main interpreted. '_Le Balafre_, he says, pardon
me, gentlemen, _le Balafre_ could reveal even a deeper scar of the
heart than of the visage'--and the boy's brown hand was pressed on his
heart--'yet truly there is yet hope (_esperance_) to be found. Yes'--as
the boy put his hand to his neck--'he bears a pearl, parted from its
sister pearls. Where they are, there is hope. Who can miss Hope, who has
sought it at a royal death-bed?'

'Ah, where is it?' Berenger could not help exclaiming.

'Sir,' said the pedlar, 'as I told Messieurs and Mesdames before,
the spirits that cast the lights of the future on the dark pool need
invocation. Ere he can answer M. le Baron's demands, he and I must have
time and seclusion. If Monsieur le Chevalier will grant us an empty
room, there will we answer all queries on which the spirits will throw
light.'

'And how am I to know that you will not bring the devil to shatter the
castle, my friend?' demanded the Chevalier. 'Or more likely still, that
you are not laughing all the time at these credulous boys and ladies?'

'Of that, sir, you may here convince yourself,' said the mountebank,
putting into his hand a sort of credential in Italian, signed by
Renato di Milano, the Queen's perfumer, testifying to the skill of his
compatriot Ercole Stizzito both in perfumery, cosmetics, and in the
secrets of occult sciences.

The Chevalier was no Italian scholar, and his daughter interpreted the
scroll to him, in a rapid low voice, adding, 'I have had many dealings
with Rene of Milan, father. I know he speaks sooth. There can be no harm
in letting the poor man play out his play--all the castle servants will
be frantic to have their fortunes told.'

'I must speak with the fellow first, daughter,' said the Chevalier. 'He
must satisfy me that he has no unlawful dealings that could bring the
Church down on us.' And he looked meaningly at the mountebank, who
replied by a whole muster-roll of ecclesiastics, male and female, who
had heard and approved his predictions.

'A few more words with thee, fellow,' said the Chevalier, pointing the
way to one of the rooms opening out of the hall. 'As master of the house
I must be convinced of his honesty,' he added. 'If I am satisfied, then
who will may seek to hear their fortune.'

Chevalier, man and boy disappeared, and Philip was the first to exclaim,
'A strange fellow! What will he tell us? Madame, shall you hear him?'

'That depends on my father's report,' she said. 'And yet,' sadly and
pensively, 'my future is dark and void enough. Why should I vex myself
with hearing it?'

'Nay, it may brighten,' said Philip.

'Scarcely, while hearts are hard,' she murmured with a slight shake of
the head, that Philip thought indescribably touching; but Berenger was
gathering his purchases together, and did not see. 'And you, brother,'
said Philip, 'you mean to prove him?'

'No,' said Berenger. 'Have you forgotten, Phil, the anger we met with,
when we dealt with the gipsy at Hurst Fair?'

'Pshaw, Berry, we are past flogging now.'

'Out of reach, Phil, of the rod, but scarce of the teaching it struck
into us.'

'What?' said Philip, sulkily.

'That divining is either cozening manor forsaking God, Phil. Either it
is falsehood, or it is a lying wonder of the devil.'

'But, Berry, this man is not cheat.'

'Then he is worse.'

'Only, turn not away, brother. How should he have known things that even
I know not?--the heather.'

'No marvel in that,' said Berenger. 'This is the very man I bought
Annora's fan from; he was prowling round Montpipeau, and my heather was
given to Veronique with little secrecy. And as to the royal deathbed, it
was Rene, his master, who met me there.'

'Then you think it mere cozeing? If so, we should find it out.'

'I don't reckon myself keener than an accomplished Italian mountebank,'
said Berenger, dryly.

Further conference was cut short by the return of the Chevalier, saying,
in his paternal genial way, 'Well, children, I have examined the fellow
and his credentials, and for those who have enough youth and hope to
care to have the future made known to them, bah! it is well.'

'Is it sorcery, sir?' asked Philip, anxiously.

The Chevalier shrugged his shoulders. 'What know I?' he said. 'For those
who have a fine nose for brimstone there may be, but he assures me it is
but the white magic practiced in Egypt, and the boy is Christian!'

'Did you try this secret, father?' inquired Madame de Selinville.

'I, my daughter? An old man's fortune is in his children. What have I to
ask?'

'I--I scarcely like to be the first!' said the lady, eager but
hesitating. 'Veronique, you would have your fortune told?'

'I will be the first,' said Philip, stepping forward manfully. 'I will
prove him for you, lady, and tell you whether he be a cozener or not, or
if his magic be fit for you to deal with.'

And confident in the inherent intuition of a plain Englishman, as
well as satisfied to exercise his resolution for once in opposition to
Berenger's opinion, Master Thistlewood stepped towards the closet where
the Italian awaited his clients, and Berenger knew that it would be
worse than useless to endeavour to withhold him. He only chafed at
the smile which passed between father and daughter at this doughty
self-assertion.

There was a long silence. Berenger sat with his eyes fixed on the window
where the twilight horizon was still soft and bright with the pearly
gold of the late sunset, thinking with an intensity of yearning what
it would be could he truly become certain of Eustacie's present doings;
questioning whether he would try to satisfy that longing by the doubtful
auguries of the diviner, and then recollecting how he had heard from
wrecked sailors that to seek to delude their thirst with sea-water did
but aggravate their misery. He knew that whatever he might hear would
be unworthy of confidence. Either it merely framed to soothe and please
him--or, were it a genuine oracle, he had no faith in the instinct that
was to perceive it, but what he HAD faith in was the Divine protection
over his lost ones. 'No,' he thought to himself, 'I will not by a
presumptuous sin, in my own impatience, risk incurring woes on them that
deal with familiar spirits and wizards that peep and mutter. If ever
I am to hear of Eustacie again, it shall be by God's will, not the
devil's.'

Diane de Selinville had been watching his face all the time, and now
said, with that almost timid air of gaiety that she wore when addressing
him: 'You too, cousin, are awaiting Monsieur Philippe's report to decide
whether to look into the pool of mystery.'

'Not at all, Madame,' said Berenger, gravely. 'I do not understand white
magic.'

'Our good cousin has been too well bred among the Reformers to
condescend to our little wickednesses, daughter,' said the Chevalier;
and the sneer-much like that which would await a person now who scrupled
at joining in table-turning or any form of spiritualism--purpled
Berenger's scar, now his only manner of blushing; but he instantly
perceived that it was the Chevalier's desire that he should consult the
conjurer, and therefore became the more resolved against running into a
trap.

'I am sure,' said Madame de Selinville, earnestly, though with an
affectation of lightness, 'a little wickedness is fair when there is a
great deal at stake. For my part, I would not hesitate long, to find out
how soon the King will relent towards my fair cousin here!'

'That, Madame,' said Berenger, with the same grave dryness, 'is likely
to be better known to other persons than this wandering Greek boy.'

Here Philip's step was heard returning hastily. He was pale, and looked
a good deal excited, so that Madame de Selinville uttered a little cry,
and exclaimed, 'Ah! is it so dreadful then?'

'No, no, Madame,' said Philip, turning round, with a fervour and
confidence he had never before shown. 'On my word, there is nothing
formidable. You see nothing--nothing but the Italia and the boy. The boy
gazes into a vessel of some black liquid, and sees--sees there all you
would have revealed. Ah!'

'Then you believe?' asked Madame de Selinville.

'It cannot be false,' answered Philip; 'he told me everything. Things he
could not have known. My very home, my father's house, passed in review
before that strange little blackamoor's eyes; where I--though I would
have given worlds to see it--beheld only the lamp mirrored in the dark
pool.'

'How do you know it was your father's house?' said Berenger.

'I could not doubt. Just to test the fellow, I bade him ask for my
native place. The little boy gazed, smiled, babbled his gibberish,
pointed. The man said he spoke of a fair mansion among green fields and
hills, "a grand _cavalier embonpoint_,"--those were his very words,--at
the door, with a tankard in one hand. Ah! my dear father, why could not
I see him too? But who could mistake him or the Manor?'

'And did he speak of future as well as past?' said Diane.

'Yes, yes, yes,' said Philip, with more agitation. 'Lady, that will you
know for yourself.'

'It was not dreadful?' she said, rising.

'Oh no!' and Philip had become crimson, and hesitated; 'certes, not
dreadful. But---I must not say more.'

'Save good night,' said Berenger, rising; 'See, our gendarmes are again
looking as if we had long exceeded their patience. It is an hour later
than we are wont to retire.'

'If it be your desire to consult this mysterious fellow now you have
heard your brother's report, my dear Baron,' said the Chevalier, 'the
gendarmes may devour their impatience a little longer.'

'Thanks, sir,' said Berenger; 'but I am not tempted,' and he gave the
usual signal to the gendarmes, who, during meals, used to stand as
sentries at the great door of the hall.

'It might settle your mind,' muttered Philip, hesitating. 'And
yet--yet---'

But he used no persuasions, and permitted himself to be escorted with
his brother along the passages to their own chamber, where he threw
himself into a chair with a long sigh, and did not speak. Berenger
meantime opened the Bible, glanced over the few verses he meant to read,
found the place in the Prayer-book, and was going to the stairs to call
Humfrey, when Philip broke forth: 'Wait, Berry; don't be in such haste.'

'What, you want time to lose the taste of your dealings with the devil?'
said Berenger, smiling.

'Pshaw! No devil in the matter,' testily said Philip. 'No, I was only
wishing you had not had a Puritan fit, and seen and heard for yourself.
Then I should not have had to tell you,' and he sighed.

'I have no desire to be told,' said Berenger, who had become more fixed
in the conviction that it was an imposture.

'No desire! Ah! I have none when I knew what it was. But you ought to
know.'

'Well,' said Berenger, 'you will burst anon if I open not my ears.'

'Dear Berry, speak not thus. It will be the worse for you when you
do hear. Alack, Berenger, all ours have been vain hopes. I asked for
HER--and the boy fell well-nigh into convulsions of terror as he gazed;
spoke of flames and falling houses. That was wherefore I pressed you not
again--it would have wrung your heart too much. The boy fairly wept and
writhed himself, crying out in his tongue for pity on the fair lady and
the little babe in the burning house. Alack! brother,' said Philip, a
little hurt that his brother had not changed countenance.

'This is the lying tale of the man-at-arms which our own eyes
contradicted,' said Berenger; 'and no doubt was likewise inspired by the
Chevalier.'

'See the boy, brother! How should he have heard the Chevalier? Nay,
you might hug your own belief, but it is hard that we should both be in
durance for your mere dream that she lives.'

'Come, Phil, it will be the devil indeed that sows dissension between
us,' said Berenger. 'You know well enough that were it indeed with my
poor Eustacie as they would fain have us believe, rather than give
up her fair name I would not in prison for life. Or would you have me
renounce my faith, or wed Madame de Selinville upon the witness of a
pool of ink that I am a widower?' he added, almost laughing.

'For that matter,' muttered Philip, a good deal ashamed and half
affronted, 'you know I value the Protestant faith so that I never heard
a word from the will old priest. Nevertheless, the boy, when I asked of
our release, saw the gates set open by Love.'

'What did Love look like in the pool? Had he wings like the Cupids in
the ballets at the Louvre?' asked Berenger provokingly.

'I tell you I saw nothing,' said Philip, tartly: 'this was the Italian's
interpretation of the boy's gesture. It was to be by means of love, he
said, and of a lady who---he made it plain enough who she was,' added
the boy, colouring.

'No doubt, as the Chevalier have instructed him to say that I--I--' he
hesitated, 'that my--my love--I mean that he saw my shield per pale with
the field fretty and the sable leopard.'

'Oh! it is to be my daughter, is it?' said Berenger, laughing; 'I am
very happy to entertain your proposals for her.'

'Berenger, what mocking fiend has possessed you?' cried Philip, half
angrily, half pitifully. 'How can you so speak of that poor child?'

'Because the more they try to force on me the story of her fate, the
plainer it is to me that they do not believe it. I shall find her yet,
and then, Phil, you shall have the first chance.'

Philip growled.

'Well, Phil,' said his brother, good-humouredly, 'any way, till this
Love comes that is to let us out, don't let Moor or fiend come between
us. Let me keep my credence for the honest Bailli's daughters at Lucon;
and remember I would give my life to free you, but I cannot give away my
faith.' Philip bent his head. He was of too stubborn a mould to express
contrition or affection, but he mused for five minutes, then called
Humfrey, and at the last moment, as the heavy tread came up-stairs, he
turned round and said, 'You're in the right on't there, Berry. Hap what
hap, the foul fiend may carry off the conjurer before I murmur at you
again! Still I wish you had seen him. You would know 'tis sooth.'

While Berenger, in his prison chamber, with the lamplight beaming on
his high white brow and clear eye, stood before his two comrades in
captivity, their true-hearted faces composed to reverence, and as he
read, 'I have hated them that hold of superstitious vanities, and my
trust hath been in the Lord. I will be glad and rejoice in Thy
mercy, for Thou hast considered my trouble and hast known my soul in
adversities,' feeling that here was the oracle by which he was willing
to abide--Diane de Selinville was entering the cabinet where the secrets
of the future were to be unveiled.

There she stood--the beautiful court lady--her lace coif (of the Mary
of Scotland type) well framed the beautiful oval of her face, and set of
the clear olive of her complexion, softened by short jetty curls at the
temples, and lighted splendid dark eyes, and by the smiles of a
perfect pair of lips. A transparent veil hung back over the ruff like
frostwork-formed fairy wings, and over the white silk bodice and sleeves
laced with violet, and the violet skirt that fell in ample folds on the
ground; only, however, in the dim light revealing by an occasional gleam
that it was not black. It was a stately presence, yet withal there was
a tremor, a quiver of the downcast eyelids, and a trembling of the fair
hand, as though she were ill at ease; even though it was by no means the
first time she had trafficked with the dealers in mysterious arts who
swarmed around Catherine de Medicis. There were words lately uttered
that weighed with her in their simplicity, and she could not forget them
in that gloomy light, as she gazed on the brown face of the Italian,
Ercole, faultless in outline as a classical mask, but the black depths
of the eyes sparkling with intensity of observation, as if they were
everywhere at once and gazed through and through. He wore his national
dress, with the short cloak over one shoulder; but the little boy,
who stood at the table, had been fantastically arrayed in a sort
of semi-Albanian garb, a red cap with a long tassel, a dark,
gold-embroidered velvet jacket sitting close to his body, and a white
kilt over his legs, bare except for buskins stiff with gold. The poor
little fellow looked pale in spite of his tawny hue, his enormous black
eyes were heavy and weary, and he seemed to be trying to keep aloof from
the small brazen vessel formed by the coils of two serpents that held
the inky liquid of which Philip had spoken.

No doubt of the veritable nature of the charm crossed Diane; her doubt
was of its lawfulness, her dread of the supernatural region she was
invading. She hesitated before she ventured on her first question, and
started as the Italian first spoke,--'What would the Eccelentissima?
Ladies often hesitate to speak the question nearest their hearts. Yet
is it ever the same. But the lady must be pleased to form it herself in
words, or the lad will not see her vision.'

'Where, then, is my brother?' said Diane, still reluctant to come direct
to the point.

The boy gazed intently into the black pool, his great eyes dilating till
they seemed like black wells, and after a long time, that Diane could
have counted by the throbs of her heart, he began to close his fingers,
perform the action over the other arm of one playing on the lute, throw
his head back, close his eyes, and appear to be singing a lullaby. Then
he spoke a few words to his master quickly.

'He see,' said Ercole, 'a gentleman touching the lute, seated in a
bedroom, where lies, on a rich pillow, another gentleman,'--and as the
boy stroked his face, and pointed to his hands--'wearing a mask and
gloves. It is, he says, in my own land, in Italy,' and as the boy made
the action of rowing, 'in the territory of Venice.'

'It is well,' said Madame de Selinville, who knew that nothing was more
probable than that her brother should be playing the King to his sleep
in the medicated mask and gloves that cherished the royal complexion,
and, moreover, that Henry was lingering to take his pastime in Italy to
the great inconvenience of his kingdom.

Her next question came nearer her heat--'You saw the gentleman with a
scar. Will he leave this castle?'

The boy gazed, then made gestures of throwing his arms wide, and of
passing out; and as he added his few words, the master explained: 'He
sees the gentleman leaving the castle, through open gate, in full day,
on horseback; and--and it is Madame who is with them,' he added, as the
lad pointed decidedly to her, 'it is Madame who opens their prison.'

Diane's face lighted with gladness for a moment; then she said,
faltering (most women of her day would not have been even thus
reserved), 'Then I shall marry again?'

The boy gazed and knitted his brow; then, without any pantomime, looked
up and spoke. 'The Eccellentissima shall be a bride once more, he
says,' explained the man, 'but after a sort he cannot understand. It
is exhausting, lady, thus to gaze into the invisible future; the boy
becomes confused and exhausted ere long.'

'Once more--I will only ask of the past. My cousin, is he married or a
widower?'

The boy clasped his hands and looked imploringly, shaking his head at
the dark pool, as he murmured an entreating word to his master. 'Ah!
Madame,' said the Italian, 'that question hath already been demanded by
the young Inglese. The poor child has been so terrified by the scene
it called up, that he implored he may not see it again. A sacked and
burning town, a lady in a flaming house---'

'Enough, enough,' said de; 'I could as little bear to hear as he to see.
It is what we have ever known and feared. And now'--she blushed as she
spoke--'sir, you will leave me one of those potions that Signor Renato
is wont to compound.'

'_Capisco_!' said Ercole; 'but the Eccellentissima shall be obeyed if
she will supply the means, for the expense will be heavy.'

The bargain was agreed upon, and a considerable sum advanced for a
philter, compounded of strange Eastern plants and mystic jewels; and
then Diane, with a shudder of relief, passed into the full light of the
hall, bade her father good night, and was handed by him into the litter
that had long been awaiting her at the door.

The Chevalier, then, with care on his brow, bent his steps towards the
apartment where the Italian still remained counting the money he had
received.

'So!' he said as he entered, 'so, fellow, I have not hindered your
gains, and you have been true to your agreement?'

'Illustrissimo, yes. The pool of vision mirrored the flames, but nothing
beyond--nothing--nothing.'

'They asked you then no more of those words you threw out of Esperance?'

'Only the English youth, sir; and there were plenty of other hopes to
dance before the eyes of such a lad! With M. le Baron it will be needful
to be more guarded.'

'M. le Baron shall not have the opportunity,' said the Chevalier. 'He
may abide by his decision, and what the younger one may tell him. Fear
not, good man, it shall be made good to you, if you obey my commands. I
have other work for you. But first repeat to me more fully what you told
me before. Where was it that you saw this unhappy girl under the name of
Esperance?'

'At a hostel, sir, at Charente, where she was attending on an old
heretic teacher of the name of Gardon, who had fallen sick there, being
pinched by the fiend with rheumatic pains after his deserts. She bore
the name of Esperance Gardon, and passed for his son's widow.'

'And by what means did you know her not to be the mean creature she
pretended?' said the Chevalier, with a gesture of scornful horror.

'Illustrissimo, I never forget a face. I had seen this lady with M. le
Baron when they made purchases of various trinkets at Montpipeau; and
I saw her full again. I had the honour to purchase from her certain
jewels, that the Eccellenza will probably redeem; and even--pardon,
sir--I cut off and bought of her, her hair.'

'Her hair!' exclaimed the Chevalier, in horror. 'The miserable girl to
have fallen so low! Is it with you, fellow?'

'Surely, Illustrissimo. Such tresses--so shining, so silky, so well
kept,--I reserved to adorn the heads of Signor Renato's most princely
customers', said the man, unpacking from the inmost recesses of one of
his most ingeniously arranged packages, a parcel which contained the
rich mass of beautiful black tresses. 'Ah! her head looked so noble,' he
added, 'that I felt it profane to let my scissors touch those locks; but
she said that she could never wear them openly more, and that they did
but take up her time, and were useless to her child and her father--as
she called him; and she much needed the medicaments for the old man that
I gave her in exchange.'

'Heavens! A daughter of Ribaumont!' sighed the Chevalier, clenching his
hand. 'And now, man, let me see the jewels with which the besotted child
parted.'

The jewels were not many, nor remarkable. No one but a member of the
family would have identified them, and not one of the pearls was there;
and the Chevalier refrained from inquiring after them, lest, by putting
the Italian on the scent of anything so exceptionally valuable, he
should defeat his own object, and lead to the man's securing the pearls
and running away with them. But Ercole understood his glance, with the
quickness of a man whose trade forced him to read countenances. 'The
Eccellenza is looking for the pearls of Ribaumont? The lady made no
offer of them to me.'

'Do you believe that she has them still?'

'I am certain of it, sir. I know that she has jewels--though she said
not what they were--which she preserved at the expense of her hair. It
was thus. The old man had, it seems, been for weeks on the rack with
pains caught by a chill when they fled from La Sablerie, and, though the
fever had left him, he was still so stiff in the joints as to be unable
to move. I prescribed for him unguents of balm and Indian spice, which,
as the Eccellenza knows, are worth far more than their weight in gold;
nor did these jewels make up the cost of these, together with the warm
cloak for him, and the linen for her child that she had been purchasing.
I tell you, sir, the babe must have no linen but the finest fabric of
Cambrai--yes, and even carnation-coloured ribbons--though, for herself,
I saw the homespun she was sewing. As she mused over what she could
throw back, I asked if she had no other gauds to make up the price, and
she said, almost within herself, "They are my child's, not mine." Then
remembering that I had been buying the hair of the peasant maidens, she
suddenly offered me her tresses. But I could yet secure the pearls, if
Eccellenza would.'

'Do you then believe her to be in any positive want or distress?' said
the Chevalier.

'Signor, no. The heretical households among whom she travels gladly
support the families of their teachers, and at Catholic inns they pay
their way. I understood them to be on their way to a synod of Satan at
the nest of heretics, Montauban, where doubtless the old miscreant would
obtain an appointment to some village.'

'When did you thus full in with them?'

'It was on one of the days of the week of Pentecost,' said Ercole. 'It
is at that time I frequent fairs in those parts, to gather my little
harvest on the maidens' heads.'

'_Parbleu_! class not my niece with those sordid beings, man,' said the
Chevalier, angrily. 'Here is your price'--tossing a heavy purse on
the table--'and as much more shall await you when you bring me sure
intelligence where to find my niece. You understand; and mark, not one
word of the gentleman you saw here. You say she believes him dead?'

'The Illustrissimo must remember that she never dropped her disguise
with me, but I fully think that she supposed herself a widow. And I
understand the Eccellenza, she is still to think so. I may be depended
on.'

'You understand,' repeated the Chevalier, 'this sum shall reward you
when you have informed me where to find her--as a man like you can
easily trace her from Montauban. If you have any traffickings with her,
it shall be made worth your while to secure the pearls for the family;
but, remember, the first object is herself, and that she should be
ignorant of the existence of him whom she fancied her husband.'

'I see, Signor; and not a word, of course, of my having come from you. I
will discover her, and leave her noble family to deal with her. Has the
Illustrissimo any further commands?'

'None,' began the Chevalier; then, suddenly, 'This unhappy infant--is it
healthy? Did it need any of your treatment?'

'Signor, no. It was a fair, healthy bambina of a year old, and I heard
the mother boasting that it had never had a day's illness.'

'Ah, the less a child has to do in the world, the more is it bent
on living,' said the Chevalier with a sigh; and then, with a parting
greeting, he dismissed the Italian, but only to sup under the careful
surveillance of the steward, and then to be conveyed by early morning
light beyond the territory where the affairs of Ribaumont were
interesting.

But the Chevalier went through a sleepless night. Long did he pace up
and down his chamber, grind his teeth, clench his fist and point them at
his head, and make gestures of tearing his thin gray locks; and many a
military oath did he swear under his breath as he thought to what a
pass things had come. His brother's daughter waiting on an old Huguenot
_bourgeois_, making sugar-cakes, selling her hair! And what next? Here
was she alive after all, alive and disgracing herself; alive--yes, both
she and her husband--to perplex the Chevalier, and force him either to
new crimes or to beggar his son! Why could not the one have really died
on the St. Bartholomew, or the other at La Sablerie, instead of putting
the poor Chevalier in the wrong by coming to live again?

What had he done to be thus forced to peril his soul at his age? Ah, had
he but known what he should bring on himself when he wrote the unlucky
letter, pretending that the silly little child wished to dissolve the
marriage! How should he have known that the lad would come meddling
over? And then, when he had dexterously brought about that each should
be offended with the other, and consent to the separation, why must
royalty step in and throw them together again? Yes, and he surely had a
right to feel ill-used, since it was in ignorance of the ratification of
the marriage that he had arranged the frustration of the elopement, and
that he had forced on the wedding with Narcisse, so as to drive Eustacie
to flight from the convent--in ignorance again of her life that he had
imprisoned Berenger, and tried to buy off his clams to Nid de Merle with
Diane's hand. Circumstances had used him cruelly, and he shrank from
fairly contemplating the next step.

He knew well enough what it must be. Without loss of time a letter must
be sent to Rome, backed by strong interest, so as to make it appear
that the ceremony at Montpipeau, irregular, and between a Huguenot and
Catholic, had been a defiance of the Papal decree, and must therefore
be nullified. This would probably be attainable, though he did not feel
absolutely secure of it. Pending this, Eustacie must be secluded in a
convent; and, while still believing herself a widow, must immediately on
the arrival of the decree and dispensation, be forced into the marriage
with Narcisse before she heard of Berenger's being still alive. And then
Berenger would have no longer any excuse for holding out. His claims
would be disposed of, and he might be either sent to England, or he
might be won upon by Madame de Selinville's constancy.

And this, as the Chevalier believed, was the only chance of saving a
life that he was unwilling to sacrifice, for his captive's patience and
courtesy had gained so much upon his heart that he was resolved to
do all that shuffling and temporizing could do to save the lad from
Narcisse's hatred and to secure him Diane's love.

As to telling the truth and arranging his escape, that scarcely ever
crossed the old man's mind. It would have been to resign the lands of
Nid de Merle, to return to the makeshift life he knew but too well, and,
what was worse, to ruin and degrade his son, and incur his resentment.
It would probably be easy to obtain a promise from Berenger, in his
first joy and gratitude, of yielding up all pretensions of his own or
his wife's; but, however honourably meant, such a promise would be worth
very little, and would be utterly scorned by Narcisse. Besides, how
could he thwart the love of his daughter and the ambition of his son
both at once?

No; the only security for the possession of Nid de Merle lay in either
the death of the young baron and his child or else in his acquiescence
in the invalidity of his marriage, and therefore in the illegitimacy of
the child.

And it was within the bounds of possibility that, in his seclusion, he
might at length learn to believe in the story of the destruction at
La Sablerie, and, wearying of captivity, might yield at length to the
persuasions of Diane and her father, and become so far involved with
them as to be unable to draw back, or else be so stung by Eustacie's
desertion as to accept her rival willingly.

It was a forlorn hope, but it was the only medium that lay between
either the death or the release of the captive; and therefore the old
man clung to it as almost praiseworthy, and did his best to bring it
about by keeping his daughter ignorant that Eustacie lived, and writing
to his son that the Baron was on the point of becoming a Catholic and
marrying his sister: and thus that all family danger and scandal would
be avoided, provided the matter were properly represented at Rome.



CHAPTER XXXII. 'JAM SATIS'



     You may go walk, and give me leave a while,
     My lessons make no music in three parts.
                      TAMING OF THE SHREW


Whether the dark pool really showed Sir Marmaduke Thistlewood or not, at
the moment that his son desired that his image should be called up, the
good knight was, in effect, sitting nodding over the tankard of sack
with which his supper was always concluded, while the rest of the
family, lured out of the sunny hall by the charms of a fresh summer
evening, had dispersed into the gardens or hall.

Presently a movement in the neighbourhood made him think it incumbent on
him to open his eyes wide, and exclaim, 'I'm not asleep.'

'Oh no! you never are asleep when there's anything you ought to see!'
returned Dame Annora, who was standing by him with her hand on his
chair.

'How now? Any tidings of the lads?' he exclaimed.

'Of the lads? No, indeed; but there will be bad tidings for the lads if
you do not see to it! Where do you think your daughter is, Sir Duke?'

'Where? How should I know? She went out to give her sisters some
strawberries, I thought.'

'See here,' said Lady Thistlewood, leading the way to the north end of
the hall, where a door opened into what was called the Yew-tree Grove.
This consisted of five rows of yew-trees, planted at regular intervals,
and their natural mode of growth so interfered with by constant cutting,
that their ruddy trunks had been obliged to rise branchless, till about
twelve feet above ground they had been allowed to spread out their limbs
in the form of ordinary forest trees; and, altogether, their foliage
became a thick, unbroken, dark, evergreen roof, impervious to sunshine,
and almost impervious to rain, while below their trunks were like
columns forming five arcades, floored only by that dark red crusty earth
and green lichen growth that seems peculiar to the shelter of yew-trees.
The depth of the shade and the stillness of the place made it something
peculiarly soothing and quiet, more especially when, as now, the sunset
light came below the branches, richly tinted the russet pillars, cast
long shadows, and gleamed into all the recesses of the interlacing
boughs and polished leafage above.

'Do you see, Sir Duke?' demanded his lady.

'I see my little maids making a rare feast under the trees upon their
strawberries set out on leaves. Bless their little hearts! what a pretty
fairy feast they've made of it, with the dogs looking on as grave as
judges! It takes me young again to get a smack of the haut-bois your
mother brought from Chelsea Gardens.'

'Haut-bois! He'd never see if the house ere afire overhead. What's that
beyond?'

'No fire, my dear, but the sky all aglow with sunset, and the red cow
standing up against the light, chewing her cud, and looking as well
pleased as though she knew there wasn't her match in Dorset.'

Lady Thistlewood fairly stamped, and pointed with her fan, like a
pistol, down a side aisle of the grove, where two figures were slowly
moving along.

'Eh! what? Lucy with her apron full of rose-leaves, letting them
float away while she cons the children's lesson for the morrow with
Merrycourt? They be no great loss, when the place is full of roses. Or
why could you not call to the wench to take better heed of them, instead
of making all this pother?'

'A pretty sort of lesson it is like to be! A pretty sort of return for
my poor son, unless you take the better heed!'

'Would that I saw any return at all for either of the poor dear lads,'
sighed the knight wearily; 'but what you may be driving at I cannot
perceive.'

'What! When 'tis before your very eyes, how yonder smooth-tongued French
impostor, after luring him back to his ruin beyond seas, is supplanting
him even here, and your daughter giving herself over to the wily viper!'

'The man is a popish priest,' said Sir Marmaduke; 'no more given to love
than Mr. Adderley or Friar Rogers.'

The dame gave a snort of derision:' Prithee, how many popish priests be
now wedded parsons? Nor, indeed, even if his story be true, do I believe
he is a priest at all. I have seen many a young abbe, as they call
themselves, clerk only in name, loitering at court, free to throw off
the cassock any moment they chose, and as insolent as the rest. Why, the
Abbe de Lorraine, cardinal that is now, said of my complexion---'

'No vows, quotha!' muttered Sir Marmaduke, well aware of the Cardinal de
Lorraine's opinion of his lady's complexion. 'So much the better; he
is too good a young fellow to be forced to mope single, and yet I hate
men's breaking their word.'

'And that's all you have to say!' angrily cried her ladyship. 'No one
save myself ever thinks how it is to be with my poor dear wounded,
heart-broken son, when he comes home, to find himself so scurvily used
by that faithless girl of yours, ready---'

'Hold, madam,' said Sir Marmaduke, with real sternness; 'nothing rash
against my daughter. How should she be faithless to a man who has been
wedded ever since she knew him?'

'He is free now,' said Lady Thistlewood, beginning to cry (for the last
letters received from Berenger had been those from Paris, while he still
believed Eustacie to have perished at La Sablerie); 'and I do say it is
very hard that just when he is rid of the French baggage, the bane of
his life, and is coming home, maybe with a child upon his hands, and all
wounded, scarred, and blurred, the only wench he would or should have
married should throw herself away on a French vagabond beggar, and you
aiding and abetting.'

'Come, come, Dame Nan,' said Sir Marmaduke, 'who told you I was aiding
and abetting?'

'Tell me not, Sir Duke, you that see them a courting under your very
eyes, and will not stir a finger to hinder it. If you like to see your
daughter take up with a foreign adventurer, why, she's no child of mine,
thank Heaven! And I've nought to do with it.'

'Pshaw, dame, there's no taking up in the case; and if there were, sure
it is not you that should be hard on Lucy.'

Whereupon Annora fell into such a flood of tears at the cruelty of
casting such things up to her, that Sir Marmaduke was fain in his
blundering way to declare that he only meant that an honest Englishman
had no chance where a Frenchman once came in, and then very nearly to
surrender at discretion. At any rate, he escaped from her tears by going
out at the door, and calling to Lucy to mind her rose-leaves; then, as
she gazed round, dismayed at the pink track along the ground, he asked
her what she had been doing. Whereto she answered with bright face and
honest eyes, that Mr. Mericour had been going over with her the ode
'_Jam satis_,' of Horatius, wherewith to prepare little Nan for him
to-morrow, and then she ran hurriedly away to secure the remainder of
the rose-leaves, while her companion was already on his knees picking up
the petals she had dropped.

'Master Merrycourt,' said Sir Marmaduke, a little gruffly, 'never heed
the flower-leaves. I want a word with you.'

Claude de Mericour rose hastily, as if somewhat struck by the tone.

'The matter is this,' said the knight, leading him from the house, and
signing back the little girls who had sprung towards them--'it has been
brought to my mind that you are but a youth, and, pardon me, my young
master, but when lads and lasses have their heads together over one
book, tongues wag.'

The colour rushed hotly into young Mericour's face, and he answered
quickly, 'My rank--I mean my order--should answer that.'

'Stay, young man, we are not in France; your order, be it what it may,
has not hindered many a marriage in England; though, look you, no man
should ever wed with my consent who broke his word to God in so doing;
but they tell me your vows are not always made at your age.'

'Nor are they,' exclaimed Mericour, in a low voice, but with a sudden
light on his countenance. 'The tonsure was given me as a child, but no
vow of celibacy has passed my lips.'

Sir Marmaduke exclaimed, 'Oh!--' with a prolongation of the sound that
lasted till Mericour began again.

'But, sir, let tongues wag as they will, it is for nought. Your fair
daughter was but as ever preparing beforehand with me the tasks with
which she so kindly indoctrinates her little sisters. I never thought of
myself as aught but a religious, and should never dream of human love.'

'I thought so! I said so!' said Sir Marmaduke, highly gratified. 'I knew
you were an honourable man that would never speak of love to my daughter
by stealth, nor without means to maintain her after her birth.'

The word 'birth' brought the blood into the face of the son of the peer
of France, but he merely bowed with considerable stiffness and pride,
saying, 'You did me justice, sir.'

'Come, don't be hurt, man,' said Sir Marmaduke, putting his hand on his
shoulder. 'I told you I knew you for an honourable man! You'll be over
here to-morrow to hear the little maids their _Jam satis_, or whatever
you call it, and dine with us after to taste Lucy's handiwork in jam
cranberry, a better thing as I take it.'

Mericour had recovered himself, smiled, shook the good Sir Marmaduke
proffered hand, and, begging to excuse himself from bidding good night
to the ladies on the score of lateness, he walked away to cross the
downs on his return to Combe Walwyn, where he was still resident,
according to the arrangement by which he was there to await Berenger's
return, now deferred so much beyond all reasonable expectation.

Sir Marmaduke, with a free heart, betook himself to the house, dreading
to find that Lucy had fallen under the objurgations of her step-mother,
but feeling impelled to stand her protector, and guided to the spot by
the high key of Dame Annora's voice.

He found Lucy--who, on the race occasions when good-natured Lady
Thistlewood was really angry with her, usually cowered meekly--now
standing her ground, and while the dame was pausing for breath, he heard
her gentle voice answering steadily, 'No, madam, to him I could never
owe faith, nor troth, nor love, save such as I have for Philip.'

'Then it is very unfeeling and ungrateful of you. Nor did you think so
once, but it is all his scars and---'

By this time Sir Marmaduke had come near enough to put his arm round
his daughter, and say, 'No such thing, dame. It had been unseemly in the
lass had it been otherwise. She is a good girl and a discreet; and the
Frenchman, if he has made none of their vows, feels as bound as though
he had. He's an honest fellow, thinking of his studies and not of ladies
or any such trumpery. So give me a kiss, Lucy girl, and thou shalt study
_Jam satis_, or any other jam he pleases, without more to vex thee.'

Lucy, now that the warfare was over, had begun to weep so profusely that
so soon as her father released her, she turned, made a mute gesture to
ask permission to depart, and hurried away; while Lady Thistlewood,
who disliked above all that her husband should think her harsh to
her step-children, began to relate the exceeding tenderness of the
remonstrance which had been followed with such disproportionate floods
of tears.

Poor Sir Marmaduke hoped at least that the veil of night had put an end
to the subject which harassed him at a time when he felt less capable
than usual of bearing vexation, for he was yearning sadly after his only
son. The youths had been absent ten months, and had not been heard of
for more than three, when they were just leaving Paris in search of the
infant. Sir Francis Walsingham, whose embassy had ended with the death
of Charles IX., knew nothing of them, and great apprehensions respecting
them were beginning to prevail, and, to Sir Marmaduke especially, seemed
to be eating out the peace and joy of his life. Philip, always at his
father's side ever since he could run alone, was missed at every visit
to stable or kennel; the ring of his cheery voice was wanting to
the house; and the absence of his merry whistle seemed to make Sir
Marmaduke's heart sink like lead as he donned his heavy boots, and went
forth in the silver dew of the summer morning to judge which of his
cornfields would soonest be ready for the sickle. Until this expedition
of his sons he had, for more than fourteen years never been alone in
those morning rounds on his farm; and much as he loved his daughters,
they seemed to weigh very light in the scale compared with the sturdy
heir who loved every acre with his own ancestral love. Indeed, perhaps,
Sir Marmaduke had deeper, fonder affection for the children of his first
marriage, because he had barely been able to give his full heart to
their mother before she was taken from him, and he had felt almost
double tenderness to be due to them, when he at length obtained his
first and only true love. Now, as he looked over the shinning billows
of the waving barley, his heart was very sore with longing for Philip's
gladsome shout at the harvest-field, and he thought with surprise and
compunction how he had seen Lucy leave him struggling with a flood of
tears. While he was still thus gazing, a head appeared in the narrow
path that led across the fields, and presently he recognized the
slender, upright form of the young Frenchman.

'A fair good morrow to you, Master Merrycourt! You come right early to
look after your ode?'

'Sir,' said Mericour, gravely saluting him, 'I come to make you my
confession. I find that I did not deal truly with you last night, but it
was all unwittingly.'

'How?' exclaimed Sir Marmaduke, recollecting Lucy's tears and looking
much startled. 'You have not---' and there he broke off, seeing Mericour
eager to speak.

'Sir,' he said, 'I was bred as one set apart from love. I had never
learnt to think it possible to me,--I thought so even when I replied to
you last evening; but, sir, the words you then spoke, the question you
asked me set my heart burning, and my senses whirling---' And between
agitation and confusion he stammered and clasped his hands passionately,
trying to continue what he was saying, but muttering nothing
intelligible.

Sir Marmaduke filled up the interval with a long whistle of perplexity;
but, too kind not to pity the youth's distress, he laid his hand on his
shoulder, saying, 'You found out you were but a hot-blooded youth after
all, but an honest one. For, as I well trust, my lass knows nought of
this.'

'How should she know, sir, what I knew not myself?'

'Ha! ha!' chuckled Sir Duke to himself, 'so 'twas all Dame Nan's doing
that the flame has been lighted! Ho! ho! But what is to come next is the
question?' and he eyed the French youth from head to foot with the same
considering look with which he was wont to study a bullock.

'Sir, sir,' cried Mericour, absolutely flinging himself on his knee
before him with national vehemence, 'do give me hope! Oh! I will bless
you, I will---'

'Get up, man,' said the knight, hastily; 'no fooling of this sort. The
milkmaids will be coming. Hope--why, what sort of hope can be given you
in the matter?' he continued; 'you are a very good lad, and I like you
well enough, but you are not the sort of stuff one gives one's daughter
to. Ay, ay, I know you are a great man in your own country, but what are
you here?'

'A miserable fugitive and beggar, I know that,' said Mericour,
vehemently, 'but let me have but hope, and there is nothing I will not
be!'

'Pish!' said Sir Marmaduke.

'Hear me,' entreated the youth, recalled to common sense: 'you know
that I have lingered at the chateau yonder, partly to study divinity
and settle my mind, and partly because my friend Ribaumont begged me to
await his return. I will be no longer idle; my mind is fixed. To France
I cannot return, while she gives me no choice between such doctrine and
practice as I saw at court, and such as the Huguenots would have imposed
on me. I had already chosen England as my country before--before this
wild hope had awakened in me. Here, I know my nobility counts for
nothing, though, truly, sir, few names in France are prouder. But it
shall be no hindrance. I will become one of your men of the robe. I have
heard that they can enrich themselves and intermarry with your country
_noblesse_.'

'True, true,' said Sir Marmaduke, 'there is more sense in that notion
than there seemed to be in you at first. My poor brother Phil was to
have been a lawyer if he had lived, but it seems to me you are a long
way off from that yet! Why, our Templars be mostly Oxford scholars.'

'So it was explained to me,' said Mericour, 'but for some weeks past the
Lady Burnet, to whose sons, as you know, I have been teaching French,
has been praying me to take the charge of them at Oxford, by which means
I should at least be there maintained, and perchance obtain the means
for carrying on my studies at the Temple.'

'Not ill thought of,' said the knight; 'a fair course enough for you;
but look you, you must have good luck indeed to be in a state to marry
within ten or fifteen years,--very likely not then--having nothing of
your own, and my wench but little, for Lucy's portion cannot be made
equal to her sisters', her mother having been no heiress like Dame
Nan. And would you have me keep the maid unwedded till she be thirty or
thirty-five years old, waiting for your fortune?'

Mericour looked terribly disconcerted at this.

'Moreover,' added the knight, 'they will all be at me, so soon as those
poor lads come home--Heaven grant they do--to give her to Berenger.'

'Sir,' said Mericour, looking up with a sudden smile, 'all that I would
ask is, what you are too good a father to do, that you would not put any
force on her inclinations.'

'How now? you said you had never courted her!'

'Nor have I, sir. But I see the force of your words. Should she love
another man, my dream were, of course, utterly vain, but if not---' He
broke off.

'Well, well, I am no man to force a girl to a match against her will;
but never trust to that, man. I know what women are; and let a fantastic
stranger come across them, there's an end of old friends. But yours is
an honest purpose, and you are a good youth; and if you had anything to
keep her with, you should have Lucy to-morrow, with all my heart.'

Then came the further question whether Mericour should be allowed an
interview with Lucy. Sir Marmaduke was simple enough to fancy that she
need not be made aware of the cause of Mericour's new arrangement, and
decided against it. The young man sorrowfully acquiesced, but whether
such a secret could be kept was another thing. To him it would have been
impossible to renew their former terms of intercourse without betraying
his feelings, and he therefore absented himself. Lady Thistlewood
triumphed openly in Sir Marmaduke's having found him out and banished
him from the house; Lucy looked white and shed silent tears. Her
father's soft heart was moved, and one Sunday evening he whispered into
her ear that Dame Nan was all wrong, and Mericour only kept away because
he was an honourable man. Then Lucy smiled and brightened, and Sir Duke
fondly asked her if she were fool enough to fancy herself in love with
the man.

'Oh no, how should she, when he had never named love to her? She was
only glad her father esteemed him.'

So then foolish, fond Sir Marmaduke told her all that had passed, and
if it had not been too late, he would have sent for Mericour from Lady
Burnet's; but his own story did almost as well in bringing back Lucy's
soft pink color. She crept up into Cecily's room one day, and found that
she knew all about it, and was as kind and sympathizing as she could
be--when a vocation had been given up, though no vows had been taken.
She did not quite understand it, but she would take it on trust.



CHAPTER XXXIII. THE SCANDAL OF THE SYNOD OF MONTAUBAN



     O ye, wha are sae guid yourself,
        Sae pious and sae holy,
     Ye've naught to do but mark and tell
        Your neebour's fauts and folly.
                        --BURNS


The old city of Montauban, once famous as the home of Ariosto's Rinaldo
and his brethren, known to French romance as '_Les Quatre Fils Aymon_,'
acquired in later times a very diverse species of fame,--that, namely,
of being one of the chief strong-holds of the Reformed. The Bishop Jean
de Lettes, after leading a scandalous life, had professed a sort of
Calvinism, had married, and retired to Geneva, and his successor had
not found it possible to live at Montauban from the enmity of the
inhabitants. Strongly situated, with a peculiar municipal constitution
of its own, and used to Provencal independence both of thought and
deed, the inhabitants had been so unanimous in their Calvinism, and
had offered such efficient resistance, as to have wrung from Government
reluctant sanction for the open observance of the Reformed worship, and
for the maintenance of a college for the education of their ministry.

There then was convoked the National Synod, answering to the Scottish
General Assembly, excepting that the persecuted French Presbyterians met
in a different place every year. Delegated pastors there gathered from
every quarter. From Northern France came men used to live in constant
hazard of their lives; from Paris, confessors such as Merlin, the
chaplain who, leaving Coligny's bedside, had been hidden for three days
in a hayloft, feeding on the eggs that a hen daily laid beside him;
army-chaplains were there who had passionately led battle-psalms ere
their colleagues charged the foe, and had striven with vain endeavours
to render their soldiers saints; while other pastors came from Pyrenean
villages where their generation had never seen flames lighted against
heresy, nor knew what it was to disperse a congregation in haste and
secrecy for hear of the enemy.

The audience was large and sympathizing. Montauban had become the refuge
of many Huguenot families who could nowhere else profess their faith
without constant danger; and a large proportion of these were ladies,
wives of gentlemen in the army kept up by La Noue, or widows who feared
that their children might be taken from them to be brought up by their
Catholic relations, elderly dames who longed for tranquillity after
having lost husbands or sons by civil war. Thickly they lodged in
the strangely named _gasches_ and _vertiers_, as the divisions and
subdivisions of the city were termed, occupying floors or apartments
of the tall old houses; walking abroad in the streets in grave attire,
stiff hat, crimped ruff, and huge fan, and forming a society in
themselves, close-packed, punctilious and dignified, rigidly devout
but strictly censorious, and altogether as unlike their typical country
folks of Paris as if they had belonged to a different nation. And the
sourest and most severe of all were such as had lived farthest south,
and personally suffered the least peril and alarm.

Dancing was unheard-of enormity; cards and dice were prohibited; and
stronger expletive than the elegant ones invented for the special use
of the King of Navarre was expiated either by the purse or the skin;
Marot's psalmody was the only music, black or sad colour the only
wear; and, a few years later, the wife of one of the most distinguished
statesmen and councilors of Henri of Navarre was excommunicated for the
enormity of wearing her hair curled.

To such a community it was a delightful festival to receive a national
assembly of ministers ready to regale them on daily sermons for a whole
month, and to retail in private the points of discipline debated in
the public assembly; and, apart from mere eagerness for novelty, many a
discreet heart beat with gladness at the meeting with the hunted pastor
of her native home, who had been the first to strike the spiritual
chord, and awake her mind to religion.

Every family had their honoured guest, every reception-room was in turn
the scene of some pious little assembly that drank _eau sucree_, and
rejoiced in its favourite pastor; and each little congress indulged in
gentle scandal against its rival coterie. But there was one point on
which all the ladies agreed,--namely, that good Maitre Isaac Gardon had
fallen into an almost doting state of blindness to the vanities of his
daughter-in-law, and that she was a disgrace to the community, and ought
to be publicly reprimanded.

Isaac Gardon, long reported to have been martyred--some said at
Paris, others averred at La Sablerie--had indeed been welcomed with
enthusiastic joy and veneration, when he made his appearance at
Montauban, pale, aged, bent, leaning on a staff, and showing the dire
effect of the rheumatic fever which had prostrated him after the night
of drenching and exposure during the escape from La Sablerie. Crowded as
the city was, there was a perfect competition among the tradesfolk for
the honour of entertaining him and the young widow and child of a St.
Bartholomew martyr. A cordwainer of the street of the Soubirous Hauts
obtained this honour, and the wife, though speaking only the sweet
Provencal tongue, soon established the most friendly relations with M.
Gardon's daughter-in-law.

Two or three more pastors likewise lodged in the same house, and ready
aid was given by Mademoiselle Gardon, as all called Eustacie, in
the domestic cares thus entailed, while her filial attention to her
father-in-law and her sweet tenderness to her child struck all this home
circle with admiration. Children of that age were seldom seen at home
among the better classes in towns. Then, as now, they were universally
consigned to country nurses, who only brought them home at three or four
years old, fresh from a squalid, neglected cottage life: and Eustacie's
little moonbeam, _la petite Rayonette_, as she loved to call her, was
quite an unusual spectacle; and from having lived entirely with grown
people, and enjoyed the most tender and dainty care, she was intelligent
and brightly docile to a degree that appeared marvellous to those who
only saw children stupefied by a contrary system. She was a lovely
little thing, exquisitely fair, and her plump white limbs small but
perfectly moulded; she was always happy, because always healthy, and
living in an atmosphere of love; and she was the pet and wonder of all
the household, from the grinning apprentice to the grave young candidate
who hoped to be elected pastor to the Duke de Quinet's village in the
Cevennes.

And yet it was _la petite Rayonette_ who first brought her mother into
trouble. Since her emancipation from swaddling clothes she had been
equipped in a little gray woolen frock, such as Eustacie had learnt to
knit among the peasants, and varied with broad while stripes which gave
it something of the moonbeam effect; but the mother had not been able to
resist the pleasure of drawing up the bosom and tying it with a knot of
the very carnation colour that Berenger used to call her own. That knot
was discussed all up and down the Rue Soubirous Hauts, and even through
the Carriera Major! The widow of an old friend of Maitre Gardon had
remonstrated on the improprieties of such gay vanities, and Mdlle.
Gardon had actually replied, reddening with insolences, that her husband
had loved to see her wear the colour.

Now, if the brethren at Paris had indulged their daughters in such
backslidings, see what had come of it! But that poor Theodore Gardon
should have admired his bride in such unhallowed adornments, was an
evident calumny; and many a head was shaken over it in grave and pious
assembly.

Worse still; when she had been invited to a supper at the excellent
Madame Fargeau's, the presumptuous little _bourgeoise_ had evidently not
known her place, but had seated herself as if she were a noble lady,
a _fille de qualite_, instead of a mere minister's widow and a
watchmaker's daughter. Pretend ignorance that precedence was to be here
observed! That was another Parisian piece of impudence, above all in
one who showed such ridiculous airs as to wipe her face with her own
handkerchief instead of the table-cloth, and to be reluctant to help
herself from the genera dish of _potage_ with her own spoon. Even that
might have been overlooked if she would have regaled them with a full
and particular account of her own rescue from the massacre at Paris;
but she merely coloured up, and said that she had been so ill as to
know scarcely anything about it; and when they pressed her further,
she shortly said, 'They locked me up;' and, before she could be
cross-examined as to who was this 'they,' Maitre Gardon interfered,
saying that she had suffered so much that he requested the subject might
never be mentioned to her. Nor would he be more explicit, and there
was evidently some mystery, and he was becoming blindly indulgent and
besotted by the blandishments of an artful woman.

Eustacie was saved from hearing the gossip by her ignorance of the
Provencal, which was the only languages of all but the highest and most
cultivated classes, the hostess had very little _langue d'oui_, and
never ventured on any complicated discourse; and Isaac Gardon, who could
speak both the _oc_ and _oui_, was not a person whom it was easy to
beset with mere hearsay or petty remonstrance, but enough reached him
at last to make him one day say mildly, 'My dear child, might not the
little one dispense with her ribbon while we are here?'

'Eh, father? At the bidding of those impertinents?'

'Take care, daughter; you were perfect with the tradesfolk and peasants,
but you cannot comport yourself as successfully with this _petite
noblesse_, or the pastors' wives.'

'They are insolent, father. I, in my own true person, would treat no
one as these petty dames treat me,' said Eustacie. 'I would not meddle
between a peasant woman and her child, nor ask questions that must needs
wring her heart.'

'Ah, child! humility is a bitter lesson; and even this world needs it
now from you. We shall have suspicions; and I heard to-day that the King
is in Dauphiny, and with him M. de Nid de Merle. Be not alarmed; he
has no force with him, and the peace still subsists; but we must avoid
suspicion. There is a _preche_ at the Moustier to-day, in French; it
would be well if you were to attend it.'

'I understand as little of French sermons as of Provencal,' murmured
Eustacie; but it was only a murmur.

Maitre Gardon had soon found out that his charge had not head enough to
be made a thorough-going controversial Calvinist. Clever, intelligent,
and full of resources as she was, she had no capacity for argument, and
could not enter into theoretical religion. Circumstances had driven her
from her original Church and alienated her from those who had practiced
such personal cruelties on her and hers, but the mould of her mind
remained what it had been previously; she clung to the Huguenots
because they protected her from those who would have forced an abhorrent
marriage on her and snatched her child from her; and, personally, she
loved and venerated Isaac Gardon with ardent, self-sacrificing filial
love and gratitude, accepted as truth all that came from his lips, read
the Scriptures, sang and prayed with him, and obeyed him as dutifully as
ever the true Esperance could have done; but, except the merest external
objections against the grossest and most palpable popular corruptions
and fallacies, she really never entered into the matter. She had been
left too ignorant of her own system to perceive its true clams upon
her; and though she could not help preferring High Mass to a Calvinist
assembly, and shrinking with instinctive pain and horror at the many
profanations she witnessed, the really spiritual leadings of her own
individual father-like leader had opened so much that was new and
precious to her, so full of truth, so full of comfort, giving so much
moral strength, that, unaware that all the foundations had been laid
by Mere Monique, the resolute, high-spirited little thing, out of sheer
constancy and constitutional courage, would have laid down her life as a
Calvinist martyr, in profound ignorance that she was not in the least a
Calvinist all the time.

Hitherto, her wandering life amid the persecuted Huguenots of the West
had prevented her from hearing any preaching but good Isaac's own,
which had been rather in the way of comfort and encouragement than of
controversy, but in this great gathering it was impossible that there
should not be plenty of vehement polemical oratory, such as was sue to
fly over that weary little head. After a specimen or two, the chances
of the sermon being in Provencal, and the necessity of attending to her
child, had been Eustacie's excuse for usually offering to attend to the
_menage_, and set her hostess free to be present at the preachings.

However, Rayonette was considered as no valid excuse; for did not whole
circles of black-eyed children sit on the floor in sleepy stolidity at
the feet of their mothers or nurses, and was it not a mere worldly
folly to pretend that a child of sixteen months could not be brought
to church? It was another instance of the mother's frivolity and the
grandfather's idolatry.

The Moustier, or minster, the monastic church of Montauban, built on
Mont Auriol in honour of St. Theodore, had, twelve years before,
been plundered and sacked by the Calvinists, not only out of zeal for
iconoclasm, but from long-standing hatred and jealousy against the
monks. Catherine de Medicis had, in 1546, carried off two of the jasper
columns from its chief door-way to the Louvre; and, after some years
more, it was entirely destroyed. The grounds of the Auriol Mountain
Monastery have been desolate down to the present day, when they have
been formed into public gardens. When Eustacie walked through them,
carrying her little girl in her arms, a rose in her bosom to console
her for the loss of her bright breast-knot, they were in raw fresh
dreariness, with tottering, blackened cloisters, garden flowers run
wild, images that she had never ceased to regard as sacred lying broken
and defiled among the grass and weeds.

Up the broad path was pacing the municipal procession, headed by the
three Consuls, each with a serjeant bearing a white rod in front and
a scarlet mantle, and the Consuls themselves in long robes with wide
sleeves of quartered black and scarlet, followed by six halberdiers,
likewise in scarlet, blazoned with the shield of the city--gules, a
golden willow-tree, pollarded and shedding its branches, a chief azure
with the three _fleur-de-lys_ of royalty. As little Rayonette gleefully
pointed at the brilliant pageant, Eustacie could not help saying, rather
bitterly, that these _messieurs_ seemed to wish to engross all the gay
colours from heaven and earth from themselves; and Maitre Isaac could
not help thinking she had some right on her side as he entered the
church once gorgeous with jasper, marbles, and mosaics, glowing with
painted glass, resplendent with gold and jewels, rich with paintings
and draperies of the most brilliant dyes; but now, all that was, soiled,
dulled, defaced; the whole building, even up to the end of the
chancel, was closely fitted with benches occupied by the 'sad-coloured'
congregation. Isaac was obliged by a strenuous effort of memory to
recall 'Ne-hushtan' and the golden calves, before he could clear from
his mind, 'Now they break down all the carved work thereof with axes
and with hammers.' But, then, did not the thorough going Reformers think
Master Isaac a very weak and back-sliding brother?

Nevertheless, in right of his age, his former reputation, and his
sufferings, his place was full in the midst of the square-capped,
black-robed ministers who sat herded on a sort of platform together,
to address the Almighty and the congregation in prayers and discourses,
interspersed with psalms sung by the whole assembly. There was no
want of piety, depth, force, or fervour. These were men refined by
persecution, who had struggled to the light that had been darkened by
the popular system, and, having once been forced into foregoing their
scruples as to breaking the unity of the Church, regarded themselves
even as apostles of the truth. Listening to them, Isaac Gardon felt
himself rapt into the hopes of cleansing the aspirations of universal
re-integration that had shone before his early youth, ere the Church
had shown herself deaf, and the Reformers in losing patience had lost
purity, and disappointment had crushed him into an aged man.

He was recalled by the echo of a gay, little inarticulate cry--those
baby tones that had become such music to his ears that he hardly
realized that they were not indeed from his grandchild. In a moment's
glance he saw how it was. A little bird had flown in at one of the empty
window, and was fluttering over the heads of the congregation, and a
small, plump, white arm and hand was stretched out and pointing--a rosy,
fair, smiling face upturned; a little gray figure had scrambled up
on the knee of one of the still, black-hooded women; and the shout of
irrepressible delight was breaking on the decorum of the congregation,
in spite of hushes, in spite of the uplifted rod of a scarlet serjeant
on his way down the aisle to quell the disturbance; nay, as the bird
came nearer, the exulting voice, proud of the achievement of a new word,
shouted '_Moineau, moineau_.' Angered by defiance to authority, down
came the rod, not indeed with great force, but with enough to make the
arms clasp round the mother's neck, the face hide itself on in, a loud,
terrified wail ring through the church, and tempestuous sobbing follow
it up. Then uprose the black-hooded figure, the child tightly clasped,
and her mantle drawn round it, while the other hand motioned the
official aside, and down the aisle, even to the door, she swept with
the lofty carriage, high-drawn neck, and swelling bosom of an offended
princess.

Maitre Gardon heard little more of the discourse, indeed he would have
followed at once had he not feared to increase the sensation and the
scandal. He came home to find Rayonette's tears long ago dried, but her
mother furious. She would leave Montauban that minute, she would never
set foot in a heretic conventicle again, to have her fatherless child,
daughter of all the Ribaumonts, struck by base _canaille_. Even her
uncle could not have done worse; he at least would have respected her
blood.

Maitre Gardon did not know that his charge could be in such a passion,
as, her eyes flashing through tears, she insisted on being taken away at
once. No, she would hear nothing. She seemed to fell resentment due to
the honour of all the Ribaumonts, and he was obliged peremptorily
to refuse to quit Montauban till his business at the Synod should
be completed, and then to leave her in a flood of angry tears and
reproaches for exposing her child to such usage, and approving it.

Poor little thing, he found her meek and penitent for her unjust anger
towards himself. Whatever he desired she would do, she would stay or go
with him anywhere except to a sermon at the Moustier, and she did not
think that in her heart her good father desired little infants to be
beaten--least of all Berenger's little one. And with Rayonette already
on his knee, stealing his spectacles, peace was made.

Peace with him, but not with the congregation! Were people to stalk out
of church in a rage, and make no reparation? Was Maitre Isaac to talk
of orphans, only children, and maternal love, as if weak human affection
did not need chastisement? Was this saucy Parisienne to play the
offended, and say that if the child were not suffered at church she must
stay at home with it? The ladies agitated to have the obnoxious young
widow reprimanded in open Synod, but, to their still greater disgust,
not a pastor would consent to perform the office. Some said that Maitre
Gardon ought to rule his own household, others that they respected him
too much to interfere, and there were others abandoned enough to assert
that if any one needed a reprimand it was the serjeant.

Of these was the young candidate, Samuel Mace, who had been educated
at the expense of the Dowager Duchess de Quinet, and hoped that her
influence would obtain his election to the pastorate of a certain
peaceful little village deep in the Cevennes. She had intimated that
what he wanted was a wife to teach and improve the wives of the peasant
farmers, and where could a more eligible one be found than Esperance
Gardon? Her cookery he tasted, her industry he saw, her tenderness to
her child, her attention to her father, were his daily admiration; and
her soft velvet eyes and sweet smile went so deep in his heart that he
would have bought her ells upon ells of pink ribbon, when once out of
sight of the old ladies; would have given a father's love to her little
daughter, and a son's duty and veneration to Isaac Gardon.

His patroness did not deny her approval. The gossip had indeed reached
her, but she had a high esteem for Isaac Gardon, believed in Samuel
Mace's good sense, and heeded Montauban scandal very little. Her
_protege_ would be much better married to a spirited woman who had seen
the world, than to a mere farmer's daughter who had never looked beyond
her cheese. Old Gardon would be an admirable adviser, and if he were
taken into the _menage_ she would add to the endowment another arable
field, and grass for two more cows. If she liked the young woman on
inspection, the marriage should take place in her own august presence.

What! had Maitre Gardon refused? Forbidden that the subject should be
mentioned to his daughter? Impossible! Either Mace had managed matters
foolishly, or the old man had some doubt of him which she could remove,
or else it was foolish reluctance to part with his daughter-in-law.
Or the gossips were right after all, and he knew her to be too
light-minded, if not worse, to be the wife of any pious young minister.
Or there was some mystery. Any way, Madame la Duchesse would see him,
and bring him to his senses, make him give the girl a good husband
if she were worthy, or devote her to condign punishment if she were
unworthy.



CHAPTER XXXIV. MADAME LA DUCHESSE



He found an ancient dame in dim brocade.---TENNYSON


Madame la Duchesse de Quinet had been a great heiress and a personal
friend and favourite of Queen Jeanne d'Albret. She had been left a widow
after five years' marriage, and for forty subsequent years had reigned
despotically in her own name and that of _mon fils_. Busied with the
support of the Huguenot cause, sometimes by arms, but more usually by
politics, and constantly occupied by the hereditary government of one
of the lesser counties of France, the Duke was all the better son for
relinquishing to her the home administration, as well as the education
of his two motherless boys; and their confidence and affection were
perfect, though he was almost as seldom at home as she was abroad. At
times, indeed, she had visited Queen Jeanne at Nerac; but since the good
Queen's death, she only left the great chateau of Quinet to make a royal
progress of inspection through the family towns, castles, and estates,
sometimes to winter in her beautiful hereditary _hotel_ at Montauban,
and as at present to attend any great assembly of the Reformed.

Very seldom was her will not law. Strong sense and judgment, backed by
the learning that Queen Marguerite of Navarre had introduced among the
companions of her daughter, had rendered her superior to most of those
with whom she came in contact: and the Huguenot ministers, who were much
more dependent on their laity than the Catholic priesthood, for the most
part treated her as not only a devout and honourable woman, an
elect lady, but as a sort of State authority. That she had the
right-mindedness to respect and esteem such men as Theodore Beza,
Merlin, &c., who treated her with great regard, but never cringed, had
not become known to the rest. Let her have once pronounced against
poor little Esperance Gardon, and public disgrace would be a matter of
certainty.

There she sat in her wainscoted walnut cabinet, a small woman by her
inches, but stately enough to seem of majestic stature, and with gray
eyes, of inexpressible keenness, which she fixed upon the halting,
broken form of Isaac Gardon, and his grave, venerable face, as she half
rose and made a slight acknowledgment of his low bow.

'Sit, Maitre Gardon, you are lame,' she said, with a wave of her hand.
'I gave you the incommodity of coming to see me not openly discuss _en
pleine sale_.'

'Madame is considerate,' said Isaac, civilly, but with an open-eyed look
and air that at once showed her that she had not to deal with one of the
ministers who never forgot their low birth in intercourse with her.

'I understand,' said she, coming to the point at once, 'that you decline
the proposals of Samuel Mace for your daughter-in-law. Now I wish you
to know that Mace is a very good youth, whom I have known from his
birth'--and she went on in his praise, Isaac bowing at each pause, until
she had exhausted both Mace's history and her own beneficent intentions
for him. Then he said, 'Madame is very good, and the young man appeared
to me excellent. Nevertheless, this thing may not be. My daughter-in-law
has resolved not to marry again.'

'Nay, but this is mere folly,' said the Duchess. 'We hold not Catholic
tenets on merit in abstaining, but rather go by St. Paul's advice that
the younger widows should marry, rather than wax wanton. And, to tell
you the truth, Maitre Gardon, this daughter of yours does seem to have
set tongues in motion.'

'Not by her own fault, Madame.'

'Stay, my good friend; I never found a man--minister or lay--who was
a fair judge in these matters. You old men are no better than the
young--rather worse--because you do not distrust yourselves. Now, I
say no harm of the young woman, and I know an angel would be abused
at Montauban for not wearing sad-coloured wings; but she needs a man's
care--you are frail, you cannot live for ever--and how is it to be with
her and her child?'

'I hope to bestow them among her kindred ere I die, Madame,' said Isaac.

'No kindred can serve a woman like a sensible husband! Besides, I
thought all perished at Paris. Listen, Isaac Gardon: I tell you plainly
that scandal is afloat. You are blamed for culpable indifference to
alleged levities--I say not that it is true--but I see this, that unless
you can bestow your daughter-in-law on a good, honest man, able to
silence the whispers of malice, there will be measures taken that will
do shame both to your own gray hairs and to the memory of your dead son,
as well as expose the poor young woman herself. You are one who has
a true tongue, Isaac Gardon; and if you can assure me that she is a
faithful, good woman, as poor Mace thinks her, and will give her to him
in testimony thereof, then shall not a mouth open against her. If not,
in spite of all my esteem for you, the discipline of the Reformed must
take its course.'

'And for what?' said Isaac, with a grave tone, almost of reproof. 'What
discipline can punish a woman for letting her infant wear a coloured
ribbon, and shielding it from a blow?'

'That is not all, Master Isaac,' said the Duchess, seriously. 'In spite
of your much-respected name, evil and censorious tongues will have it
that matters ought to be investigated; that there is some mystery; that
the young woman does not give a satisfactory account of herself, and
that the child does not resemble either her or your son--in short, that
you may be deceived by an impostor, perhaps a Catholic spy. Mind, I say
not that I credit all this, only I would show you what reports you must
guard against.'

'_La pauvre petite_!' said Isaac, under his breath, as if appalled; then
collecting himself, he said, 'Madame, these are well-nigh threats. I had
come hither nearly resolved to confined in you without them.'

'Then there is a mystery?'

'Yes, Madame, but the deception is solely in the name. She is, in very
truth, a widow of a martyr of the St. Barthelemy, but that martyr was
not my son, whose wife was happy in dying with him.'

'And who, then, is she?'

'Madame la Duchesse had heard of the family of Ribaumont.'

'Ha! M. de Ribaumont! A gay comrade of King Henry II., but who had his
eyes opened to the truth by M. l'Amiral, though he lacked courage for an
open profession. Yes, the very last pageant I beheld at court, was the
wedding of his little son to the Count de Ribaumont's daughter. It was
said that the youth was one of our victims at Paris.'

'Even so, Madame; and this poor child is the little one whom you saw
wedded to him.' And then, in answer to the Duchess's astonished inquiry,
he proceeded to relate how Eustacie had been forced to fly from her
kindred, and how he had first encountered her at his own lurking-placed,
and had accepted her as a charge imposed on him by Providence; then
explained how, at La Sablerie, she had been recognized by a young
gentleman whom she had known at Paris, but who professed to be fleeing
to England, there to study the Protestant controversy; and how she had
confided to him a letter to her husband's mother, who was married in
England, begging her to send for her and her daughter, the latter being
heiress to certain English estates, as well as French.

'Madame,' added Gardon, 'Heaven forgive me, if I do the Youth injustice
by suspecting him, but no answer ever arrived to that letter; and while
we still expected one, a good and kindly citizen, who I trust has long
been received into glory, sent me notice that a detachment of Monsieur's
army was on its way from La Rochelle, under command of M. de Nid de
Merle, to search out this poor lady in La Sablerie. He, good man, deemed
that, were we gone, he could make terms for the place, and we therefore
quitted it. Alas! Madame knows how it fared with the pious friend we
left. Little deeming how they would be dealt with, we took our way along
the Sables d'Olonne, where alone we could be safe, since, as Madame
knows, they are for miles impracticable for troops. But we had another
enemy there--the tide; and there was a time when we truly deemed that
the mercy granted us had been that we had fallen into the hand of the
Lord instead of the hand of cruel man. Yes, Madame, and even for that
did she give thanks, as she stood, never even trembling, on the low
sandbank, with her babe in her bosom, and the sea creeping up on all
sides. She only turned to me with a smile, saying, 'She is asleep, she
will not feel it, or know anything till she wakes up in Paradise, and
sees her father.' Never saw I a woman, either through nature or grace,
so devoid of fear. We were rescued at last, by the mercy of Heaven,
which sent a fisherman, who bore us to his boat when benumbed with cold,
and scarce able to move. He took us to a good priest's, Colombeau of
Nissard, a man who, as Madame may know, is one of those veritable saints
who still are sustained by the truth within their Church, and is full of
charity and mercy. He asked me no questions, but fed, warmed, sheltered
us, and sped us on our way. Perhaps, however, I was over-confident in
myself, as the guardian of the poor child, for it was Heaven's will that
the cold and wet of our night on the sands--though those tender young
frames did not suffer therefrom--should bring on an illness which has
made an old man of me. I struggled on as long as I could, hoping to
attain to a safe resting-place for her, but the winter cold completed
the work; and then, Madame--oh that I could tell you the blessing she
was to me!--her patience, her watchfulness, her tenderness, through all
the long weeks that I lay helpless alike in mind and body at Charente.
Ah! Madame, had my own daughter lived, she could not have been more to
me than that noble lady; and her cheerful love did even more for me than
her tender care.'

'I must see her,' ejaculated the Duchesse; then added, 'But was it this
illness that hindered you from placing her in safety in England?'

'In part, Madame; nay, I may say, wholly. We learnt that the assembly
was to take place here, and I had my poor testimony to deliver, and to
give notice of my intention to my brethren before going to a foreign
land, whence perhaps I may never return.'

'She ought to be in England,' said Madame de Quinet; 'she will never be
safe from these kinsmen in this country.'

'M. de Nid de Merle has been all the spring in Poland with the King,'
said the minister, 'and the poor lady is thought to have perished at La
Sablerie. Thus the danger has been less pressing, but I would have taken
her to England at once, if I could have made sure of her reception, and
besides---' he faltered.

'The means?' demanded the Duchess, guessing at the meaning.

'Madame is right. She had brought away some money and jewels with her,
but alas, Madame, during my illness, without my knowledge, the dear
child absolutely sold them to procure comforts for me. Nay'--his eyes
filled with tears--'she whom they blame for vanities sold the very hair
from her head to purchase unguents to ease the old man's pains; nor did
I know it for many a day after. From day to day we can live, for our own
people willingly support a pastor and his family; and in every house my
daughter has been loved,--everywhere but in this harsh-judging town. But
for the expense of a voyage, even were we at Bordeaux or La Rochelle, we
have nothing, save by parting with the only jewels that remain to her,
and those--those, she says, are heirlooms; and, poor child, she guards
them almost as jealously as her infant, around whom she has fastened
them beneath her clothes. She will not even as yet hear of leaving them
in pledge, to be redeemed by the family. She says they would hardly know
her without them. And truly, Madame, I scarce venture to take her to
England, ere I know what reception would await her. Should her husband's
family disown or cast her off, I could take better care of her here than
in a strange land.'

'You are right, Maitre Gardon,' said the Duchess; 'the risk might be
great. I would see this lady. She must be a rare creature. Bear her my
greetings, my friend, and pray her to do me the honour of a visit this
afternoon. Tell her I would come myself to her, but that I understand
she does not wish to attract notice.'

'Madame,' said Isaac, rising, and with a strange manner, between a smile
and a tear of earnestness, 'allow me to bespeak your goodness for my
daughter. The poor little thing is scarcely more than a child. She is
but eighteen even now, and it is not always easy to tell whether she
will be an angel of noble goodness, or, pardon me, a half-petulant
child.'

'I understand:' Madame de Quinet laughed, and she probably did
understand more than reluctant, anxious Isaac Gardon thought she did, of
his winning, gracious, yet haughty, head-strong little charge, so humbly
helpful one moment, so self-asserting and childish the next, so dear to
him, yet so unlike anything in his experience.

'Child,' he said, as he found her in the sunny window engaged in
plaiting the deep folds of his starched ruffs, 'you have something to
forgive me.'

'Fathers do not ask their children's pardon,' said Eustacie, brightly,
but then, with sudden dismay, 'Ah! you have not said I should go to the
Moustier again.'

'No, daughter; but Madame de Quinet entreats--these are her words--that
you will do her the honour of calling on her. She would come to you, but
that she fears to attract notice to us.'

'You have told her!' exclaimed Eustacie.

'I was compelled, but I had already thought of asking your consent, and
she is a true and generous lady, with whom your secret will be safe, and
who can hush the idle tongues here. So, daughter,' he added restlessly,
'don your hood; that ruff will serve for another day.'

'Another day, when the morrow is Sunday, and my father's ruff is to put
to shame all the other pastors',' said Eustacie, her quick fingers still
moving. 'No, he shall not go ill-starched for any Duchess in France. Now
am I in any haste to be lectured by Madame de Quinet, as they say she
lectured the Dame de Soubrera the other day.'

'My child, you will go; much depends on it.'

'Oh yes, I am going; only if Madame de Quinet knows who I am, she will
not expect me to hurry at her beck and call the first moment. Here,
Rayonette, my bird, my beauty, thou must have a clean cap; ay, and these
flaxen curls combed.'

'Would you take the child?'

'Would I go without Mademoiselle de Rambouillet? She is all her mother
is, and more. There, now she is a true rose-bud, ready to perch on my
arm. No, no _bon pere_. So great a girl is too much for you to carry.
Don't be afraid, my darling, we are not going to a sermon, no one will
beat her; oh no, and if the insolent retainers and pert lacqueys laugh
at her mother, no one will hurt her.'

'Nay, child,' said Maitre Gardon; 'this is a well-ordered household,
where contempt and scorn are not suffered. Only, dear, dear daughter,
let me pray you to be your true self with the Duchess.'

Eustacie shrugged her shoulders, and had mischief enough in her to
enjoy keeping her good father in some doubt and dread as he went halting
wearily by her side along the much-decorated streets that marked the
grand Gasche of Tarn and Tarascon. The Hotel de Quinet stretched out its
broad stone steps, covered with vaultings, absolutely across the street,
affording a welcome shade, and no obstruction where wheeled carriages
never came.

All was, as Maitre Isaac had said, decorum itself. A couple of armed
retainers, rigid as sentinels, waited on the steps; a grave porter,
maimed in the wars opened the great door; half a dozen--_laquais_ in
sober though rich liveries sat on a bench in the hall, and had
somewhat the air of having been set to con a lesson. Two of them coming
respectfully forward, ushered Maitre Gardon and his companion to an
ante-room, where various gentlemen, or pastors, or candidates--among
them Samuel Mace--were awaiting a summons to the Duchess, or merely
using it as a place of assembly. A page of high birth, but well schooled
in steadiness of demeanour, went at once to announce the arrival; and
Gardon and his companion had not been many moments in conversation
with their acquaintance among the ministers, before the grave gentleman
returned, apparently from his audience and the page, coming to Eustacie,
intimated that she was to follow him to Madame le Duchesse's presence.

He conducted her across a great tapestry-hung saloon, where twelve or
fourteen ladies of all ages--from seventy to fifteen--sat at work: some
at tapestry, some spinning, some making coarse garments for the poor. A
great throne-like chair, with a canopy over it, a footstool, a desk
and a small table before it, was vacant, and the work--a poor child's
knitted cap--laid down; but an elderly minister, seated at a carved
desk, had not discontinued reading from a great black book, and did not
even cease while the strangers crossed the room, merely making a slight
inclination with his head, while the ladies half rose, rustled a slight
reverence with their black, gray or russet skirts, but hardly lifted
their eyes. Eustacie thought the Louvre had never been half so
formidable or impressive.

The page lifted a heavy green curtain behind the canopy, knocked at a
door, and, as it opened, Eustacie was conscious of a dignified presence,
that, in spite of her previous petulance, caused her instinctively to
bend in such a reverence as had formerly been natural to her; but, at
the same moment, a low and magnificent curtsey was made to her, a hand
was held out, a stately kiss was on her brow, and a voice of dignified
courtesy said, 'Pardon me, Madame la Baronne, for giving you this
trouble. I feared that otherwise we could not safely meet.'

'Madame is very good. My Rayonette, make thy reverence; kiss thy hand to
the lady, my lamb.' And the little one obeyed, gazing with her blue eyes
full opened, and clinging to her mother.

'Ah! Madame la Baronne makes herself obeyed,' said Madame de Quinet,
well pleased. 'Is it then a girl?'

'Yes, Madame, I could scarcely forgive her at first; but she has made
herself all the dearer to me.'

'It is a pity,' said Madame de Quinet, 'for yours is an ancient stem.'

'Did Madame know my parents?' asked Eustacie, drawn from her spirit of
defiance by the equality of the manner with which she was treated.

'Scarcely,' replied the Duchess; but, with a smile, 'I had the honour to
see you married.'

'Ah, then,'--Eustacie glowed, almost smiled, though a tear was in her
eyes--'you can see how like my little one is to her father,--a true
White Ribaumont.'

The Duchess had not the most distinct recollection of the complexion of
the little bridegroom; but Rayonette's fairness was incontestable, and
the old lady complimented it so as to draw on the young mother into
confidence on the pet moonbeam appellation which she used in dread of
exciting suspicion by using the true name of Berangere, with all the why
and wherefore.

It was what the Duchess wanted. Imperious as some thought her, she would
on no account have appeared to cross-examine any one whose essential
nobleness of nature struck her as did little Eustacie's at the first
moment she saw her; and yet she had decided, before the young woman
arrived, that her own good opinion and assistance should depend on the
correspondence of Madame de Ribaumont's history of herself with Maitre
Gardon's.

Eustacie had, for a year and a half, lived with peasants; and, indeed,
since the trials of her life had really begun, she had never been with a
woman of her own station to whom she could give confidence, or from whom
she could look for sympathy. And thus a very few inquiries and tokens of
interest from the old lady drew out the whole story, and more than once
filled Madame de Quinet's eyes with tears.

There was only one discrepancy; Eustacie could not believe that the
Abbe de Mericour had been a faithless messenger. Oh, no! either those
savage-looking sailors had played him false, or else her _bele-mere_
would not send for her. 'My mother-in-law never loved me,' said
Eustacie; 'I know she never did. And now she has children by her second
marriage, and no doubt would not see my little one preferred to them. I
will not be HER suppliant.'

'And what then would you do?' said Madame de Quinet, with a more severe
tone.

'Never leave my dear father,' said Eustacie, with a flash of eagerness;
'Maitre Isaac I mean. He has been more to me than any--any one I ever
knew--save----'

'You have much cause for gratitude to him,' said Madame de Quinet. 'I
honour your filial love to him. Yet, you have duties to this little one.
You have no right to keep her from her position. You ought to write to
England again. I am sure Maitre Isaac tells you so.'

Eustacie would have pouted, but the grave, kind authority of the manner
prevented her from being childish, and she said, 'If I wrote, it should
be to my husband's grandfather, who brought him up, designated him as
his heir, and whom he loved with all his heart. But, oh, Madame, he has
one of those English names! So dreadful! It sounds like Vol-au-vent, but
it is not that precisely.'

Madame de Quinet smiled, but she was a woman of resources. 'See, my
friend,' she said, 'the pursuivant of the consuls here has the rolls of
the herald's visitations throughout the kingdom. The arms and name of
the Baron de Ribaumont's wife will there be entered; and from my house
at Quinet you shall write, and I, too, will write; my son shall take
care that the letters be forwarded safely, and you shall await their
arrival under my protection. That will be more fitting than running the
country with an old pastor, _hein_?'

'Madame, nothing shall induce me to quit him!' exclaimed Eustacie,
vehemently.

'Hear me out, child,' said the Duchess. 'He goes with us to assist my
chaplain; he is not much fitter for wandering than you, or less so. And
you, Madame, must, I fear me, still remain his daughter-in-law in my
household; or if you bore your own name and rank, this uncle and cousin
of yours might learn that you were still living; and did they claim
you---'

'Oh, Madame, rather let me be your meanest kitchen-girl!'

'To be--what do they call you?--Esperance Gardon will be quite enough.
I have various women here--widows, wives, daughters or sufferers for the
truth's sake, who either are glad of rest, or are trained up to lead a
godly life in the discipline of my household. Among them you can live
without suspicion, provided,' the old lady added, smiling, 'you can
abstain from turning the heads of our poor young candidates.'

'Madame,' said Eustacie, gravely, 'I shall never turn any one's head.
There was only one who was obliged to love me, and happily I am nor fair
enough to win any one else.'

'_Tenez_, child. Is this true simplicity? Did Gardon, truly, never tell
you of poor Samuel Mace?'

Eustacie's face expressed such genuine amazement and consternation, that
the Duchess could not help touching her on the cheek, and saying, 'Ah!
simple as a _pensionnaire_, as we used to say when no one else was
innocent. But it is true, my dear, that to poor Samuel we owe our
meeting. I will send him off, the poor fellow, at once to Bourge-le-Roy
to preach his three sermons; and when they had driven you a little out
of his head, he shall have Mariette there--a good girl, who will make
him an excellent wife. She is ugly enough, but it will be all the same
to him just then! I will see him, and let him know that I have reasons.
He lodges in your house, does he? Then you had better come to see me at
once. So will evil tongues best be silenced.

'But hold,' the Duchess said, smiling. 'You will think me a foolish old
woman, but is it true that you have saved the Pearls of Ribaumont, of
which good Canon Froissart tells?'

Eustacie lifted her child on her knee, untied the little gray frock, and
showed them fastened beneath, well out of sight. 'I thought my treasures
should guard one another,' she said. 'One I sent as a token to my
mother-in-law. For the rest, they are not mine, but hers; her father
lent them to me, not gave: so she wears them thus; and anything but HER
life should go rather than THEY should.'

'_Hein_, a fine guardian for them!' was all the Duchess said in answer.



CHAPTER XXXV. THE ITALIAN PEDLAR



      This caitiff monk for gold did swear,
      That by his drugs my rival fair
          A saint in heaven should be.--SCOTT


A grand cavalcade bore the house of Quinet from Montauban--coaches,
wagons, outriders, gendarmes--it was a perfect court progress, and so
low and cumbrous that it was a whole week in reaching a grand old castle
standing on a hill-side among chestnut woods, with an avenue a mile long
leading up to it; and battlemented towers fit to stand a siege.

Eustacie was ranked among the Duchess's gentlewomen. She was so far
acknowledged as a lady of birth, that she was usually called Madame
Esperance; and though no one was supposed to doubt her being Theodore
Gardon's widow, she was regarded as being a person of rank who had made
a misalliance by marrying him. This Madame de Quinet had allowed the
household to infer, thinking that the whole bearing of her guest was
too unlike that of a Paris _bourgeoise_ not to excite suspicion, but
she deemed it wiser to refrain from treating her with either intimacy or
distinction that might excite jealousy or suspicion. Even as it was,
the consciousness of a secret, or the remnants of Montauban gossip,
prevented any familiarity between Eustacie and the good ladies who
surrounded her; they were very civil to each other, but their only
connecting link was the delight that every one took in petting
pretty little Rayonette, and the wonder that was made of her signs of
intelligence and attempts at talking. Even when she toddled fearlessly
up to the stately Duchess on her canopied throne, and held out her
entreating hands, and lisped the word '_nontre_,' Madame would pause in
her avocations, take her on her knee, and display that wonderful
gold and enamel creature which cried tic-tic, and still remained
an unapproachable mystery to M. le Marquis and M. le Vicomte, her
grandsons.

Pale, formal stiff boys they looked, twelve and ten years old, and under
the dominion of a very learned tutor, who taught them Latin, Greek and
Hebrew, alternately with an equally precise, stiff old esquire, who
trained them in martial exercises, which seemed to be as much matters of
rote with them as their tasks, and to be quite as uninteresting. It did
not seem as if they ever played, or thought of playing; and if they were
ever to be gay, witty Frenchmen, a wonderful change must come over them.

The elder was already betrothed to a Bearnese damsel, of an
unimpeachably ancient and Calvinistic family; and the whole
establishment had for the last three years been employed on tapestry
hangings for a whole suite of rooms, that were to be fitted up and
hung with the histories of Ruth, of Abigail, of the Shunammite, and of
Esther, which their diligent needles might hope to complete by the time
the marriage should take place, three years later! The Duchess,
who really was not unlike 'that great woman' the Shunammite, in her
dignified content with 'dwelling among her own people,' and her desire
to 'receive a prophet in the name of a prophet,' generally sat presiding
over the work while some one, chaplain, grandson, or young maiden, read
aloud from carefully assorted books; religious treatises at certain
hours, and at others, history. Often, however, Madame was called away
into her cabinet, where she gave audience to intendants, notaries from
her estates, pastors from the villages, captains of little garrisons,
soldiers offering service, farmers, women, shepherds, foresters,
peasants, who came either on her business or with their own needs--for
all of which she was ready with the beneficence and decision of an
autocrat.

The chapel had been 'purified,' and made bare of all altar or image. It
was filled with benches and a desk, whence Isaac Gardon, the chaplain,
any pastor on a visit, or sometimes a candidate for his promotion,
would expound, and offer prayers, shortly in the week, more at length
on Sunday; and there, too, classes were held for the instruction of the
peasants.

There was a great garden full of medicinal plants, and decoctions and
distilleries were the chief variety enjoyed by the gentlewomen. The
Duchess had studied much in quaint Latin and French medical books, and,
having great experience and good sense, was probably as good a doctor
as any one in the kingdom except Ambroise Pare and his pupils; and she
required her ladies to practise under her upon the numerous ailments
that the peasants were continually bringing for her treatment. 'No one
could tell,' she said, 'how soon they might be dealing with gun-shot
wounds, and all ought to know how to sew up a gash, or cure an argue.'

This department suited Eustacie much better than the stitching, and
best of all she liked to be sent with Maitre Isaac to some cottage where
solace for soul and body were needed, and the inmate was too ill to be
brought to Madame la Duchess. She was learning much and improving too
in the orderly household, but her wanderings had made her something of a
little gipsy. She now and then was intolerably weary, and felt as if
she had been entirely spoilt for her natural post. 'What would become
of her,' she said to Maitre Isaac, 'if she were too grand to dress
Rayonette?'

She was not greatly distressed that the Montauban pursuivant turned out
to have only the records of the Provencal nobility, and was forced to
communicate with his brethren at Bordeaux before he could bring down
the Ribaumont genealogy to the actual generation; and so slow was
communication, so tardy the mode of doing everything, that the chestnut
leaves were falling and autumn becoming winter before the blazoned
letter showed Ribaumont, de Picardie--'Gules, fretty or, a canton of
the last, a leopard, sable. Eustacie Berangere, m. Annora, daughter
and heiress of Villiam, Baron of Valvem, in the county of Dorisette,
England, who beareth, azure, a siren regardant in a mirror proper.' The
siren was drawn in all her propriety impaled with the leopard, and she
was so much more comprehensible than the names, to both Madame de Quinet
and Eustacie, that it was a pity they could not direct their letters to
her rather than to 'Le Baron de Valvem,' whose cruel W's perplexed them
so much. However, the address was the least of Eustacie's troubles; she
should be only too glad when she got to that, and she was sitting in
Maitre Isaac's room, trying to make him dictate her sentences and asking
him how to spell every third word, when the dinner-bell rang, and the
whole household dropped down from _salon_, library, study, or chamber to
the huge hall, with its pavement of black and white marble, and its
long tables, for Madame de Quinet was no woman to discard wholesome old
practices.

Then, as Eustacie, with Rayonette trotting at her side, and Maitre Isaac
leaning on her arm, slowly made her way to that high table where dined
Madame la Duchess, her grandsons, the ministers, the gentlemen in
waiting, and some three or four women besides herself, she saw that
the lower end of the great hall was full of silks, cloths, and ribbons
heaped together; and, passing by the lengthy rank of retainers, she
received a bow and look of recognition from a dark, acute-looking visage
which she remembered to belong to the pedlar she had met at Charente.

The Duchess, at the head of her table, was not in the best of humours.
Her son had sent home letters by a courier whom he had picked up for
himself and she never liked nor trusted, and he required an immediate
reply when she particularly resented being hurried. It was a
_galimafre_, literally a hash, she said; for indeed most matters where
she was not consulted did become a _galimafre_ with her. Moreover, under
favour of the courier, her porters had admitted this pedlar, and the
Duchess greatly disliked pedlars. All her household stores were
bought at shops of good repute in Montauban, and no one ought to be so
improvident as to require dealings with these mountebank vagabonds, who
dangled vanities before the eyes of silly girls, and filled their heads
with Paris fashion, if they did not do still worse, and excite them to
the purchase of cosmetics and love-charms.

Yet the excitement caused by the approach of a pedlar was invincible,
even by Madame la Duchess. It was inevitable that the crying need of
glove, kerchief, needle, or the like, should be discovered as soon as
he came within ken, and, once in the hall, there was no being rid of
him except by a flagrant act of inhospitality. This time it was worst of
all, for M. le Marquis himself must needs be the first to spy him, bring
him in, and be in want of a silver chain for his hawk; and his brother
the Vicomte must follow him up with all manner of wants inspired by the
mere sight of the pack.

Every one with the smallest sum of money must buy, every one without
inspect and assist in bargaining; and all dinner-time, eyes, thoughts,
and words were wandering to the gay pile in the corner, or reckoning up
needs and means. The pedlar, too, knew what a Calvinist household was,
and had been extremely discreet, producing nothing that could reasonably
be objected to; and the Duchess, seeing that the stream was too strong
for her, wisely tried to steer her bark through it safely instead of
directly opposing it.

As soon as grace was over, she called her maitre d'hotel, and bade
him look after that _galimafre_, and see that none of these fools were
unreasonably cheated, and that there was no attempt at gulling the young
ones with charms or fortune-telling, as well as to conclude the matter
so as to give no excuse for the Italian fellow lingering to sup and
sleep. She then retired to her cabinet to prepare her dispatches, which
were to include a letter to Lord Walwyn. Though a nominal friendship
subsisted between Elisabeth and the French court, the Huguenot chiefs
always maintained a correspondence with England, and there was little
danger but that the Duke de Quinet would be able to get a letter, sooner
or later, conveyed to any man of mark. In the course of her letter,
Madame de Quinet found it necessary to refer to Eustacie. She rang her
little silver handbell for the hall. There, of course, Master Page had
been engulfed in the _galimafre_, and not only forming one of the swarm
around the pedlar, but was actually aping courtly grimaces as he tried
a delicate lace ruffle on the hand of a silly little smirking maiden,
no older than himself! But this little episode was, like many others,
overlooked by Madame de Quinet, as her eye fell upon the little figure
of Rayonette standing on the table, with her mother and two or three
ladies besides coaxing her to open her mouth, and show the swollen gums
that had of late been troubling her, while the pedlar was evidently
expending his blandishments upon her.

The maitre d'hotel was the first to perceive his mistress, and, as he
approached, received a sharp rebuke from her for allowing the fellow to
produce his quack medicines; and, at the same time, she desired him
to request Madame Esperance to come to her immediately on business.
Eustacie, who always had a certain self-willed sense of opposition when
the Duchess showed herself peremptory towards her, at first began to
make answer that she would come as soon as her business was concluded;
but the steward made a gesture towards the great lady sailing up and
down as she paced the _dais_ in stately impatience. 'Good fellow,'
she said, 'I will return quickly, and see you again, though I am now
interrupted. Stay there, little one, with good Mademoiselle Perrot;
mother will soon be back.'

Rayonette, in her tooth-fretfulnes, was far from enduring to be forsaken
so near a strange man, and her cry made it necessary for Eustacie to
take her in arms, and carry her to the _dais_ where the Duchess was
waiting.

'So!' said the lady, 'I suspected that the fellow was a quack as well as
a cheat.'

'Madame,'said Eustacie, with spirit, 'he sold me unguents that greatly
relieved my father last spring.'

'And because rubbing relieved an old man's rheumatics, you would let a
vagabond cheat drug and sicken this poor child for what is not ailment
at all--and the teeth will relieve in a few days. Or, if she were
feverish, have not we decoctions brewed from Heaven's own pure herbs in
the garden, with no unknown ingredient?'

'Madame,' said Eustacie, ruffling into fierceness, 'you are very good to
me; but I must keep the management of my daughter to myself.'

The Duchess looked at her from head to foot. Perhaps it was with an
impulse to treat her impertinence as she would have done that of a
dependant; but the old lady never forgot herself: she only shrugged
her shoulders and said, with studied politeness, 'When I unfortunately
interrupted your consultation with this eminent physician, it was to ask
you a question regarding this English family. Will you do me the honour
to enter my cabinet?'

And whereas no one was looking, the old lady showed her displeasure by
ushering Madame de Ribaumont into her cabinet like a true noble stranger
guest; so that Eustacie felt disconcerted.

The Duchess then began to read aloud her own letter to Lord Walwyn,
pausing at every clause, so that Eustacie felt the delay and discussion
growing interminable, and the Duchess then requested to have Madame de
Ribaumont's own letter at once, as she wished to inclose it, make up her
packet, and send it without delay. Opening a secret door in her cabinet,
she showed Eustacie stair by which she might reach Maitre Gardon's room
without crossing the hall. Eustacie hoped to find him there and tell him
how intolerable was the Duchess; but, though she found him, it was in
company with the tutor, who was spending an afternoon on Plato with him.
She could only take up her letter and retreat to Madame's cabinet, where
she had left her child. She finished it as best she might, addressed
it after the herald's spelling of the title, bound it with some of the
Duchess's black floss silk--wondering meanwhile, but little guessing
that the pedlar knew, where was the tress that had bound her last
attempt at correspondence, guessing least of all that that tress lay
on a heart still living and throbbing for her. All this had made her a
little forget her haste to assert her liberty of action by returning to
the pedlar; but, behold, when she came back to the hall, it had resumed
its pristine soberness, and merely a few lingering figures were to be
seen, packing up their purchases.

While she was still looking round in dismay, Mademoiselle Perrot came
up to her and said, 'Ah! Madame, you may well wonder! I never saw Maitre
Benoit there so cross; the poor man did but offer to sell little Fanchon
the elizir that secures a good husband, and old Benoit descended on
him like a griffin enraged, would scarce give him time to compute his
charges or pack his wares, but hustled him forth like a mere thief! And
I missed my bargain for that muffler that had so taken my fancy. But,
Madame, he spoke to me apart, and said you were an old customer of his,
and that rather than the little angel should suffer with her teeth,
which surely threaten convulsions, he would leave with you this
sovereign remedy of sweet syrup--a spoonful to be given each night.'

Eustacie took the little flask. She was much inclined to give the syrup
by way of precaution, as well as to assure herself that she was not
under the Duchess's dominion; but some strong instinct of the truth of
the lady's words that the child was safer and healthier undoctored,
made her resolve at least to defer it until the little one showed any
perilous symptom. And as happily Rayonette only showed two little white
teeth, and much greater good-humour, the syrup was nearly forgotten,
when, a fortnight after, the Duchess received a dispatch from her son
which filled her with the utmost indignation. The courier had
indeed arrived, but the packet had proved to be filled with hay and
waste-paper. And upon close examination, under the lash, the courier had
been forced to confess to having allowed himself to be overtaken by the
pedlar, and treated by him to a supper at a _cabaret_. No doubt,
while he was afterwards asleep, the contents of his packet had been
abstracted. There had been important documents for the Duke besides
Eustacie's letters, and the affair greatly annoyed the Duchess, though
she had the compensation of having been proved perfectly right in her
prejudice against pedlars, and her dislike of her son's courier. She
sent for Eustacie to tell her privately of the loss, and of course the
young mother at once turned pale and exclaimed, 'The wicked one! Ah!
what a blessing that I gave my little darling none of his dose!'

'_Hein_? You had some from him then!' demanded the Duchess with
displeasure.

'No, Madame, thanks, thanks to you. Oh! I never will be self-willed and
naughty again. Forgive me, Madame.' And down she dropped on her knee,
with clasped hands and glistening eyes.

'Forgive you, silly child, for what?' said Madame de Quinet, nearly
laughing.

'Ah! for the angry, passionate thoughts I had! Ah! Madame, I was all
but giving the stuff to my little angel in very spite--and then---'
Eutacie's voice was drowned in passion of tears, and she devoured the
old lady's hand with her kisses.

'Come, come,' said the Duchess, 'let us be reasonable. A man may be a
thief, but it does not follow that he is a poisoner.'

'Nay, that will we see,' cried Eutacie. 'He was resolved that the little
lamb should not escape, and he left a flask for her with Mademoiselle
Perrot. I will fetch it, if Madame will give me leave. Oh, the great
mercy of Heaven that made her so well that I gave her none!'

Madame de Quinet's analytic powers did not go very far; and would
probably have decided against the syrup if it had been nothing but
virgin honey. She was one who fully believed that her dear Queen Jeanne
had been poisoned with a pair of gloves, and she had unlimited faith in
the powers of evil possessed by Rene of Milan. Of course, she detected
the presence of a slow poison, whose effects would have been attributed
to the ailment it was meant to cure; and though her evidence was
insufficient, she probably did Ercole no injustice. She declined testing
the compound on any unfortunate dog or cat, but sealed it up in the
presence of Gardon, Eutacie, and Mademoiselle Perrot, to be produced
against the pedlar if ever he should be caught.

Then she asked Eutacie if there was any reason to suspect that he
recognized her. Eutacie related the former dealings with him, when she
had sold him her jewels and her hair, but she had no notion of his being
the same person whom she had seen when at Montpipeau. Indeed, he had
altered his appearance so much that he had been only discovered at
Nid-de-Merle by eyes sharpened by distrust of his pretensions to magic
arts.

Madame de Quinet, however, concluded that Eutacie had been known, or
else that her jewels had betrayed her, and that the man must have been
employed by her enemies. If it had not been the depth of winter, she
would have provided for the persecuted lady's immediate transmission
to England; but he storms of the Bay of Biscay would have made this
impossible in the state of French navigation, even if Isaac Gardon had
been in a condition to move; for the first return of cold had brought
back severe rheumatic pains, and with them came a shortness of breath
which even the Duchess did not know to be the token of heart complaint.
He was confined to his room, and it was kneeling by his bedside that
Eutacie poured out her thankfulness for her child's preservation, and
her own repentance for the passing fit of self-will and petulance. The
thought of Rayonette's safety seemed absolutely to extinguish the fresh
anxiety that had arisen since it had become evident that her enemies no
longer supposed her dead, but were probably upon her traces. Somehow,
danger had become almost a natural element to her, and having once
expressed her firm resolution that nothing should separate her from
her adopted father, to whom indeed her care became constantly more
necessary, she seemed to occupy herself very little with the matter; she
nursed him as merrily as ever, and left to him and Madame de Quinet the
grave consultations as to what was to be done for her security. There
was a sort of natural buoyancy about her that never realized a danger
till it came, and then her spirit was roused to meet it.



CHAPTER XXXVI. SPELL AND POTION



     Churl, upon thy eyes I throw
     All the power this charm doth owe
                   MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM


Her rival lived! The tidings could not but be communicated to Diane
de Selinville, when her father set out _en grande tenue_ to demand his
niece from the Duke de Quinet. This, however, was not till spring was
advancing; for the pedlar had not been able to take a direct route back
to Nid-de-Merle, since his first measure had necessarily been to
escape into a province where the abstraction of a Huguenot nobleman's
despatches would be considered as a meritorious action. Winter weather,
and the practice of his profession likewise, delayed Ercole so much that
it was nearly Easter before he brought his certain intelligence to the
Chevalier, and to the lady an elixir of love, clear and coloured as
crystal, and infallible as an inspirer of affection.

Should she administer it, now that she knew her cousin not to be the
lawful object of affection she had so long esteemed him, but, as he
persisted in considering himself, a married man? Diane had more scruples
than she would have had a year before, for she had not so long watched
and loved one so true and conscientious as Berenger de Ribaumont without
having her perceptions elevated; but at the same time the passion of
love had become intensified, both by long continuance and by resistance.
She had attached herself, believing him free, and her affections could
not be disentangled by learning that he was bound--rather the contrary.

Besides, there was plenty of sophistry. Her father had always assured
her of the invalidity of the marriage, without thinking it necessary
to dwell on his own arrangements for making it invalid, so that was no
reasonable ground of objection; and a lady of Diane's period, living in
the world where she had lived, would have had no notion of objecting
to her lover for a previous amour, and as such was she bidden to rank
Berenger's relations with Eutacie. And there was the less scruple on
Eutacie's account, because the Chevalier, knowing that the Duchess had
a son and two grandsons, had conceived a great terror that she meant to
give his niece to one of them; and this would be infinitely worse,
both for the interests of the family and of their party, than even
her reunion with the young Baron. Even Narcisse, who on his return had
written to Paris a grudging consent to the experiment of his father and
sister, had allowed that the preservation of Berenger's life was needful
till Eutacie should be in their power so as to prevent such a marriage
as that! To Diane, the very suggestion became certainty: she already saw
Eutacie's shallow little heart consoled and her vanity excited by these
magnificent prospects, and she looked forward to the triumph of her own
constancy, when Berenger should find the image so long enshrined in his
heart crumble in its sacred niche.

Yet a little while then would she be patient, even though nearly a
year had passed and still she saw no effect upon her prisoners, unless,
indeed, Philip had drunk of one of her potions by mistake and his clumsy
admiration was the consequence. The two youths went on exactly in
the same manner, without a complaint, without a request, occupying
themselves as best they might--Berenger courteously attentive recovered
his health, and the athletic powers displayed by the two brothers when
wrestling, fencing, or snow-balling in the courtyard, were the amazement
and envy of their guard. Twice in the course of the winter there had
been an alarm of wolves, and in their eagerness and excitement about
this new sport, they had accepted the Chevalier's offer of taking their
parole for the hunt. They had then gone forth with a huge posse of
villagers, who beat the woods with their dogs till the beast was aroused
from its lair and driven into the alleys, where waited gentlemen,
gendarmes, and game keepers with their guns. These two chases were
chiefly memorable to Berenger, because in the universal intermingling
of shouting peasants he was able in the first to have some conversation
with Eutacie's faithful protector Martin, who told him the incidents of
her wanderings, with tears in his eyes, and blessed him for his faith
that she was not dead; and in the second, he actually found himself
in the ravine of the Grange du Temple. No need to ask, every voice was
shouting the name, and though the gendarmes were round him and he durst
not speak to Rotrou, still he could reply with significative earnestness
to the low bow with which the farmer bent to evident certainty that here
was the imprisoned Protestant husband of the poor lady. Berenger wore
his black vizard mask as had been required of him, but the man's eyes
followed him, as though learning by heart the outline of his tall
figure. The object of the Chevalier's journey was, of course, a secret
from the prisoners, who merely felt its effects by having their meals
served to them in their own tower; and when he returned after about a
month's absence though him looking harassed, aged, and so much out of
humour that he could scarcely preserve his usual politeness. In effect
he was greatly chagrined.

'That she is in their hands is certain, the hypocrites!' he said to his
daughter and sister; 'and no less so that they have designs on her; but
I let them know that these could be easily traversed.'

'But where is she, the unhappy apostate child?' said the Abbess. 'They
durst not refuse her to you.'

'I tell you they denied all present knowledge of her. The Duke himself
had the face to make as though he never heard of her. He had no concern
with his mother's household and guests forsooth! I do not believe he
has; the poor fellow stands in awe of that terrible old heretic dragon,
and keeps aloof from her as much as he can. But he is, after all, a
_beau jeune home_; nor should I be surprised if he were the girl's gay
bridegroom by this time, though I gave him a hint that there was an
entanglement about the child's first marriage which, by French law,
would invalidate any other without a dispensation from the Pope.'

'A hard nut that for a heretic,' laughed the Abbess.

'He acted the ignorant--knew nothing about the young lady; but had the
civility to give me a guide and an escort to go to Quinet. _Ma foi_! I
believe they were given to hinder me--take me by indirect roads, make
me lose time at chateaux. When I arrived at the grim old chateau--a true
dungeon, precise as a convent--there was the dame, playing the Queen
Jeanne as well as she could, and having the insolence to tell me that it
was true that Madame la Baronne de Ribaumont, as she was pleased to call
her, had honoured her residence for some months, but that she had now
quitted it, and she flatly refused to answer any question whither she
was gone! The hag! she might at least have had the decorum to deny all
knowledge of her, but nothing is more impertinent that the hypocritical
sincerity of the heretics.'

'But her people,' exclaimed the Abbess; 'surely some of them knew, and
could be brought to speak.'

'All the servants I came in contact with played the incorruptible; but
still I have done something. There were some fellows in the village who
are not at their ease under that rule. I caused my people to inquire
them out. They knew nothing more than that the old heretic Gardon with
his family had gone away in Madame la Duchesse's litter, but whither
they could not tell. But the _cabaretier_ there is furious secretly with
the Quinets for having spoilt his trade by destroying the shrine at the
holy well, and I have made him understand that it will be for his
profit to send me off intelligence so soon as there is any communication
between them and the lady. I made the same arrangement with a couple of
gendarmes of the escort the Duke gave me. So at least we are safe for
intelligence such as would hinder a marriage.'

'But they will be off to England!' said the Abbess.

'I wager they will again write to make sure of a reception. Moreover,
I have set that fellow Ercole and others of his trade to keep a strict
watch on all the roads leading to the ports, and give me due notice of
their passing thither. We have law on our side, and, did I once claim
her, no one could resist my right. Or should the war break out, as is
probable, then could my son sweep their whole province with his troops.
This time she cannot escape us.

The scene that her father's words and her own imagination conjured up,
of Eustacie attracting the handsome widower-duke, removed all remaining
scruples from Madame de Selinville. For his own sake, the Baron must be
made to fulfil the prophecy of the ink-pool, and allow his prison doors
to be opened by love. Many and many a tender art did Diane rehearse;
numerous were her sighs; wakeful, languishing, and restless her nights
and days; and yet, whatever her determination to practise upon her
cousin the witcheries that she had learnt in the _Escadron de la
Reine-mere_, and seen played off effectually where there was not one
grain of love to inspire them, her powers and her courage always failed
her in the presence of him whom she sought to attract. His quiet reserve
and simplicity always disconcerted her, and any attempt at blandishment
that he could not mistake was always treated by him as necessarily
an accidental error, as if any other supposition would render her
despicable; and yet there was now and then a something that made her
detect an effort in his restraint, as if it were less distaste
than self-command. Her brother had contemptuously acquiesced in the
experiment made by herself and her father, and allowed that so long as
there was any danger of the Quinet marriage, the Baron's existence was
needful. He would not come to Nid-de-Merle, nor did they want him there,
knowing that he could hardly have kept his hands off his rival. But when
the war broke out again in the summer of 1575 he joined that detachment
of Guise's army which hovered about the Loire, and kept watch on the
Huguenot cities and provinces of Western France. The Chevalier made
several expeditions to confer with his son, and to keep up his relations
with the network of spies whom he had spread over the Quinet provinces.
The prisoners were so much separated from all intercourse with the
dependants that they were entirely ignorant of the object of his absence
from home. On these occasions they never left their tower and its court,
and had no enlivenment save an occasional gift of dainties or message
of inquiry from the ladies at Bellaise. These were brought by a handsome
but slight, pale lad called Aime de Selinville, a relative of the late
Count, as he told them, who had come to act as a gentleman attendant
upon the widowed countess. The brothers rather wondered how he was
disposed of at the convent, but all there was so contrary to their
preconceived notions that they acquiesced. The first time he arrived
it was on a long, hot summer day, and he then brought them a cool iced
sherbet in two separate flasks, that for Philip being mixed with wine,
which was omitted for Berenger; and the youth stood lingering and
watching, anxious, he said, to be able to tell his lady how the drinks
were approved. Both were excellent, and to that effect the prisoners
replied; but no sooner was the messenger gone than Berenger said
smilingly, 'That was a love potion, Phil.'

'And you drank it!' cried Philip, in horror.

'I did not think of it till I saw how the boy's eyes were gazing
curiously at me as I swallowed it. You look at me as curiously, Phil.
Are you expecting it to work? Shall I be at the fair lady's feet next
time we meet?'

'How can you defy it, Berry?'

'Nay, Phil; holy wedded love is not to be dispelled by a mountebank's
decoction.'

'But suppose it were poisonous, Berry, what can be done?' cried Philip,
starting up in dismay.

'Then you would go home, Phil, and this would be over. But'--seeing his
brother's terror--'there is no fear of that. She is not like to wish to
poison me.'

And the potion proved equally ineffective on mind and body, as indeed
did all the manipulations exercised upon a little waxen image that was
supposed to represent M. le Baron. Another figure was offered to Diane,
in feminine form, with black beads for eyes and a black plaster for
hair, which, when stuck full of pins and roasted before the fire, was to
cause Eustacie to peak and pine correspondingly. But from this measure
Diane shrank. If aught was done against her rival it must be by her
father and brother, not by herself; and she would not feel herself
directly injuring her little cousin, nor sinking herself below him whom
she loved. Once his wife, she would be good for ever, held up by his
strength.

Meantime Berenger had received a greater shock than she or her father
understood in the looking over of some of the family parchments kept in
store at the castle. The Chevalier, in showing them to him, had chiefly
desired to glorify the family by demonstrating how its honours had been
won, but Berenger was startled at finding that Nid-de-Merle had been, as
it appeared to him, arbitrarily and unjustly declared to be forfeited by
the Sieur de Bellaise, who had been thrown into prison by Louis XI. for
some demonstration in favour of the poor Duke de Berri, and granted
to the favourite Ribaumont. The original grant was there, and to his
surprise he found it was to male heirs--the male heirs alone of the
direct line of the Ribaumont--to whom the grant was made. How, then,
came it to Eustacie? The disposal had, with almost equal injustice, been
changed by King Henry II. and the late Count de Ribaumont in favour of
the little daughter whose union with the heir of the elder line was to
conclude all family feuds. Only now did Berenger understand what his
father had said on his death-bed of flagrant injustice committed in his
days of darkness. He felt that he was reaping the reward of the injuries
committed against the Chevalier and his son on behalf of the two
unconscious children. He would willingly at once have given up all claim
to the Nid-de-Merle estate--and he was now of age; two birthdays had
passed in his captivity and brought him to years of discretion--but he
had no more power than before to dispose of what was the property of
Eustacie and her child; and the whole question of the validity of his
marriage would be given up by his yielding even the posthumous claim
that might have devolved on him in case of Eustacie's death. This would
be giving up her honour, a thing impossible.

'Alas!' he sighed, 'my poor father might well say he had bound a heavy
burthen round my neck.'

And from that time his hopes sank lower as the sense of the justice of
his cause left him. He could neither deny his religion nor his marriage,
and therefore could do nothing for his own deliverance; and he knew
himself to be suffering in the cause of a great injustice; indeed, to be
bringing suffering on the still more innocent Philip.

The once proudly indifferent youth was flagging now; was losing
appetite, flesh, and colour; was unwilling to talk or to take exercise;
and had a wan and drooping air that was most painful to watch. It seemed
as if the return of summer brought a sense of the length and weariness
of the captivity, and that the sunshine and gaiety of the landscape had
become such a contrast to the captives' deadness of spirit that they
could hardly bear to behold them, and felt the dull prison walls more
congenial to their feelings than the gaiety of the summer hay and
harvest-fields.



CHAPTER XXXVII. BEATING AGAINST THE BARS



My horse is weary of the stall, And I am sick of captive thrall.--LADY
OF THE LAKE


Letters! They were hailed like drops of water in a thirsty land. No
doubt they had been long on the way, ere they had reached the hands of
the Chevalier de Ribaumont, and it was quite possible that they had been
read and selected; but, as Berenger said, he defied any Frenchman to
imitate either Lord Walwyn's style or Sir Marmaduke's, and when late
in the autumn the packet was delivered to him, the two captives gloated
over the very outsides before they opened them.

The first intelligence that greeted them made them give a cry of
amusement and surprise. Lady Thistlewood, whose regrets that each of her
girls was not a boy had passed into a proverb, had at length, in Dolly's
seventh year, given birth to a son on Midsummer Day.

'Well,' said Philip, sighing, 'we must drink his health tonight! It is
well, if we are to rot here, that some one should make it up to them!'

'And join Walwyn and Hurst!' said Berenger; and then both faces grew
much graver, as by these letters, dated three months since, they
understood how many they must have missed, and likewise that nothing had
been heard of themselves since they had left Paris sixteen months ago.
Their letters, both to their relations and to Sir Francis Walsingham,
had evidently been suppressed; and Lord North, who had succeeded
Walsingham as ambassador, had probably been misled by design, either
by Narcisse de Nid-de-Merle himself, or by some of his agents, for Lord
Walwyn had heard from him that the young men were loitering among the
castles and garrisons of Anjou, leading a gay and dissipated life,
and that it was universally believed that the Baron de Ribaumont had
embraced the Catholic faith, and would shortly be presented to Henry
III. to receive the grant of the Selinville honours, upon his
marriage with his cousin, the widow of the last of the line. With much
earnestness and sorrow did good old Lord Walwyn write to his grandson,
conjuring him to bethink himself of his some, his pure faith, his loving
friends, and the hopes of his youth: and, at least, if he himself had
been led away by the allurements of the other party, to remember that
Philip had been intrusted to him in full confidence, and to return him
to his home. 'It was grief and shame to him,' said the good old man,
'to look at Sir Marmaduke, who had risked his son in the charge of one
hitherto deemed trustworthy; and even if Berenger had indeed forgotten
and cast away those whom he had once seemed to regard with love and
duty, he commanded him to send home Philip, who owed an obedience to
his father that could not be gainsaid.' Lord Walwyn further bade his
grandson remember that the arrangements respecting his inheritance had
been made in confidence that his heir was English in heart and faith,
and that neither the Queen nor his own conscience would allow him to let
his inheritance pass into French of Papist hands. There was scarcely a
direct reproach, but the shaken, altered handwriting showed how stricken
the aged man must be; and after his signature was added one still more
trembling line, 'An ye return not speedily, ye will never see the old
grandsire more.'

Berenger scarcely finished the letter through his burning tears of
agony, and then, casting it from him, began to pace the room in fierce
agitation, bursting out into incoherent exclamations, grasping at
his hair, even launching himself against the massive window with such
frenzied gestures and wild words that Philip, who had read through all
with his usual silent obtuseness, became dismayed, and, laying hold of
him, said, 'Prithee, brother, do not thus! What serves such passion?'

Berenger burst into a strange loud laugh at the matter-of-fact tone.
'What serves it! what serves anything!' he cried, 'but to make me feel
what a miserable wretch I am? But he will die, Philip--he will die--not
having believed me! How shall we keep ourselves from the smooth-tongued
villain's throat? That I should be thus judged a traitor by my
grandfather----'

And with a cry as of bodily anguish, he hid his face on the table, and
groaned as he felt the utter helplessness of his strong youth in bonds.

'It can't be helped,' was the next of the unconsolatory platitudes
uttered by Philip, who always grew sullen and dogged when his brother's
French temperament broke forth under any sudden stroke. 'If they will
believe such things, let them! You have not heard what my father says to
it.'

'It will be all the same,' groaned Berenger.

'Nay! now that's a foul slander, and you should be ashamed of doing my
father such wrong,' said Philip, 'Listen;' and he read: 'I will believe
no ill of the lad no more than of thee, Phil. It is but a wild-goose
chase, and the poor young woman is scarce like to be above ground;
but, as I daily tell them, 'tis hard a man should forfeit his land for
seeking his wife. My Lord North sends rumours that he is under Papist
guiding, and sworn brother with the Black Ribaumonts; and my Lady, his
grandmother, is like to break her heart, and my Lord credits them more
than he ought, and never a line as a token comes from you. Then there's
Dame Annora, as proud of the babe as though neither she nor woman born
ever had a son before, and plains over him, that both his brothers
should be endowed, and he but a younger son. What will be the end on't I
cannot tell. I will stand up for the right as best man may do, and never
forget that Berry is her first-born, and that his child may be living;
but the matter is none of mine, and my Lord is very aged, nor can a man
meddle between his wife and her father. So this I tell you that you may
make your brother lay it to heart. The sooner he is here the better,
if he be still, as I verily believe and maintain him to be, an honest
English heart that snaps his fingers at French papistry.' 'There,'
conclude Philip triumphantly, 'he knows an honest man! He's friend and
good father to you as much as ever. Heed none of the rest. He'll never
let this little rogue stand in your light.'

'as if I cared for that!' said Berenger, beginning his caged-tiger walk
again, and, though he tried to repress his anguish, breaking out at
times into fierce revilings of the cruel toils that beset him, and
despairing lamentations over those beloved ones at home, with sobs,
groans, and tears, such as Philip could not brook to witness. Both
because they were so violent and mourn-full, and because he thought them
womanish, though in effect no woman's grief could have had half that
despairing force. The _fierte_ of the French noble, however, came to
his aid. At the first sound of the great supper-bell he dashed away his
tears, composed his features, washed his face, and demanded haughtily
of Philip, whether there were any traces in his looks that the cruel
hypocrite, their jailer, could gloat over.

And with proud step and indifferent air he marched into the hall,
answered the Chevalier's polite inquiry whether the letter had brought
good tidings by coolly thanking him and saying that all at home were
well; and when he met the old man's inquiring glance out of the little
keen black bead in the puckered, withered eyelid, he put a perfectly
stony unmeaningness into his own gaze, till his eyes looked like the
blue porcelain from China so much prized by the Abbess. He even played
at chess all the evening with such concentrated attention as to be
uniformly victorious.

Yet half the night Philip heard suppressed moans and sobs--then knew
that he was on his knees--then, after long and comparatively silent
weeping, he lay down again, and from the hour when he awoke in the
morning, he returned no more to the letters; and though for some little
time more sad and dispirited, he seemed to have come to regard the
misjudgment at home as a part of the burthen he was already bearing.

That burthen was, however, pressing more heavily. The temperaments of
the two brothers so differed that while the French one was prostrated by
the agony of a stroke, and then rallied patiently to endure the effects,
the English character opposed a passive resistance to the blow, gave no
sign of grief or pain, and from that very determination suffered a sort
of exhaustion that made the effects of the evil more and more left.
Thus, from the time Philip's somewhat tardy imagination had been made
to realize his home, his father, and his sisters, the home-sickness,
and weariness of his captivity, which had already begun to undermine his
health and spirits, took increasing effect.

He made no complaint--he never expressed a wish--but, in the words of
the prophet, he seemed 'pining away on his feet.' He did not sleep, and
though, to avoid remark, he never failed to appear at meals, he scarcely
tasted food. He never willingly stirred from cowering over the fire, and
was so surly and ill-tempered that only Berenger's unfailing good-humour
could have endured it. Even a wolf-hunt did not stir him. He only said
he hated outlandish beasts, and that it was not like chasing the hare in
Dorset. His calf-love for Madame de Selinville had entirely faded away
in his yearnings after home. She was only one of the tediously recurring
sights of his captivity, and was loathed like all the rest. The
regulation rides with the Chevalier were more detestable than ever,
and by and by they caused such fatigue that Berenger perceived that
his strength must be warning, and became so seriously alarmed that one
evening, when Philip had barely dragged himself to the hall, tasted
nothing but a few drops of wine, and then dropped into an uneasy slumber
in his chair, he could not but turn to the Chevalier an appealing,
indignant countenance, as he said, in a low but quivering voice, 'You
see, sir, how he is altered!'

'Alas! fair nephew, it is but too plain. He is just of the age when such
restraint tells severely upon the health.'

Then Berenger spoke out upon the foul iniquity of the boy's detention.
For himself, he observed, he had nothing to say; he knew the term of his
release, and had not accepted them; but Philip, innocent of all damage
to the Ribaumont interests, the heir of an honourable family, what had
he done to incur the cruel imprisonment that was eating away his life?

'I tell you, sir,' said Berenger, with eyes filled with tears,' that his
liberty is more precious to me than my own. Were he but restored to our
home, full half the weight would be gone from my spirit.'

'Fair nephew,' said the Chevalier, 'you speak as though I had any power
in the matter, and were not merely standing between you and the King.'

'Then if so,' said Berenger, 'let the King do as he will with me, but
let Philip's case be known to our Ambassador.'

'My poor cousin,' said the Chevalier, 'you know not what you ask. Did I
grant your desire, you would only learn how implacable King Henri is
to those who have personally offended him--above all, to heretics. Nor
could the Ambassador do anything for one who resisted by force of
arms the King's justice. Leave it to me; put yourself in my hands, and
deliverance shall come for him first, then for you.'

'How, sir?'

'One token of concession--one attendance at mass--one pledge that
the alliance shall take place when the formalities have been complied
with--then can I report you our own; give you almost freedom at once;
despatch our young friend to England without loss of time; so will
brotherly affection conquer those chivalrous scruples, most honourable
in you, but which, carried too far, become cruel obstinacy.'

Berenger looked at Philip; saw how faded and wan was the ruddy sun-burnt
complexion, how lank and bony the sturdy form, how listless and wasted
the hands. Then arose, bursting within him, the devoted generosity of
the French nature, which would even accept sin and ruin for self, that
so the friend may be saved; and after all, had he not gone to mass out
of mere curiosity?--did he not believe that there was salvation in the
Gallican Church? Was it not possible that, with Philip free to tell
his story at home, his own deliverance might come before he should be
irrevocably committed to Madame de Selinville? If Eustacie were living,
her claims must overthrow that which her rival was forcing upon him at
her own peril. Nay, how else could he obtain tidings of her? And for
those at home, did they deserve that he should sacrifice all, Philip
included, for their sake? The thoughts, long floating round his brain,
now surged upon him in one flood, and seemed to overwhelm in those
moments of confusion all his powers of calling up the other side of the
argument; he only had an instinct remaining that it would be a lie to
God and man alike. 'God help me!' he sighed to himself; and there was
sufficient consideration and perplexity expressed in his countenance to
cause the Chevalier to feel his cause almost gained; and rising eagerly,
with tears in his eyes, he exclaimed, 'Embrace me, my dear, dear son!
The thing is done! Oh! what peace, what joy!'

The instinct of recoil came stronger now. He stepped back with folded
arms, saying again, 'God help me! God forbid that I should be a
traitor!'

'My son, hear me; these are but easily removed points of honour,' began
the Chevalier; but at that moment Philip suddenly started from, or in
his slumber, leapt on his feet, and called out, 'Avaunt, Satan!' then
opened his eyes, and looked, as if barely recalling where he was.

'Philip!' exclaimed Berenger, 'did you hear?'

'I--I don't know,' he said, half-bewildered. 'Was I dreaming that the
fiend was parleying with us in the voice of M. le Chevalier there to
sell our souls for one hour of home?'

He spoke English, but Berenger replied in French.

'You were not wrong, Philip. Sir, he dreamt that the devil was
tempting me in your voice while you were promising me his liberty on my
fulfilling your first condition.'

'What?' said Philip, now fully awake, and gathering the state of things,
as he remembered the words that had doubtless been the cause of his
dream. 'And if you did, Berenger, I give you warning they should never
see me at home. What! could I show my face there with such tidings? No!
I should go straight to La Noue, or to the Low Countries, and kill every
Papist I could for having debauched you!'

'Hush! hush! Philip,' said Berenger; 'I could not break my faith to
Heaven or my wife even for your sake, and my cousin sees how little
beholden you would be to me for so doing. With your leave, Monsieur, we
will retire.'

The Chevalier detained Berenger for a moment to whisper, 'What I see
is so noble a heart that I know you cannot sacrifice him to your
punctilio.'

Philip was so angry with Berenger, so excited, and so determined to show
that nothing ailed him, that for a short time he was roused, and seemed
to be recovering; but in a few days he flagged again, only, if possible
with more gruffness, moodiness, and pertinacity in not allowing that
anything was amiss. It was the bitterest drop of all in Berenger's cup,
when in the end of January he looked back at what Philip had been only
a month before, and saw how he had wasted away and lost strength; the
impulse rather to ruin himself that destroy his brother came with such
force that he could scarcely escape it by his ever-recurring cry
for help to withstand it. And then Diane, in her splendid beauty and
withchery, would rise before him, so that he knew how a relaxation of
the lengthened weary effort would make his whole self break its
bonds and go out to her. Dreams of felicity and liberty, and not
with Eustacie, would even come over him, and he would awaken to
disappointment before he came to a sense of relief and thankfulness
that he was still his own. The dislike, distaste, and dread that came
so easily in his time of pain and weakness were less easy to maintain
in his full health and forced inactivity. Occupation of mind and hope
seemed the only chance of enabling either of the two to weather this
most dreary desert period; and Berenger, setting his thoughts resolutely
to consider what would be the best means of rousing Philip, decided
at length that any endeavour to escape, however arduous and desperate,
would be better than his present apathetic languor, even if it led to
nothing. After the first examination of their prison, Berenger had had
no thought of escape; he was then still weak and unenterprising. He had
for many months lived in hopes of interference from home; and, besides,
the likelihood that so English a party as his own would be quickly
pursued and recaptured, where they did not know their road and had
no passports, had deterred him lest should fall into still straiter
imprisonment. But he had since gained, in the course of his rides, and
by observation from the top of the tower, a much fuller knowledge of the
country. He knew the way to the grange du Temple, and to the chief towns
in the neighbourhood. Philip and Humfrey had both lost something of
their intensely national look and speech, and, moreover, was having
broken out again, there was hope of falling in with Huguenot partisans
even nearer that at La Rochelle. But whether successful or not, some
enterprise was absolutely needed to save Philip from his despondent
apathy; and Berenger, who in these eighteen months had grown into the
strength and vigour of manhood, felt as if he had force and power for
almost any effort save this hopeless waiting.

He held council with Humfrey, who suggested that it might be well to
examine the vaults below the keep. He had a few days before, while
going after some of the firewood stored below the ground-floor chamber,
observed a door, locked, but with such rusty iron hinges that they might
possibly yield to vigorous efforts with a stone; and who could tell
where the underground passages might come out?

Berenger eagerly seized the idea. Philip's mood of contradiction
prompted him to pronounce it useless folly, and he vouchsafed no
interest in the arrangements for securing light, by selecting all the
bits of firewood fittest for torches, and saving all the oil possible
from the two lamps they were allowed. The chief difficulty was that
Guibert was not trusted, so that all had to be done out of his sight;
and on the first day Berenger was obliged to make the exploration alone,
since Humfrey was forced to engross Guibert in some occupation out of
sight, and Philip had refused to have anything to do with it, or be like
a rat routing in the corners of his trap.

However, Berenger had only just ascertained that the ironwork was
so entirely rusted away as to offer no impediment, when Philip came
languidly roaming into the cellar, saying, 'Here! I'll hold the torch!
You'll be losing yourself in this wolf's mouth of a place if you go
alone.'

The investigation justified Philip's predictions of its uselessness.
Nothing was detected but rats, and vaults, and cobwebs; it was cold,
earthy, and damp; and when they thought they must have penetrated far
beyond the precincts of the keep, they heard Humfrey's voice close to
them, warning them that it was nearly dinner-time.

The next day brought them a more promising discovery, namely of a long
straight passage, with a gleam of light at the end of it; and this for
the first time excited Philip's interest or curiosity. He would have
hastened along it at once, but for the warning summons from Humfrey; and
in the excitement of even this grain of interest, he ate more heartily
at supper than he had done for weeks, and was afterwards more eager
to prove to Berenger that night was the best time to pursue their
researches.

And Berenger, when convinced that Guibert was sound asleep, thought so
too, and accompanied by Humfrey, they descended into the passage. The
light, of course, was no longer visible, but the form of the crypt,
through which they now passed, was less antique than that under the
keep, and it was plain they were beneath a later portion of the Castle.
The gallery concluded in a wall, with a small barred, unglazed window,
perfectly dark, so that Berenger, who alone could reach to the bottom of
it, could not uses where it looked out.

'We must return by daylight; then, maybe, we may judge,' sighed Philip.

'Hark!' exclaimed Berenger.

'Rats,' said Philip.

'No--listen--a voice! Take care!' he added, in a lower tone, 'we may be
close on some of the servants.'

But, much nearer than he expected, a voice on his right hand demanded,
'Does any good Christian hear me?'

'Who is there?' exclaimed Philip.

'Ah! good sir, do I hear the voice of a companion in misery? Or, if you
be free, would you but send tidings to my poor father?'

'It is a Norman accent!' cried Berenger. 'Ah! ah! can it be poor Landry
Osbert?'

'I am--I am that wretch. Oh, would that M. le Baron could know!'

'My dear, faithful foster-brother! They deceived me,' cried Berenger,
in great agitation, as an absolute howl came from the other side of the
wall: 'M. le Baron come to this! Woe worth the day!' and Berenger with
difficulty mitigated his affectionate servant's lamentations enough to
learn from him how he had been seized almost at the gates of Bellaise,
closely interrogated, deprived of the letter to Madame la Baronne,
and thrown into this dungeon. The Chevalier. Not an unmerciful man,
according to the time, had probably meant to release him as soon as the
marriage between his son and niece should have rendered it superfluous
to detain this witness to Berenger's existence. There, then, the poor
fellow had lain for three years, and his work during this weary time
had been the scraping with a potsherd at the stone of his wall, and his
pertinacious perseverance had succeeded in forming a hole just large
enough to enable him to see the light of the torch carried by the
gentlemen. On his side, he said, there was nothing but a strong iron
door, and a heavily-barred window, looking, like that in the passage,
into the fosse within the walled garden; but, on the other hand, if he
could enlarge his hole sufficiently to creep through it, he could escape
with them in case of their finding a subterranean outlet. The opening
within his cell was, of course, much larger than the very small space
he had made by loosening a stone towards the passage, but he was obliged
always to build up each side of his burrow at the hours of his jailer's
visit, lest his work should be detected, and to stamp the rubbish into
his floor. But while they talked, Humfrey and Philip, with their knives,
scraped so diligently that two more stones could be displaced; and,
looking down the widening hole through the prodigious mass of wall,
they could see a ghastly, ragged, long-bearded scarecrow, with an almost
piteous expression of joy on his face, at once again seeing familiar
faces. And when, at his earnest entreaty, Berenger stood so as to allow
his countenance to be as visible as the torch could make it through the
'wall's-hole,' the vault echoed with the poor fellow's delighted cry.
'I am happy! M. le Baron is himself again. The assassin's cruel work is
gone! Ah! thanks to the saints! Blessed be St. Lucie, it was not in vain
that I entreated her!'

The torches were, however, waxing so low that the sight could not long
be afforded poor Osbert; and, with a promise to return to him next day,
the party returned to the upper air, where they warmed themselves over
the fire, and held council over measures for the present relief of the
captive. Berenger grieved that he had given him up so entirely for lost
as to have made no exertions on his behalf, and declared his resolution
of entreating that he might be allowed to enjoy comparative comfort with
them in the keep. It was a risk, but the Chevalier might fairly suppose
that the knowledge of Osbert's situation had oozed out through the
servants, and gratitude and humanity alike impelled Berenger to run some
risk for his foster-brother's sake. He was greatly touched at the poor
fellow's devotion, and somewhat amused, though with an almost tearful
smile at the joy with which he had proclaimed--what Berenger was quite
unaware of, since the keep furnished no mirrors--the disappearance of
his scars. ''Tis even so,' said Philip, 'though I never heeded it. You
are as white from crown to beard as one of the statues at Paris; but the
great red gash is a mere seam, save when yon old Satan angers you, and
then it blushes for all the rest of your face.'

'And the cheek-wound is hidden, I suppose,' said Berenger, feeling
under the long fair moustache and the beard, which was developing into
respectable proportions.

'Hidden? ay, entirely. No one would think your bald crown had only
twenty-one years over it; but you are a personable fellow still, quite
enough to please Daphne,' said Philip.

'Pshaw!' replied Berenger, pleased nevertheless to hear the shadow of a
jest again from Philip.

It was quite true. These months of quiescence--enforced though they
were--had given his health and constitution time to rally after the
terrible shock they had sustained. The severe bleedings had, indeed,
rendered his complexion perfectly colourless; but there was something
in this, as well as in the height which the loss of hair gave his brow,
which, added to the depth and loftiness of countenance that this long
period of patience and resolution had impressed on his naturally fine
features, without taking away that open candour that had first attracted
Diane when he was a rosy lad. His frame had strengthened at the same
time, and assumed the proportions of manhood; so that, instead of
being the overgrown maypole that Narcisse used to sneer at, he was now
broad-shouldered and robust, exceedingly powerful, and so well made
that his height, upwards of six feet, was scarcely observed, except by
comparison with the rest of the world.

And his character had not stood still. He had first come to Paris
a good, honest, docile, though high-spirited boy: and though manly
affections, cares, and sorrows had been thrust on him, he had met them
like the boy that he was, hardly conscious how deep they went. Then
had come the long dream of physical suffering, with only one thought
pertinaciously held throughout--that of constancy to his lost wife;
and from this he had only thoroughly wakened in his captivity,
the resolution still holding fast, but with more of reflection and
principle, less of mere instinct, than when his powers were lost or
distracted in the effort of constant endurance of pain and weakness. The
charge of Philip, the endeavour both of educating him and keeping up
his spirits, as well as the controversy with Pere Bonami, had been no
insignificant parts of the discipline of these months; and, little as
the Chevalier had intended it, he had trained his young kinsman into a
far more substantial and perilous adversary, both in body and mind, than
when he had caged him in his castle of the Blackbird's Nest.



CHAPTER XXXVIII. THE ENEMY IN PRESENCE



     Then came and looked him in the face,
       An angel beautiful and bright,
     And then he knew it was a fiend,
       That miserable knight.
                 --COLERIDGE


'Father, dear father, what is it? What makes you look so ill, so
haggard?' cried Diane de Selinville, when summoned the next morning to
meet her father in the parlour of the convent.

'Ah, child! see here. Your brother will have us make an end of it. He
has found her.'

'Eustacie! Ah, and where?'

'That he will not say, but see here. This is all billet tells me: "The
hare who has doubled so long is traced to her form. My dogs are on her,
and in a week's time she will be ours. I request you, sir, to send me a
good purse of crowns to reward my huntsmen; and in the meantime--one
way or the other--that pet of my sister's must be disposed of. Kept too
long, these beasts always become savage. Either let him be presented to
the royal menagerie, or there is a still surer way."'

'And that is all he says!' exclaimed Diane.

'All! He was always cautions. He mentions no names. And now, child, what
is to be done? To give him up to the King is, at the best, life-long
imprisonment, yet, if he were still here when my son returns--Alas!
alas! child, I have been ruined body and soul between you! How could you
make me send after and imprison him? It was a mere assassination!' and
the old man beat his head with grief and perplexity.

'Father!' cried Diane, tearfully, 'I cannot see you thus. We meant it
for the best. We shall yet save him.'

'Save him! Ah, daughter, I tossed all night long thinking how to save
him, so strong, so noble, so firm, so patient, so good even to the old
man who has destroyed his hope--his life! Ah! I have thought till my
brain whirls.'

'Poor father! I knew you would love him,' said Diane, tenderly. 'Ah! we
will save him yet. He shall be the best of sons to you. Look, it is only
to tell him that she whom he calls his wife is already in my brother's
hands, wedded to him.'

'Daughter,'--and he pushed back his gray hair with a weary distressed
gesture,--'I am tired of wiles; I am old; I can carry them out no
longer.'

'But this is very simple; it may already be true--at least it will soon
be true. Only tell him that she is my brother's wife. Then will his
generosity awaken, then will he see that to persist in the validity of
his marriage would be misery, dishonour to her, then----'

'Child, you know not how hard he is in his sense of right. Even for
his brother's sake he would not give way an inch, and the boy was as
obstinate as he!'

'Ah! but this comes nearer. He will be stung; his generosity will be
piqued. He will see that the kindest thing he can do will be to nullify
his claim, and the child----'

The Chevalier groaned, struck his brow with his fist, and muttered,
'That will concern no one--that has been provided for. Ah! ah! children,
if I lose my own soul for you, you----'

'Father, my sweet father, say not these cruel things. Did not the
Queen's confessor tell us that all means were lawful that brought a soul
to the Church? and here are two.'

'Two! Why, the youth's heresy is part of his point of honour. Child,
child, the two will be murdered in my very house, and the guilt will be
on my soul.'

'No, father! We will--we will save him. See, only tell him this.'

'This--what? My brain is confused. I have thought long--long.'

'Only this, father, dear father. You shall not be tormented any more, if
only you will tell him that my brother has made Eustacie his wife, then
will I do all the rest.'

Diane coaxed, soothed, and encouraged her father by her caresses, till
he mounted his mule to return to the castle at dinner-time, and she
promised to come early in the afternoon to follow up the stroke he was
to give. She had never seen him falter before,--he had followed out his
policy with a clear head and unsparing hand,--but now that Berenger's
character was better known to him, and the crisis long delayed had come
so suddenly before his eyes, his whole powers seemed to reel under the
alternative.

The dinner-bell clanged as he arrived at the castle, and the prisoners
were marched into the hall, both intent upon making their request on
Osbert's behalf, and therefore as impatient for the conclusion of the
meal, and the absence of the servants, as was their host. His hands
trembled so much that Berenger was obliged to carve for him; he made the
merest feint of eating; and now and then raised his hand to his head as
if to bring back scattered ideas.

The last servant quitted the room, when Berenger perceived that the
old man was hardly in a state to attend to his request, and yet the
miserable frost-bitten state of poor Landry seemed to compel him to
speak.

'Sir,' he began, 'you could do me a great kindness.'

The Chevalier looked up at him with glassy eyes.

'My son,' he said, with an effort, 'I also had something to say. Ah!
let me think. I have had enough. Call my daughter,' he added, feeling
helplessly with his hands, so that Berenger started up in alarm, and
received him in his arms just in time to prevent his sinking to the
floor senseless.

'It is a stroke,' exclaimed Berenger. 'Call, Phil! Send the gendarmes.'

The gendarmes might be used to the sight of death of their own causing,
but they had a horror of that which came by Nature's hand. The purple
face and loud gasps of the stricken man terrified them out of their
senses. _'C'est un coup,'_ was the cry, and they went clattering off to
the servants. These, all men but one old crone, came in a mass to the
door, looked in, beheld their master rigid and prostrate on the floor,
supported by the prisoner, and with fresh shrieks about 'Mesdames! a
priest! a doctor!' away they rushed. The two brothers were not in much
less consternation, only they retained their senses. Berenger loosened
the ruff and doublet, and bade Philip practice that art of letting blood
which he had learnt for his benefit. When Madame de Selinville and her
aunt, with their escort, having been met half-way from Bellaise, arrived
sooner than could have been expected, they found every door open from
hall to entrance gateway, not a person keeping watch, and the old man
lying deathlike upon cushions in the hall, Philip bandaging his arm,
and Berenger rubbing his temples with wine and the hottest spices on the
table. 'He is better--he is alive,' said Berenger, as they entered; and
as both ladies would have fallen on him with shrieks and sobs, he bade
them listen, assured them that the only chance of life was in immediate
care, and entreated that bedding might be brought down, and strong
essences fetched to apply to the nose and temples. They obeyed, and the
sister infirmarer had arrived from the convent, he had opened his eyes,
and, as he saw Berenger, tried to murmur something that sounded like
_'Mon fils.'_

'He lives!--he speaks!--he can receive the sacraments!' was the
immediate exclamation; and as preparations began to be made, the
brothers saw that their presence was no longer needed, and returned to
their own tower.

'So, sir,' said the gendarme sergeant, as they walked down the passage,
'you did not seize the moment for escape.'

'I never thought of it,' said Berenger.

'I hope, sir, you will not be the worse for it,' said the sergeant. 'An
honourable gentleman you have ever proved yourself to me, and I will
bear testimony that you did the poor old gentleman no hurt; but nobles
will have it their own way, and pay little heed to a poor soldier.'

'What do you mean, friend?'

'Why, you see, sir, it is unlucky that you two happened to be alone
with M. le Chevalier. No one can tell what may be said when they seek an
occasion against a person.'

To the brothers, however, this suggestion sounded so horrible and
unnatural, that they threw it from them. They applied themselves at
every moment possible to enlarging Osbert' hole, and seeking an outlet
from the dungeon; but this they had not been able to discover, and it
was necessary to be constantly on their guard in visiting the vaults,
lest their absence from their apartment should be detected. They
believed that if Narcisse arrived at the castle, they should find in him
a far less gentle jailer than the poor old man, for whose state their
kindly young hearts could not but grieve.

They heard that he had recovered consciousness enough to have made a
sort of confession; and Pere Bonami brought them his formal request, as
a dying man, for their pardon for all the injuries he had done them;
but his speech was too much affected for any specification of what
these were. The first thing they heard in early morning was that, in the
course of the night, he had breathed his last; and all day the bells
of all the churches round were answering one another with the slow,
swinging, melancholy notes of the knell.

In the early twilight, Pere Bonami brought a message that Madame de
Selinville requested M. le Baron to come and speak with her, and he was
accordingly conducted, with the gendarme behind him, to a small chamber
opening into the hall--the same where the incantations of the Italian
pedlar had been played off before Philip and Diane. The gendarme
remained outside the door by which they entered the little dark room,
only lighted by one little lamp.

'Here, daughter,' said the priest, 'is your cousin. He can answer the
question you have so much at heart;' and with these words Pere Bonami
passed beneath the black curtain that covered the entrance into the
hall, admitting as he raised it for a moment a floor of pure light from
the wax tapers, and allowing the cadence of the chanting of the priests
to fall on the ear. At first Berenger was scarcely able to discern the
pale face that looked as if tears were all dried up, and even before his
eyes had clearly perceived her in the gloom, she was standing before him
with clasped hands, demanding, in a hoarse, breathless whisper, 'Had he
said anything to you?'

'Anything? No, cousin,' said Berenger, in a kind tone. 'He had seemed
suffering and oppressed all dinner-time, and when the servants left us,
he murmured a few confused words, then sank.'

'Ah, ah, he spoke it not! Thank Heaven! Ah! it is a load gone. Then
neither will I speak it,' sighed Diane, half aloud. 'Ah! cousin, he
loved you.'

'He often was kind to us,' said Berenger, impelled to speak as tenderly
as he could of the enemy, who had certainly tortured him, but as if he
loved him.

'He bade us save you,' said Diane, her eyes shining with strange wild
light in the gloom. 'He laid it on my aunt and me to save you; you must
let us. It must be done before my brother comes,' she added, in hurried
accents. 'The messengers are gone; he may be here any moment. He must
find you in the chapel--as--as my betrothed!'

'And you sent for me here to tempt me--close to such a chamber as that?'
demanded Berenger, his gentleness becoming sternness, as much with his
own worse self as with her.

'Listen. Ah! it is the only way. Listen, cousin. Do you know what killed
my father? It was my brother's letter saying things must be brought to
an end: either you must be given up to the King, or worse--worse. And
now, without him to stand between you and my brother, you are lost. Oh!
take pity on his poor soul that has left his body, and bring not you
blood on his head.'

'Nay,' said Berenger, 'if he repented, the after consequences to me will
have no effect on him now.'

'Have pity then on yourself--on your brother.'

'I have,' said Berenger. 'He had rather die with me than see me a
traitor.'

'And least of all,' she exclaimed, with choking grief, 'have you
compassion on me!--on me who have lost the only one who felt for me--on
me who have loved you with every fibre of my heart--on me who have lived
on the music of your hardest, coldest word--on me who would lay my life,
my honour, in the dust for one grateful glance from you--and whom you
condemn to the anguish of--your death! Aye, and for what? For the mere
shadow of a little girl, who had no force to love you, or whom you know
nothing--nothing! Oh! are you a crystal rock or are you a man? See, I
kneel to you to save yourself and me.'

There were hot tears dropping from Berenger's eyes as he caught Diane's
hand, and held it forcibly to prevent her thus abasing herself. Her wild
words and gestures thrilled him in every pulse and wrung his heart, and
it was with a stifled, agitated voice that he said--

'God help you and me both, Diane! To do what you ask would--would be no
saving of either. Nay, if you will kneel,' as she struggled with him,
'let it be to Him who alone can bring us through;' and releasing her
hand, he dropped on his knees by her side, and covered his face with his
hands, in an earnest supplication that the spirit of resistance which
he almost felt slipping from him might be renewed. The action hushed and
silenced her, and as he rose he spoke no other word, but silently drew
back so much of the curtain that he could see into the hall, where the
dead man still lay uncoffined upon the bed where his own hands had laid
him, and the low, sweet requiem of kneeling priests floated round him.
Rest, rest, and calm they breathed into one sorely tried living soul,
and the perturbed heart was quelled by the sense how short the passage
was to the world where captivity and longing would be ended. He beckoned
to Pere Bonami to return to Diane, and then, protected by his presence
from any further demonstrations, kissed her hand and left her.

He told Philip as little as possible of this interview, but his brother
remarked how much time he spent over the Psalms that evening.

The next day the brothers saw from their upper winder the arrival of
Narcisse, or, as he had called himself for the last three years, the
Marquis de Nid-de-Merle, with many attendant gentlemen, and a band of
fifty or sixty gendarmes. The court was filled with their horses, and
rang with their calls for refreshment. And the captives judged it wise
to remain in their upper room incase they should be called for.

They were proved to have been wise in so doing; for about an hour after
their arrival there was a great clanging of steel boots, and Narcisse
de Ribaumont, followed by a portly, heavily-armed gentleman, wearing a
scarf of office, by two of the servants, and by two gendarmes, entered
the room. It was the first time the cousins had met since _le baiser
d'Eutacie_ had been hissed into Berenger's ear. Narcisse looked older,
sallower, and more worn than at that time; and Philip, seeing his
enemy for the first time, contrasted him with the stately presence of
Berenger, and felt as if a rat were strangling a noble steed.

Each young man punctiliously removed his hat, and Nid-de-Merle, without
deigning further salutation, addressed his companion. 'Sir, you are here
on the part of the King, and to you I deliver up these prisoners, who,
having been detained here on a charge of carrying on a treasonable
correspondence, and protected by my father out of consideration for the
family, have requited his goodness by an attempt to strangle him, which
has caused his death.'

Philip actually made a leap of indignation; Berenger, better prepared,
said to the officer, 'Sir, I am happy to be placed in charged of a
King's servant, who will no doubt see justice done, and shelter us from
the private malice that could alone devise so monstrous an accusation.
We are ready to clear ourselves upon oath over the corpse, and all the
household and our own guards can bear witness.'

'The witnesses are here,' said Narcisse, pointing to the servants,
ill-looking men, who immediately began to depose to having found their
master purple-faced and struggling in the hands of the two young men,
who had been left alone with him after dinner.

Berenger felt that there was little use in self-defence. It was a
fabrication the more easily to secure his cousin's purpose of destroying
him, and his best hope lay in passing into the hands of persons who were
less directly interested in his ruin. He drew himself up to his full
height, saying, 'If there be justice in France, our innocence will be
proved. I demand, sir, that you examine the abbess, the priest, the
steward, the sergeant of gendarmes: they are impartial witnesses, and
will serve the King's justice, if justice be his purpose. Or, if this be
but M. de Nid-de-Merle's way of completing the work he left unfinished
four years ago, I am ready. Only let my brother go free. He is heir to
nothing here.'

'Enough, sir. Words against the King's justice will be reckoned against
you,' said the officer. 'I shall do myself the honour of attending the
funeral the day after to-morrow, and then I shall convey you to Tours,
to answer for this deed at your leisure. Monsieur le Marquis, are the
prisoners secure here, or would you have them _garde a vue_.'

'No need for that,' said Narcisse, lightly; 'had there been any exit
they would have found it long ago. Your good fellows outside the door
keep them safe enough. M. le Baron de Ribaumont, I have the honour to
wish you a good morning.'

Berenger returned his bow with one full of defiance, and the door was
again locked upon the prisoners; while Philip exclaimed, 'The cowardly
villain, Berry; is it a hanging matter?'

'Not for noble blood,' said Berenger. 'We are more likely to be brought
to no trial, but to lie prisoners for life;' then, as Philip grew white
and shivered with a sick horror, he added bravely, 'But they shall not
have us, Philip. We know the vaults well enough to play at hide and seek
with them there, and even if we find no egress we may hold out till they
think us fled and leave open the doors!'

Philip's face lighted up again, and they did their best by way of
preparation, collecting wood for torches, and putting aside food at
their meals. It was a very forlorn hope, but the occupation it caused
was effectual in keeping up Philip's spirits, and saving him from
despondency.



CHAPTER XXXIX. THE PEDLAR'S PREDICTION



     But if ne'er so close you wall him,
        Do the best that you may;
     Blind Love, if so you call him,
        Will find out his way.
                      --OLD SONG


'Too late,' muttered Berenger to himself, as he stood by the fire in his
prison-chamber. Humfrey and Philip were busy in the vaults, and he was
taking his turn in waiting in the sitting-room to disarm suspicion. 'It
is too late now, and I thank God that so it is.'

'Do you indeed, M. le Baron?' said a low voice close beside him; and,
as he turned in haste, he beheld, at the foot of the turret-stair,
the youth Aime de Selinville, holding a dark lantern in his hand, and
veiling its light.

'Ha!' and he started to his feet. 'Whence come you?'

'From my Lady,' was the youth's answer. 'She has sent me to ask whether
you persist in what you replied to her the other day. For if not, she
bids me say that it is not too late.'

'And if I do persevere?'

'Then--ah! what do I know? Who can tell how far malice can go? And
there are towers and bastilles where hope never enters. Moreover, your
researches underground are known.'

'Sir,' said Berenger, the heart-sinking quelled by the effort of
resistance, 'Madame de Selinville has my answer--I must take the
consequences. Tell her, if she truly wishes me well, the honourable way
of saving us would be to let our English friends know what has befallen
us.'

'You forget, M. le Baron, even if she could proclaim the dishonour of
her family, interference from a foreign power might only lead to a surer
mode of removing you,' said Aime, lowering his voice and shuddering.

'Even so, I should thank her. Then would the bitterest pang be taken
away. Those at our home would not deem us faithless recreants.'

'Thank her!' murmured the lad in an inward voice. 'Very well, sir, I
will carry her your decision. It is your final one. Disgrace, prison,
death--rather than freedom, love, wealth!'

'The semblance of dishonour rather than the reality!' said Berenger,
firmly.

The light-footed page disappeared, and in a few moments a very different
tread came up from below, and Philip appeared.

'What is it, Berry? Methought I heard a voice.'

'Forgive me, brother,' said Berenger, holding out his hand; 'I have
thrown away another offer.'

'Tush, the thing to pardon would be having accepted one. I only wish
they would leave us in peace! What was it this time?'

'A messenger through young Selinville. Strange, to trust her secrets to
that lad. But hush, here he is again, much sooner than I thought. What,
sir, have you been with your lady again?'

'Yes, sir,' the young said, with a trembling voice, and Berenger saw that
his eyes were red with weeping; 'she bids me tell you that she yields.
She will save you eve while you have and despite her! There is only one
thing---'

'And what is that?'

'You must encumber yourself with the poor Aime. You must let me serve
you instead of her. Listen, sir, it cannot be otherwise.' Then with a
brisker, more eager voice, he continued: 'Monsieur knows that the family
burial-place is Bellaise? Well, to-morrow, at ten o'clock, all the
household, all the neighbourhood, will come and sprinkle holy water on
the bier. The first requiem will be sung, and then will all repair to
the convent. There will be the funeral mass, the banquet, the dole.
Every creature in the castle--nay, in all the neighbourhood for twenty
miles round--will be at the convent, for the Abbess has given out that
the alms are to be double, and the bread of wheat. Not a soul will
remain here, save the two gendarmes on guard at that door, and the poor
Aime, whom no one will miss, even if any person could be distinguished
in their black cloaks. Madame la Comtesse has given him this key, which
opens a door on the upper floor of the keep, unknown to the guards, who,
for that matter, shall have a good tankard of spiced wine to console
and occupy them. Then is the way clear to the castle court, which is not
over looked by their window, the horses are in the stables, and we are
off,--that is if M. le Baron will save a poor youth from the wrath of M.
de Nid-de-Merle.'

'You are and honest fellow!' cried Philip, shaking him vehemently by the
hand. 'You shall go with us to England, and we will make a brave man of
you.'

'We shall owe you our lives,' said Berenger, warmly, 'and be ever bound
to you. Tell your lady that THIS is magnanimity; that now I truly thank
her as our preserver, and shall bless her all the days of the life she
gives us. But my servants?'

'Guibert is a traitor,' said Aime; 'he has been so ever since you
were at Paris. Breathe no word to him; but he, as a Catholic, shall be
invited to the funeral. Your stout Englishman should by all means be
with us.'

'My Norman also,' added Berenger,--'my dear foster-brother, who has
languished in the dungeon for three years;' and when the explanation had
been made, Aime assented, though half-unwillingly, to the necessity,
and presently quitted them to bear back their answer to his lady. Philip
shook his hand violently again, patted him on the back, so as almost
to take away his breath, and bade him never fear, they would be sworn
brothers to him for ever; and then threw up his hat into the air, and
was so near astonishing the donjon walls with a British hurrah, that
Berenger had to put his hand over his mouth and strangle the shout in
his very throat.

The chief of that night was spent in enlarging the hole in Osbert's
wall, so as to admit of his creeping through it; and they also prepared
their small baggage for departure. Their stock of money, though some had
been spent on renewing their clothes, and some in needful gratuities to
the servants and gendarmes, was sufficient for present needs, and they
intended to wear their ordinary dress. They were unlikely to meet any
of the peasants in the neighbourhood; and, indeed, Berenger had so
constantly ridden out in his black mask, that its absence, now that his
scars were gone, was as complete a change as could be effected in one
whose height was of unusual.

'There begins the kneel,' said Philip, standing at the window. 'It's our
joy-bell, Berry! Every clang seems to me to say, "Home! home! home!"

'For you, Phil,' said Berenger; 'but I must be satisfied of Eutacie's
fate first. I shall go first to Nissard--whither we were bound when we
were seized--then to La Rochelle, whence you may---'

'No more of that,' burst out Philip. 'What! would you have me leave you
now, after all we have gone through together? Not that you will find
her. I don't want to vex you, brother, on such a day as this, but you
conjurer's words are coming true in the other matter.'

'How? What mean you, Phil?'

'What's the meaning of Aime?' asked Philip. 'Even I am French scholar
enough for that. And who sends him?'

Meantime the court was already filling with swarms of persons of
every rank and degree, but several anxious hours had passed before
the procession was marshaled; and friars and monks, black, white, and
gray,--priests in rich robes and tall caps,--black-cloaked gentlemen and
men-at-arms,--all bearing huge wax tapers,--and peasants and beggars of
every conceivable aspect,--filed out of the court, bearing with them the
richly-emblazoned bier of the noble and puissant knight, the Beausire
Charles Eutache de Ribaumont Nid-de-Merle, his son walking behind in a
long black mantle, and all who counted kindred of friendship following
two and two; then all the servants, every one who properly belonged to
the castle, were counted out by the brothers from their windows, and
Guibert among them.

'Messieurs,' a low, anxious voice sounded in the room.

'We will only fetch Osbert.'

It was a terrible only, as precious moments slipped away before there
appeared in the lower chamber Berenger and Humfrey, dragging between
them a squalid wretch, with a skin like stained parchment over a
skeleton, tangled hair and beard, staring bewildered eyes, and fragments
of garments, all dust, dirt, and rags.

'Leave me, leave me, dear master,' said the object, stretching his whole
person towards the fire as they let him sink down before it. 'You would
but ruin yourself.'

'It is madness to take him,' said Aime, impatiently.

'I go not without him,' said Berenger. 'Give me the soup, Philip.'

Some soup and wine had been placed by the fire, and likewise a shirt and
a suit of Humfrey's clothes were spread before it. Aime burst out into
the yard, absolutely weeping with impatience, when, unheeding all his
remonstrances, his three companions applied themselves to feeding,
rubbing, and warming Osbert, and assuring him that the pains in his
limbs would pass away with warmth and exercise. He had been valiant
of heart in his dungeon; but his sudden plunge into upper air was like
rising from the grave, and brought on all the effects of his dreary
captivity, of which he had hardly been sensible when he had first
listened to the voice of hope.

Dazzled, crippled, helpless, it seemed almost impossible that he should
share the flight, but Berenger remained resolute; and when Aime returned
from his fourth frantic promenade, he was told that all was ready.

But for the strength of Berenger and Humfrey the poor fellow could never
have been carried up and up, nearly to the top of the keep, then along
a narrow gallery, then down again even to the castle hall, now empty,
though with the candle-sticks still around where the bier had been.
Aime knelt for a moment where the head had been, hiding his face; Osbert
rested in a chair; and Philip looked wistfully up at his own sword hung
over the chimney.

'Resume your swords, Messieurs,' said Aime, observing him; 'Madame
desires it; and take pistols also.'

They gladly obeyed; and when, after this short delay, they proceeded,
Osbert moved somewhat less painfully, but when they arrived at the
stable only four horses stood there.

'Ah! this miserable!' cried Aime, passionately, 'he ruins all my
arrangements.'

'Leave me,' again entreated Landry. 'Once outside, I can act the beggar
and cripple, and get back to Normandy.'

'Better leave me,' said Humfrey; 'they cannot keep me when you are out
of their clutches.'

'Help me, Humfrey,' said Berenger, beginning to lift his foster-brother
to the saddle, but there the poor man wavered, cried out that his head
swam, and he could not keep his seat, entreating almost in agony to be
taken down.

'Lean on me,' said Berenger, putting his arms round him. 'There! you
will be able to get to the Grange du Temple, where you will be in safe
shelter.'

'Sir, sir,' cried Aime, ready to tear his hair, 'this is ruin! My lady
meant you to make all speed to La Rochelle and there embark, and this is
the contrary way!'

'That cannot be helped,' said Berenger; 'it is the only safe place for
my foster-brother.'

Aime, with childish petulance, muttered something about ingratitude in
crossing his lady's plans; but, as no one attended to him, he proceeded
to unfasten his horse, and then exclaimed, half crying, 'Will no one
help me?'

'Not able to saddle a horse! a pretty fellow for a cavalier!' exclaimed
Philip, assisting, however, and in a few minutes they were all issuing
from a low side gate, and looking back with bounding hearts at the
drooping banner on the keep of Nid-de-Merle.

Only young Aime went with bowed head and drooping look, as though
pouting, and Berenger, putting Osbert's bridle into Humfrey's hand,
stepped up to him, saying, 'Hark you, M. de Selinville, I am sorry if
we seemed to neglect you. We owe you and your lady all gratitude, but
I must be the judge of my own duty, and you can only be with me if you
conform.'

The young seemed to be devouring his tears, but only said, 'I was vexed
to see my lady's plan marred, and your chance thrown away.'

'Of that I must judge,' said Berenger.

They were in a by-lane, perfectly solitary. The whole country was at the
funeral. Through the frosty air there came an occasional hum or murmur
from Berenger, or the tinkle of a cow-bell in the fields, but no human
being was visible. It was certain, however, that the Rotrous, being
Huguenots, and no vassals of Nid-de-Merle, would not be at the
obsequies; and Berenger, walking with swift strides, supporting Osbert
on his horse, continued to cheer him with promises of rest and relief
there, and listened to no entreaties from Philip or Humfrey to take one
of their horses. Had not Osbert borne him on his shoulders through the
butchery at Paris, and endured three years of dungeon for his sake?

As for Philip, the slow pace of their ride was all insufficient for his
glee. He made his horse caracole at every level space, till Berenger
reminded him that they might have far to ride that night, and even then
he was constantly breaking into attempts at shouting and whistling as
often repressed, and springing up in his stirrups to look over the high
hedges.

The Grange was so well concealed in its wooded ravine, that only when
close upon the gate the party became aware that this farm-yard, usually
so solitary, formed an exception to the general desertion of the
country. There was a jingle and a stamp of horses in the court, which
could hardly be daylight echoes of the Templars. Berenger feared that
the Guisards might have descended Rotrou, and was stepping forward to
reconnoiter, while young De Selinville, trembling, besought him not to
run into danger, but to turn and hasten to La Rochelle. By this time,
however, the party had been espied by two soldiers stationed at the
gate, but not before Berenger had had time to remark that they did not
wear either the gold _fleur-de-lys_ like his late guards, or the white
cross of Lorraine; nor had they the strange air of gay ferocity usual
with the King's mercenaries. And almost by instincts, at a venture, he
made the old Huguenot sign he had learnt form his father, and answered,
'For God and the Religion.'

The countersign was returned. 'Bearn and Bourbon is the word to-day,
comrade,' replied the sentinel. '_Eh quoi_! have you had an encounter,
that you bring a wounded man?'

'Not wounded, but nearly dead in a Guisard prison,' said Berenger, with
an unspeakable sense of relief and security, as the sentries admitted
them into the large walled court, where horses were eating hay, being
watered and rubbed down; soldiers snatching a hasty meal in corners;
gentlemen in clanking breastplates coming in and out of the house,
evidently taking orders from a young man in a gray and silver suit,
whose brown eagle face, thin cheeks, arched nose, and black eyes of
keenest fire, struck Berenger at once with a sense of recognition as
well as of being under a glance that seemed to search out everybody and
everything at once.

'More friends!' and the tone again recalled a flood of recollections. 'I
thank and welcome you. What! You have met the enemy--where is he?'

'My servant is not wounded. Sire,' said Berenger, removing his hat and
bending low. 'This is the effect of long captivity. We have but just
escaped.'

'Then we are the same case! Pardon me, sir, I have seen you before, but
for once I am at fault.'

'When I call myself De Ribaumont, your Grace will not wonder.'

'The dead alive! If I mistake not, it was in the Inferno itself that we
last met! But we have broken through the gates at last! I remember poor
King Charles was delighted to hear that you lived! But where have you
been a captive?'

'At Nid-de-Merle, Sire; my kinsmen accused me of treason in order to
hinder my search for my wife. We escaped even now during the funeral of
the Chevalier.'

'By favour of which we are making our way to Parthenay unsuspected,
though, by my faith, we gather so like a snowball, that we could be a
match for a few hundreds of Guisards. Who is with you, M. de Ribaumont?'

'Let me present to your Majesty my English brother, Philip Thistlewood,'
said Berenger, drawing the lad forward, making due obeisance, though
entirely ignorant who was the plainly-dressed, travel-soiled stranger,
so evidently a born lord of men.

'An Englishman is ever welcome,' was his gracious reception.

'And,' added Berenger, 'let me also present the young De Selinville, to
whom I owe my escape. Where is he, Philip?'

He seemed to be busy with the horses, and Berenger could not catch his
eye.

'Selinville! I thought that good Huguenot house was extinct.'

'This is a relation of the late Count de Selinville, my cousin's
husband, Sire. He arranged my evasion, and would be in danger at
Nid-de-Merle. Call him, Philip.'

Before this was done, however, the King's attention was otherwise
claimed, and turning to one of his gentlemen he said, 'Here, d'Augigne,
I present to you an acquaintance made in Tartarus. See to his
entertainment ere we start for Parthenay.'

Agrippa d'Aubigne, still young, but grave and serious-looking greeted
M. de Ribaumont as men meet in hours when common interests make rapid
friendships; and from him Berenger learnt, in a few words, that the King
of Navarre's eyes had been opened at last to the treachery of the court,
and his own dishonourable bondage. During a feverish attack, one night
when D'Aubigne and D'Armagnac were sitting up with him, his resolution
was taken; and on the first hunting day after his recovery, he, with
these two, the Baron de Rosny and about thirty more of his suite, had
galloped away, and had joined the Monsieur and the Prince of Conde at
Alencon. He had abjured the Catholic faith, declared that nothing except
ropes should bring him back to Paris, and that he left there the mass
and his wife--the first he could dispense with, the last he meant to
have; and he was now on his way to Parthenay to meet his sister, whom
he had sent Rosny to demand. By the time Berenger had heard this, he had
succeeded in finding honest Rotrou, who was in a state of great triumph,
and readily undertook to give Osbert shelter, and as soon as he should
have recovered to send him to head-quarters with some young men who
he knew would take the field as soon as they learnt that the King of
Navarre had set up his standard. Even the inroads made into the good
farmer's stores did not abate his satisfaction in entertaining the prime
hope of the Huguenot cause; but Berenger advanced as large a sum as
he durst out of his purse, under pretext of the maintenance of Osbert
during his stay at the Grange. He examined Rotrou upon his subsequent
knowledge of Isaac Gardon and Eutacie, but nothing had been heard of
them since their departure, now nearly three years back, except a dim
rumour that they had been seen at the Synod of Montauban.

'Well, my friend,' said Philip, when about to remount, 'this will do
rather better than a headlong gallop to Rochelle with Nid-de-Merle at
our heels.'

'If M. le Baron is safe, it is well,' said Aime shortly.

'Is Selinville there?' said Berenger, coming up. 'Here, let me take you
to the King of Navarre: he knew your family in Lauguedoc.'

'No, no,' petulantly returned the boy. 'What am I that he should notice
me? It is M. de Ribaumont whom I follow, not him or his cause.'

'Boy,' said Berenger, dismayed, 'remember, I have answered for you.'

'I am no traitor,' proudly answered the strange boy, and Berenger was
forced to be thus satisfied, though intending to watch him closely.



CHAPTER XL. THE SANDS OF OLONNE



    Is it the dew of night
    That on her glowing cheek
    Shines in the moonbeam?--
    Oh, she weeps, she weeps,
    And the good angel that abandoned her
    At her hell baptism, by her tears drawn down
    Resumes his charge... and the hope
         Of pardon and salvation rose
         As now she understood
         Thy lying prophecy of truth.--SOUTHEY


'M. de Ribaumont,' said Henry of Navarre, as he stood before the fire
after supper at Parthenay, 'I have been thinking what commission I could
give you proportioned to your rank and influence.'

'Thanks to your Grace, that inquiry is soon answered. I am a beggar
here. Even my paternal estate in Normandy is in the hands of my cousin.'

'You have wrongs,' said Henry, 'and wrongs are sometimes better than
possessions in a party like ours.'

Berenger seized the opening to explain his position, and mention that
his only present desire was for permission, in the first place, to send
a letter to England by the messenger whom the King was dispatching
to Elisabeth, in tolerable security of her secret countenance; and,
secondly, to ride to Nissard to examine into the story he had previously
heeded so little, of the old man and his daughter rescued from the waves
the day before La Sablerie was taken.

'If Pluto relented, my dear Orpheus, surely Navarre may,' said Henry
good-humouredly; 'only may the priest not be more adamantine than Minos.
Where lies Nissard? On the Sable d'Olonne? Then you may go thither with
safety while we lie here, and I shall wait for my sister, or for news of
her.'

So Berenger arranged for an early start on the morrow; and young
Selinville listened with a frown, and strange look in his dark eyes.
'You go not to England?' he said.

'Not yet?' said Berenger

'This was not what my Lady expected,' he muttered; but though Berenger
silenced him by a stern look, he took the first opportunity of asking
Philip if it would not be far wiser for his brother to place himself in
safety in England.

'Wiser, but less honest,' said Philip.

'He who has lost all here, who has incurred his grandfather's anger,'
pursued Aime, 'were he not wiser to make his peace with his friends in
England?'

'His friends in England would not like him the better for deserting his
poor wife's cause,' said Philip. 'I advise you to hold your tongue, and
not meddle or make.'

Aime subsided, and Philip detected something like tears. He had still
much of rude English boyhood about him, and he laughed roughly. 'A fine
fellow, to weep at a word! Hie thee back to feed my Lady's lap-dog, 'tis
all thou art fit for.'

'There spoke English gratitude,' said Aime, with a toss of the head and
flash of the eye.

Philip despised him the more for casting up his obligations, but had no
retort to make. He had an idea of making a man of young Selinville,
and his notion of the process had something of the bullying tendency of
English young towards the poor-spirited or cowardly. He ordered the boy
roughly, teased him for his ignorance of manly exercises, tried to cure
his helplessness by increasing his difficulties, and viewed his fatigue
as affectation or effeminacy. Berenger interfered now and then to guard
the poor boy from a horse-jest or practical joke, but he too felt
that Aime was a great incumbrance, hopelessly cowardly, fanciful, and
petulant; and he was sometimes driven to speak to him with severity,
verging on contempt, in hopes of rousing a sense of shame.

The timidity, so unusual and inexplicable in a youth of eighteen or
twenty, sowed itself irrepressibly at the Sands of Olonne. These were
not misty, as on Berenger's former journey. Nissard steeple was soon in
sight, and the guide who joined them on a rough pony had no doubt
that there would be ample time to cross before high water. There was,
however, some delay, for the winter rains had brought down a good many
streams of fresh water, and the sands were heavy and wet, so that their
horses proceeded slowly, and the rush and dash of the waves proclaimed
that the low of the tide had begun. To the two brothers the break and
sweep was a home-sound, speaking of freshness and freedom, and the salt
breeze and spray carried with them life and ecstasy. Philip kept as
near the incoming waves as his inland-bred horse would endure, and sang,
shouted, and hallooed to them as welcome as English waves; but Aime de
Selinville had never even beheld the sea before: and even when the
tide was still in the distance, was filled with nervous terror as each
rushing fall sounded nearer; and, when the line of white foamy crests
became more plainly visible, he was impelled to hurry on towards the
steeple so fast that the guide shouted to him that he would only bury
himself in a quicksand.

'But,' said he, white with alarm, and his teeth chattering, 'how can we
creep with those dreadful waves advancing upon us to drown us?'

Berenger silence Philip's rude laugh and was beginning to explain that
the speed of the waves could always be calculated by an experienced
inhabitant; and his voice had seemed to pacify Aime a little, when the
spreading water in front of a broken wave flowing up to his horse's
feet, again rendered him nearly frantic. 'Let us go back!' he wildly
entreated, turning his horse; but Berenger caught his bridle, saying,
'That would be truly death. Boy, unless you would be scorned, restrain
your folly. Nothing else imperils us.'

Here, however, the guide interposed, saying that it had become too late
to pursue their course along the curve of the shore, but they must at
once cut straight across, which he had intended to avoid, because of
the greater depth of a small river that they would have to cross, which
divided further out into small channels, more easily forded. They
thus went along the chord of the arc formed by the shore, and Aime was
somewhat reassured, as the sea was at first farther off; but before long
they reached the stream, which lost itself in many little channels in
the sands, so that when the tide was out there was a perfect network of
little streams dividing low shingly or grassy isles, but at nearly high
tide, as at present, many of these islets were submerged, and the strife
between river and sea caused sudden deepenings of the water in the
channels.

The guide eagerly explained that the safest place for crossing was not
by the large sandbank furthest inland and looking firm and promising--it
was a recent shifting performance of the water's heaping up, and would
certainly sink away and bury horse the channels on either side had
shingly bottoms, and were safe.

'This way,' called Berenger, himself setting the example, and finding no
difficulty; the water did not rise above his boots, and the current was
not strong. He had reached the shingly isle when he looked round for his
companions; Humfrey and Philip were close behind him; but, in spite
of the loud '_gare_!' of the guide, Aime, or his horse,--for each was
equally senseless with alarm,--were making inwards; the horse was trying
to tread on the sandbank, which gave way like the water itself, under
its frantic struggles--there was a loud cry--a shrill, unmistakable
woman's shriek--the horse was sinking--a white face and helpless form
were being carried out on the waves, but not before Berenger had flung
himself from his horse, thrown off his cloak and sword, and dashed into
the water; and in the lapse of a few moments he struggled back to
the island, where were Philip and Humfrey, leg-deep in water: the one
received his burthen, the other helped him to land.

'On, gentlemen, not a moment to lose,' cried the guide; and Berenger,
still panting, flung himself on his horse, held out his arms, gathered
the small, almost inanimate figure upon the horse's neck before him, and
in a few minutes more they had crossed the perilous passage, and were
on a higher bank where they could safely halt; and Philip, as he came to
help his brother, exclaimed, 'What a fool the boy is!'

'Hush!' said Berenger, gravely, as they laid the figure on the ground.

'What! he can't have been drowned in that moment. We'll bring him to.'

'Hands off!' said Berenger, kneeling over the gasping form, and adding
in a lower voice, 'Don't you see?' He would his hand in the long
drenched hair, and held it up, with cheeks burning like fire, and his
scar purple.

'A woman!--what?--who?' Then suddenly divining, he exclaimed, 'The
jade!' and started with wide eyes.

'Stand back,' said Berenger; 'she is coming to herself.'

Perhaps she had been more herself than he knew, for, as he supported her
head, her hand stole over his and held it fast. Full of consternation,
perplexity, and anger as he was, he could not but feel a softening pity
towards a creature so devoted, so entirely at his mercy. At the moment
when she lay helpless against him, gasps heaving her breast under her
manly doublet, her damp hair spread on his knees, her dark eyes in their
languor raised imploring his face, her cold hand grasping his, he
felt as if this great love were a reality, and as if he were hunting a
shadow; and, as if fate would have it so, he must save and gratify one
whose affection must conquer his, who was so tender, so beautiful--even
native generosity seemed on her side. But in the midst, as in his
perplexity he looked up over the gray sea, he seemed to see the picture
so often present to his mind of the pale, resolute girl, clasping her
babe to her breast, fearless of the advancing sea, because true and
faithful. And at that thought faith and prayer rallied once again round
his heart, shame at the instant's wavering again dyed his cheek; he
recalled himself, and speaking the more coldly and gravely because his
heart was beating over hotly, he said, 'Cousin, you are better. It is
but a little way to Nissard.'

'Why have you saved me, if you will not pity me?' she murmured.

'I will not pity, because I respect my kinswoman who has save our
lives,' he said steadying his voice with difficulty. 'The priests of
Nissard will aid me in sparing your name and fame.'

'Ah!' she cried, sitting up with a start of joy, 'but he would make too
many inquiries! Take me to England first.'

Berenger started as he saw how he had been misunderstood.

'Neither here nor in England could my marriage be set aside, cousin.
No; not priest shall take charge of you, and place you in safety and
honour.'

'He shall not!' she cried hotly. 'Why--why will you drive me from
you--me who ask only to follow you as a menial servant?'

'That has become impossible,' he answered; 'to say nothing of my
brother, my servant and the guide have seen;' and, as she remembered her
streaming hair, and tried, in dawning confusion, to gather it together,
he continued: 'You shrank from the eye of the King of Navarre. You
cannot continue as you have done; you have not even strength.'

'Ah! have you sailed for England,' she murmured.

'It had only been greater shame,' he said. 'Cousin, I am head of your
family, husband of your kinswoman, and bound to respect the reputation
you have risked for me. I shall, therefore, place you in charge of the
priest till you can either return to your aunt or to some other convent.
You can ride now. We will not wait longer in these wet garments.'

He raised her from the ground, threw his own dry cloak round her
shoulders and unmanageable hair, and lifted her on his horse; but, as
she would have leant against him, he drew himself away, beckoned Philip,
and put the bridle into his hands, saying, 'Take care of her. I shall
ride on and warm the priest.'

'The rock of diamond,' she murmured, not aware that the diamond had been
almost melting. That youthful gravity and resolution, with the mixture
of respect and protection, imposed as usual upon her passionate nature,
and daunted her into meekly riding beside Philip without a word--only
now and then he heard a low moan, and knew that she was weeping
bitterly.

At first the lad had been shocked beyond measure, and would have held
aloof as from a kind of monster, but Madame de Selinville had been the
first woman to touch his fancy, and when he heard how piteously she was
weeping, and recollected where he should have been but for her, as
well as all his own harshness to her as a cowardly boy, he felt himself
brutally ungrateful, and spoke: 'Don't weep so, Madame; I am sorry I was
rude to you, but you see, how should I take you for a woman?'

Perhaps she heard, but she heeded not.

'My brother will take good care to shield you,' Philip added. 'He will
take care you are safe in one of your nunneries;' and as she only wept
the more, he added, with a sudden thought, 'You would not go there; you
would embrace the Protestant faith?'

'I would embrace whatever was his.'

Philip muttered something about seeing what could be done. They were
already at the entrance of the village, and Berenger had come out to
meet them, and, springing towards him, Philip exclaimed, in a low voice,
'Berry, she would abjure her Popish errors! You can't give her up to a
priest.'

'Foolery, Philip,' answered Berenger, sternly.

'If she would be a convert!'

'Let her be a modest woman first;' and Berenger, taking her bridle, led
her to the priest's house.

He found that Pere Colombeau was preaching a Lent sermon, and that
nobody was at home but the housekeeper, to whom he had explained briefly
that the lady with him had been forced to escape in disguise, had been
nearly drowned, and was in need of refreshment and female clothing.
Jacinthe did not like the sound, but drenched clothes were such a
passport to her master's house, that she durst not refuse. Berenger
carried off his other companions to the cabaret, and when he had dried
himself, went to wait for the priest at the church door, sitting in
the porch where more than one echo of the exhortation to repentance and
purity rang in his ears, and enforced his conviction that here he must
be cruel if he would be merciful.

It was long before Pere Colombeau came out, and then, if the scar had
not blushed for all the rest of his face, the sickly, lanky lad of three
years since would hardly have been recognized to the good cure. But the
priest's aspect was less benignant when Berenger tried to set before him
his predicament; he coldly asked where the unhappy lady was; and when
Berenger expressed his intention of coming the next morning to ask his
counsel, he only bowed. He did not ask the brothers to supper, nor show
any civility; and Berenger, as he walked back to the cabaret, perceived
that his story was but half believed, and that, if Diane's passion were
still stronger than her truth or generosity, she would be able to make
out a terrible case against him, and to willing ears, naturally disposed
against a young cavalier and a heretic.

He sat much dispirited by the fire of the little wine shop, thinking
that his forbearance had been well-nigh thrown away, and that his
character would never be cleared in Eustacie's eyes, attaching, indeed,
more importance to the blot than would have been done by a youth less
carefully reared.

It was quite dark when a knock came to the door: the cure's white head
appeared in the lamplight; he nodded kindly to all the guests, and
entreated that M. de Ribaumont would do him a favour to come and speak
with him.

No sooner were they outside the house, than the cure held out his hand,
saying 'Sir, forgive me for a grievous injustice towards you;' then
pressing his hand, he added with a voice tremulous with emotion,
'Sir, it is no slight thing to have saved a wandering sheep by your
uprightness and loyalty.'

'Have you then opened her eyes, father?' said Berenger, relieved from a
heavy load.

'You have, my son,' said the old man. 'You have taught her what truth
and virtue are. For the rest, you shall heard for yourself.'

Before Berenger knew where he was, a door was opened, and he found
himself in the church. The building was almost entirely dark; there
were two tall lights at the altar in distance, and a few little slender
tapers burning before certain niches and shrines, but without power
to conquer with the gloom more than enough to spread a pale circle of
yellow light beneath them, and to show mysteriously a bit of vaulting
above. A single lamp hung from an arch near the door, and beneath it,
near a pillar, knelt, or rather crouched, on the floor, a female figure
with a dark peasant cloak drawn over her head.

'The first token of penitence is reparation to the injured,' said the
priest.

Berenger looked at him anxiously.

'I will not leave you,' he added. 'See, I shall pray for you yonder, by
the altar,' and he slowly moved up the aisle.

'Rise, cousin, I entreat you,' said Berenger, much embarrassed, as he
disappeared in the darkness.

'I must speak thus,' she answered, in a hoarse, exhausted voice. 'Ah!
pardon, pardon!' she added, rising, however, so far as to raise clasped
hands and an imploring face. 'Ah! can you pardon? It was through me that
you bear those wounds; that she--Eustacie--was forced into the masque,
to detain you for THAT night. Ah! pardon.'

'That is long past,' said Berenger. 'I have been too near death not to
have pardoned that long ago. Rise, cousin, I cannot see you thus.'

'That is not all,' continued Diane. 'It was I--I who moved my father to
imprison you.' Then, as he bent his head, and would have again entreated
her to rise, she held out her hand as if to silence him, and spoke
faster, more wildly. 'Then--then I thought it would save your life. I
thought---' she looked at him strangely with her great dark eyes, all
hollow and cavernous in her white face.

'I know,' said Berenger, kindly, 'you often urged it on me.'

There was a sort of movement on the part of the kneeling figure of
the priest at the altar, and she interrupted, saying precipitately.
'Then--then, I did think you free.'

'Ah!' he gasped. 'Now---!'

'Now I know that she lives!' and Diane once more sank at his feet a
trembling, shrinking, annihilated heap of shame and misery.

Berenger absolutely gave a cry that, though instantly repressed, had the
ring of ecstasy in it. 'Cousin--cousin!' he cried, 'all is forgiven--all
forgotten, if you will only tell me where!'

'That I cannot,' said Diane, rousing herself again, but speaking in a
dull, indifferent tone, as of one to whom the prime bitterness was past,
'save that she is under the care of the Duchess de Quinet;' and she
then proceeded, as though repeating a lesson: 'You remember the Italian
conjurer whom you would not consult? Would that I had not!' she added,
clasping her hands. 'His prediction lured me? Well, he saw my father
privately, told him he had seen her, and had bought her jewels, even her
hair. My father sent him in quest of her again, but told not me till
the man returned with tidings that she was at Quinet, in favour with the
Duchess. You remember that he went from home. It was to demand he;
and, ah! you know how long I had loved you, and they told me that your
marriage was void, and that all would be well upon the dispensation
coming. And now the good father there tells me that I was
deceived--cruelly deceived--that such a dispensation would not be
granted save through gross misrepresentation.' Then, as Berenger
began to show tokens of eagerness to come at tidings of Eustacie, she
continued, 'Ah! it is vain to seek to excuse one you care not for. My
father could learn nothing from the Duchess; she avowed that she had
been there, but would say no more. However, he and my brother were sure
she was under their protection; they took measures, and--and the morning
my poor father was stricken, there had been a letter from my brother
to say he was on her track, and matters must be ended with you, for he
should have her in a week;' and then, as Berenger started forward with
an inarticulate outburst, half of horror, half of interrogation, she
added, 'Where, he said not, nor did I learn from him. All our one
interview was spend in sneers that answered to my wild entreaties; but
this I know--that you would never have reached Tours a living man.'

'And now, now he is on the way to her!' cried Berenger, 'and you kept it
from me!'

'There lay my hope,' said Diane, raising her head; and now, with
glittering eyes and altered voice, 'How could I not but hate her who had
bereaved me of you; her for whose sake I could not earn your love?'

The change of her tone had, perhaps, warned the priest to draw nearer,
and as she perceived him, she said, 'Yes, father, this is not the way to
absolution, but my heart will burst if I say not all.'

'Thou shalt not prevail, foul spirit,' said the priest, looking
earnestly into the darkness, as though he beheld the fiend hovering
over her, 'neither shall these holy walls be defiled with accents of
unhallowed love. You have made your reparation, daughter; it is enough.'

'And can you tell me no more?' said Berenger, sadly. 'Can you give me no
clue that I may save her from the wolf that may be already on her track?
Cousin, if you would do this, I would bless you for ever.'

'Alas! I would if I could! It is true, cousin, I have no heart to
deceive you any longer. But it is to Madame de Quinet that you must
apply, and if my brother has though me worth pursuit, you may be in
time! One moment,'--as he would have sprung away as if in the impulse to
fly to the rescue,--'cousin; had you gone to England as I hoped, I
would have striven to deserve to win that love of yours, but you have
conquered by your constancy. Now, father, I have spoken my last save as
penitent.'

She covered her head and sank down again.

Berenger, bewildered and impelled to be doing something, let the priest
lead him out before he exclaimed, 'I said nothing to her of pardon!'

'You do pardon?' said the priest.

He paused a moment. 'Freely, if I find my wife. I can only remember
now that she set me on the way. I would ease her soul, poor thing, and
thinking would make me hard again.'

'Do the English bring up their sons with such feelings?' asked the cure,
pausing for a moment.

'Of course,' said Berenger. 'May I say that one word, sir?'

'Not now,' said the priest; 'she had better be left to think of her sin
towards Heaven, rather than towards man.'

'But do you leave her there, sir?'

'I shall return. I shall pray for her true penitence,' said the priest,
and Berenger perceived from his tone that one without the pale might
inquire no further. He only asked how safe and honourable shelter could
be found for her; and the cure replied that he had already spoken to her
of the convent of Lucon, and should take her there so soon as it could
safely be done, and that Abbess Monique, he trusted, would assist her
crushed spirit in finding the path of penitence. He thought her cousin
had better not endeavour to see her again; and Berenger himself was
ready to forget her very existence in his burning anxiety to outstrip
Narcisse in the quest of Eustacie.



CHAPTER XLI. OUR LADY OF HOPE



         Welcome to danger's hour,
     Brief greeting serves the time of strife.
                                  --SCOTT


As soon as it was possible to leave Nissard, Berenger was on his way
back to head-quarters, where he hoped to meet the Duke de Quinet among
the many Huguenot gentlemen who were flocking to the Bourbon standard;
nor was he disappointed in the hope, for he was presented to a handsome
middle-aged gentleman, who told him, with much politeness, that his
mother had had the honour to receive and entertain Mme. de Ribaumont and
that some months ago he had himself arranged for the conveyance of
her letters to England, but, he said, with a smile, he made a point of
knowing nothing of his mother's guests, lest his duties as a governor
might clash with those of hospitality. He offered to expedite M. de
Ribaumont's journey to Quinet, observing that, if Nid de Merle were,
indeed, on the point of seizing the lady, it must be by treachery;
indeed he had, not ten days back, had the satisfaction of hanging
an Italian mountebank who had last year stolen a whole packet of
dispatches, among them letters from Mme. de Ribaumont, and the fellow
was probably acting as a spy upon her, so that no time was to be lost in
learning from his mother where she was. On the next morning he was about
to send forward twenty men to reinforce a little frontier garrison on
the river Dronne, and as M. le Baron must pass through the place, it
would be conferring a favour on him to take the command. The men were
all well mounted, and would not delay; and when once across the frontier
of Guyenne, no escort would be needed.

Berenger gladly accepted the proposal. It did not occur to him that
he was thus involved in the civil war, and bearing arms against the
sovereign. In spite of Queen Elisabeth's alliance with the French court,
she connived at her youthful subjects seeking the bubble reputation
in the mouths of Valois cannon; and so little did Henry III. seem
to Berenger to be his king, that he never thought of the question of
allegiance,--nay, if the royal officers were truly concerned in his
arrest, he was already an outlaw. This was no moment for decision
between Catholic and Calvinist; all he wanted was to recover his wife
and forestall her enemies.

Henry of Navarre gave his full consent to the detachment being placed
under charge of M. de Ribaumont. He asked somewhat significantly what
had become of the young gentleman who had attended M. de Ribaumont, and
Philip blushed crimson to the ears, while Berenger replied, with greater
coolness than he had given himself credit for, that the youth had
been nearly drowned on the Sable d'Olonne, and had been left at Dom
Colombeau's to recover. The sharp-witted King looked for a moment rather
as Sir Hugh the Heron did when Marmion accounted for his page's absence,
but was far too courteous and too INSOUCIANT to press the matter
further, though Berenger saw quite enough of is expression to feel that
he had been delivered from his companion only just in time.

Berenger set forth as soon as his impatience could prevail to get the
men into their saddles. He would fain have ridden day and night, and
grudged every halt for refreshment, so as almost to run the risk of
making the men mutinous. Evening was coming on, and his troop had
dismounted at a cabaret, in front of which he paced up and down with
Philip, trying to devise some pretext for hastening them on another
stage before night, when a weary, travel-stained trooper rode up to the
door and was at once hailed as a comrade by the other men, and asked,
'What cheer at Pont de Dronne?'

'Bad enough,' he answered, 'unless you can make the more speed there!'
then making obeisance to Berenger he continued his report, saying that
Captain Falconnet was sending him to M. le Duc with information that
the Guisards were astir, and that five hundred _gens d'armes_, under
the black Nid de Merle, as it was said, were on their way intending
to surprise Pont de Dronne, and thus cut the King of Navarre off from
Guyenne and his kingdom beyond it. After this Berenger had no more
difficulty with his men, who were most of them Quinet vassals, with
homes south of the Dronne, and the messenger only halted for a hasty
meal, hastening on to the Duke, that a more considerable succour might
at once be dispatched.

'Is she there whom they call the Lady of Hope?' asked one of the
soldiers, a mercenary, less interested than most of his comrades, as he
had only a fortnight since transferred his services from Guise to Quinet.

'Our Lady of Sadness just now,' replied the messenger; 'her old father
is at the point of death. However, she is there, and at our last siege
twenty wine-skins would not so well have kept up men's hearts.'

'And the little one, the white fairy, is she there too? They say 'tis
a spirit, a changeling that could not brook the inside of a church, but
flew out of the Moustier at Montauban like a white swan, in the middle
of a sermon.'

'I only know I've seen her sleep like a dormouse through prayers,
sermon, and all at Pont de Dronne. _Follette_ is she be, she belongs to
the white elves of the moonlight.'

'Well, they say bullets won't touch her, and no place can be taken where
she is,' replied the trooper. 'Nay, that Italian pedlar rogue, the same
that the Duke has since hung, has sold to long Gilles and snub-nosed
Pierre silver bullets, wherewith they have sworn to shoot the one or the
other next time they had a chance.'

These words were spoken at not great distance from Berenger, but passed
by him as mere men-at-arms' gossip, in his eagerness to expedite the
start of his party; and in less than an hour they were _en route_ for
Pont de Dronne; but hasten as he would, it was not till near noon the
next day that he came in sight of a valley, through which wound a river,
crossed by a high-backed bridge, with a tall pointed arch in the middle,
and a very small one on either side. An old building of red stone,
looking like what it was--a monastery converted into a fortress--stood
on the nearer, or northern bank, and on the belfry tower waved a flag
with the arms of Quinet. Higher up the valley, there was an ominous
hum, and clouds of smoke and dust; and the _gen d'armes_, who knew
the country, rejoiced that they were come just in time, and exchanged
anxious questions whether the enemy were not fording the river above
them, so as to attack not only the fortress on this northern side, but
the bridge tower on the southern bank of the river.

Spurring down the hill, the party were admitted, at the well-guarded
gateway, into a large thickly-walled yard, where the soldiers and
horses remained, and Berenger and Philip, passing through a small arched
doorway into the body of the old monastery, were conducted to a great
wainscoted hall, where a pulpit projecting from the wall, and some
defaced emblematic ornaments, showed that this had once been the
refectory, though guard-room appliances now occupied it. The man who had
shown them in left them, saying he would acquaint Captain Falconnet with
their arrival, and just then a sound of singing drew both brothers to
the window. It looked out on what had once been the quadrangle, bounded
on three sides by the church, the refectory, and the monk's lodgings,
the cloistered arcade running round all these. The fourth side was
skirted by the river, which was, however, concealed by an embankment,
raised, no doubt, to supply the place of the wall, which had been
unnecessary to the peaceful original inhabitants. What attracted
Berenger's eyes was, however, a group in the cloister, consisting of
a few drooping figures, some of men in steel caps, others of veiled,
shrouded women, and strange, mingled feelings swept over him as he
caught the notes of the psalm sung over the open grave--

              'Si qu'en paix et seurte bonne
               Coucherai et reposerai--
               Car, Seigneur, ta bonte tout ordonne
               Et elle seule espoir donne
               Que seur et sain regnant serai.'

'Listen, Philip,' he said, with moistening eyes; then as they ended, 'It
is the 4th Psalm: "I lay me down in peace and take my rest." Eustacie
and I used to sing it to my father. It was well done in these mourners
to sing it over him whom they are laying down to take his rest while the
enemy are at the gates. See, the poor wife still kneels while the rest
disperse; how dejected and utterly desolate she looks.'

He was so intently watching her as not to perceive the entrance of a
tall, grizzled old man in a steel cap, evidently the commander of the
garrison. There was the brief welcome of danger's hour--the briefer,
because Captain Falconnet was extremely deaf, and, taking it for granted
that the new-comers were gentlemen of the Duke's, proceeded to appoint
them their posts without further question. Berenger had intended to
pursue his journey to Quinet without delay, but the intelligence that
the enemy were on the southern as well as the northern side of the river
rendered this impossible; and besides, in defending this key of Guyenne
against Narcisse, he was also defending Eustacie.

The state of affairs was soon made known to him. The old monastery,
covering with its walls an extensive space, formed a fortress quite
strong enough to resist desultory attacks, and protect the long bridge,
which was itself strongly walled on either side, and with a barbican at
the further end. In former assaults the attacks had always been on the
north, the Catholic side, as it might be called; but now the enemy had
crossed the river above the fort, and were investing the place on both
sides. Long foreseeing this, the old commandant had guarded the bank of
the river with the earthwork, a long mound sloped irregularly on either
hand, over which numerous little paths had since been worn by the women
within, when on their way to the river with their washing; but he had
been setting every one to work to destroy and fill up these, so that
the rampart was smooth and slopping, perfectly easy indeed to cross, but
high and broad enough to serve as an effectual protection against such
artillery as the detached troops of the Guise party were likely to
possess; and the river was far too wide, deep, and strong in its main
current to be forded in the face of a hostile garrison. The captain had
about fifty _gen d'armes_ in his garrison, besides the twenty new-comers
whom he persisted in regarding as Berenger's charge; and there were,
besides, some seventy peasants and silk spinners, who had come into the
place as a refuge from the enemy--and with these he hoped to hold put
till succour should come from the Duke. He himself took the command
of the north gate, where the former assaults had been made, and he
instructed to his new ally the tower protecting the bridge, advising him
to put on armour; but Berenger, trying on a steel cap, found that his
head could not bear the weight and heat, and was forced to return to his
broad-brimmed Spanish hat, while Philip in high glee armed himself as
best he could with what Captain Falconnet could lend him. he was too
much excited to eat of the scanty meal that was set before them: a real
flight seemed like a fair-day to him, and he was greatly exalted by
his brother's post of command--a post that Berenger felt a heavy
responsibility only thrust upon him by the commandant's incapacity of
hearing how utterly inexperienced he was.

The formal summons to surrender to the King, and the refusal, had duly
passed, and it became evident that the first attack was to be on the
bridge-gate. Captain Falconnet hurried to the place, and the fighting
was hot and desperate. Every assailant who tried to throw his fagot into
the moat became a mark for arquebus or pistol, and the weapons that had
so lately hung over the hearth at Nid de Merle were now aimed again and
again at the heads and corslets of Guisards, with something of the same
exulting excitement as, only higher, more engrossing, and fiercer than,
that with which the lads had taken aim at a wolf, or ridden after a fox.
Scaling-ladders were planted and hurled down again; stones were cast
from the battlements, crushing the enemy; and throughout Berenger's
quick eye, alert movements, and great height and strength, made him a
most valuable champion, often applauded by a low murmur of commendation
from old Falconnet, or a loud shout of 'Ha, well done, the Duke's
Englishman,' from the _gen d'armes_--for English they would have him to
be--on the presumptions afforded by his companions, his complexion, and
his slow speech. Nor did Philip and Humfrey fail to render good service.
But just as the enemy had been foiled in a sharp assault and were
dragging away their wounded, Philip touched his brother, and saying, 'I
can hold out no longer,' showed blood trickling down his right side.

Berenger threw an arm round him, and Captain Falconnet, seeing his case,
said, 'You are hit, _petit Anglais_; you have done gallantly. There will
be time for you to take him to his quarters, sir; these fellows have
had enough for the present, and you can tarry with him till you hear the
bugle. Whither, did you ask? Let me see. You, Renaud, take him to the
chapel: the old chancel behind the boarding will be more private; and
desire Madame to look to him. Farewell! I hope it may prove slight;
you are a brave youth.' And he shook hands with Philip, whose intense
gratification sustained him for many steps afterwards.

He hardly remembered receiving the hurt, and was at first too busy to
heed it, or to call off any one attention, until a dread of falling, and
being trodden on, had seized him and made him speak; and indeed he was
so dizzy that Berenger with difficulty kept him on his feet over the
bridge, and in the court lifted him in his arms and carried him almost
fainting into the cloister, where by the new-made grave still knelt the
black-veiled mourner. She started to her feet as the soldier spoke to
her, and seemed at first not to gather the sense of his words; but then,
as if with an effort, took them in, made one slight sound like a moan
of remonstrance at the mention of the place, but again recollecting
herself, led the way along a stone passage, into which a flight of
stairs descended into the apsidal chancel, roughly boarded off from
the rest of the church. It was a ruinous, desolate place, and Berenger
looked round in dismay for some place on which to lay down his almost
unconscious burthen. The lady bent her head and signed towards the stone
sedilia in the wall; then, after two ineffectual essays to make her
voice audible, choked as it was with long weeping, she said, low and
huskily, 'We will make him more comfortable soon;' and added some orders
to the soldier, who disappeared up the stairway, and Berenger understood
that he was gone to fetch bedding. Then taking from under her heavy
mourning cloak a large pair of scissors, she signed to Berenger how to
support his brother, while they relieved him of his corslet, sword-belt,
and doublet. The soldier had meantime returned with an old woman, both
loaded with bedding, which she signed to them to arrange in one of the
little bays or niches that served to form a crown of lesser chapels
around the chancel. She flung aside her muffling cloak, but her black
hood still hung far over her face, and every now and then hand or
handkerchief was lifted as if to clear her eyes from the tears that
would not cease to gather and blind her; and she merely spoke when some
direction to an assistant, some sympathetic word to the patient, was
needed. Even Philip in his dizzy trance guessed that he was succeeding
to the bed whence one much dearer had gone to his quieter rest in the
cloister. Before he was laid there, however, the bugle sounded; there
was a loud shout, and Philip exclaimed, 'Go, brother!'

'Trust him to me, sir,' said the sunken, extinguished voice; 'we will do
our best for him.'

He was forced merely to lift Philip to the bed, and to hurry away, while
the soldier followed him saying, consolingly, 'Fear not, sir, now our
Lady of Hope has him. Nothing goes ill to which she sets her hand.'

Another growl of artillery was not heard, and it was time for the
warriors to forget the wounded in the exigencies of the present. An
attack was made on both gates at once, and the commandant being
engaged at his own post, Berenger had to make the utmost of his brief
experience, backed by the counsel of a tough old sergeant; and great
was his sense of exhilaration, and absolute enjoyment in this full and
worthy taxing of every power of mind or body. The cry among the enemy,
'Aime at the black plume,' attested his prominence; but he black plum
was still unscathed when spring twilight fell. The din began to subside;
recalls were sounded by the besiegers; and Berenger heard his own
exploit bawled in the ear of the deaf commandant, who was advancing over
the bridge. The old captain complimented him, told him that he should
be well reported of to M. le Duc and Sieur la Noue, and invited him to
supper and bed in his own quarters. The supper Berenger accepted, so
soon as he should know how it was with his brother; but as to bed, he
intended to watch his brother, and visit his post form time to time.

The captain entered by the main door of the chapel, where ten or twelve
wounded were now lying, tended by peasant women. Berenger merely
passed through, seeing as he went the black hood busy over a
freshly-brought-in-patient. He found a door which admitted him through
the rough screen of boards to the choir where he had been in the
earlier part of the day. The moonlight came through the shivered eastern
windows, but a canvas curtain had been hung so as to shelter Philip's
vaulted recess from the cold draught, and the bed itself, with a chair
beside it, looked neat, clean, and comfortable. Philip himself was
cheery; he said the bullet had made a mere flesh-wound, and had passed
out on the other side, and the Lady of Hope, as they called he, was just
such another as Aunt Cecily, and had made him very comfortable, with
clean linen, good cool drinks, and the tenderest hand. But he was very
sleepy, so sleepy that he hardly cared to hear of the combat, only he
roused himself for a moment to say, 'Brother, I have seen Dolly.'

'Dolly!'

'Our sister Dolly.'

'Ah, Phil! many a strange visitor has come to me in the Walnut Chamber
at home.'

'I tell you I was in my perfect senses,' returned Philip; 'there she
was, just as when we left her. And, what was stranger still, she talked
French.'

'Sleep and see her again,' laughed Berenger.



CHAPTER XLII. THE SILVER BULLET



    I am all wonder, O my son, my soul
    Is stunned within me; powers to speak to him
    Or to interrogate him have I none,
    Or even to look on him.
                    --Cowper's ODYSSEY


In his waking senses Philip adhered to his story that his little sister
Dolly had stood at the foot of his bed, called him '_le pauvre_' and
had afterwards disappeared, led away by the nursing lady. It seemed to
Berenger a mere delusion of feverish weakness; for Philip had lost a
great deal of blood, and the wound, though not dangerous, permitted no
attempt at moving, and gave much pain. Of the perfections of the lady as
nurse and surgeon Philip could not say enough, and, pale and overwept as
he allowed her to be, he declared that he was sure that her beauty must
equal Mme. De Selinville's. Berenger laughed, and looking round this
strange hospital, now lighted by the full rays of the morning sun, he
was much struck by the scene.

It was the chancel of the old abbey church. The door by which they
had entered was very small, and perhaps had led merely to the abbot's
throne, as an irregularity for his own convenience, and only made
manifest by the rending away of the rich wooden stall work, some
fragments of which still clung to the walls. The east end, like that of
many French churches, formed a semicircle, the high altar having been in
the centre, and five tall deep bays forming lesser chapels embracing it,
their vaults all gathered up into one lofty crown above, and a slender
pillar separating between each chapel, each of which further contained
a tall narrow window. Of course, all had been utterly desolated, and
Philip was actually lying in one of these chapels, where the sculptured
figure of St. John and his Eagle still remained on the wall; and a
sufficient remnant of his glowing sanguine robe of love was still in
the window to serve as a shield from the _bise_. The high altar of
rich marbles was a mere heap of shattered rubbish; but what surprised
Berenger more than all the ruined architectural beauty which his
_cinque-cento_ trained taste could not understand, was, that the tiles
of the pavement were perfectly clean, and diligently swept, the rubbish
piled up in corners; and here and there the relics of a cross or carved
figure lay together, as by a tender, reverential hand. Even the morsels
of painted glass had been placed side by side on the floor, so as to
form a mosaic of dark red, blue, and green; and a child's toy lay beside
this piece of patchwork. In the midst of his observations, however,
Captain Falconnet's servant came to summon him to breakfast; and the old
woman appearing at the same time, he could not help asking whether the
lady were coming.

'Oh yes, she will come to dress his wound in good time,' answered the
old woman.

'And when? I should like to hear what she thinks of it,' said Berenger.

'How?' said the old woman with a certain satisfaction in his
disappointment; 'is our Lady of Hope to be coming down among you gay
gallants?'

'But who is this Lady of Hope?' demanded he.

'Who should she be but our good pastor's daughter? Ah! and a brave, good
daughter she was too, abiding the siege because his breath was so bad
that he could not be moved.'

'What was his name?' asked Berenger, attracted strangely by what he
heard.

'Ribault, Monsieur--Pasteur Ribault. Ah! a good man, and sound preacher,
when preach he could; but when he could not, his very presence kept the
monks' REVENANTS from vexing us--as a cat keeps mice away; and, ah! The
children have been changed creatures since Madame dealt with them. What!
Monsieur would know why they call her our Lady of Hope? Esperance is
her true name; and, moreover, in the former days this abbey had an image
that they called Notre-Dame de l'Esperance, and the poor deceived folk
thought it did great miracles. And so, when she came hither, and wrought
such cures, and brought blessing wherever she went, it became a saying
among us that at length we had our true Lady of Hope.

A more urgent summons here forced Berenger away, and his repetition of
the same question received much the same answer from deaf old Captain
Falconnet. He was obliged to repair to his post with merely a piece of
bread in his hand; abut, though vigilance was needful, the day bade fair
to be far less actively occupied than its predecessor: the enemy were
either disposed to turn the siege into a blockade, or were awaiting
reinforcements and heavier artillery; and there were only a few
desultory attacks in the early part of the morning. About an hour before
noon, however, the besiegers seemed to be drawing out in arms, as if to
receive some person of rank, and at the same time sounds were heard
on the hills to the eastward, as if troops were on the march. Berenger
having just been told by the old sergeant that probably all would be
quiet for some time longer, and been almost laughed at by the veteran
for consulting him whether it would be permissible for him to be absent
a few minutes to visit his brother, was setting out across the bridge
for the purpose, his eyes in the direction of the rampart, which
followed the curve of the river. The paths which--as has been said--the
feet of the washerwomen and drawers of water had worn away in quieter
times, had been smoothed and scarped away on the outer side, so as
to come to an abrupt termination some feet above the gay marigolds,
coltsfoot, and other spring flowers that smiled by the water-side.
Suddenly he beheld on the rampart a tiny gray and white figure,
fearlessly trotting, or rather dancing, along the summit and the
men around him exclaimed, 'The little moonbeam child!' 'A fairy--a
changeling!'--'They cannot shoot at such a babe!' 'Nor could they
harm her!' 'Hola! little one! _Gare_! Go back to your mother!' 'Do not
disturb yourself, sir; she is safer than you,' were the ejaculations
almost at the same moment, while he sprang forward, horrified at the
peril of such an infant. He had reached the angle between the bridge and
rampart, when he perceived that neither humanity nor superstition were
protecting the poor child; for, as she turned down the remnant of one of
the treacherous little paths, a man in bright steel and deep black had
spurred his horse to the river's brink, and was deliberately taking aim
at her. Furious at such brutality, Berenger fired the pistol he held in
his hand, and the wretch dropped from his horse; but at the same moment
his pistol exploded, and the child rolled down the bank, whence a
piteous wail came up, impelling Berenger to leap down to her assistance,
in the full face of the enemy. Perhaps he was protected for the moment
by the confusion ensuing on the fall of the officer; and when he reached
the bottom of the bank, he saw the little creature on her feet, her
round cap and gray woolen dress stripped half off in the fall, and
her flaxen hair falling round her plump, white, exposed shoulder, but
evidently unhurt, and gathering yellow marigolds as composedly as though
she had been making May garlands. He snatched her up, and she said, with
the same infantine dignity, 'Yes, take me up; the naughty people spoilt
the path. But I must take my beads first.' And she tried to struggle
out of his arms, pointing therewith to a broken string among the marshy
herb-age on which gleamed--the pearls of Ribaumont!

In the few seconds in which he grasped them, and then bore the child up
the embankment in desperate bounds, a hail of bullets poured round
him, ringing on his breastplate, shearing the plume from his hat, but
scarcely even heard; and in another moment he had sprung down, on the
inner side, grasping the child with all his might, but not daring even
to look at her, in the wondrous flash of that first conviction. She
spoke first. 'Put me down, and let me have my beads,' she said in a
grave, clear tone; and then first he beheld a pair of dark blue eyes,
a sweet wild-rose face--Dolly's all over. He pressed her so fast and
so close, in so speechless and over powering an ecstasy, that again she
repeated, and in alarm, 'Put me down, I want my mother!'

'Yes, yes! your mother! your mother! your mother!' he cried, unable to
let her out of his embrace; and then restraining himself as he saw her
frightened eyes, in absolute fear of her spurning him, or struggling
from him, 'My sweet! my child! Ah! do you not know me?' Then,
remembering how wild this was, he struggled to speak calmly: 'What are
you called, my treasure?'

'I am _la petite Rayonette_,' she said, with puzzled dignity and
gravity; 'and my mother says I have a beautiful long name of my own
besides.'

'Berangere--my Berangere---'

'That is what she says over me, as I go to sleep in her bosom at night,'
said the child, in a wondering voice, soon exchanged for entreaty, 'Oh,
hug me not so hard! Oh, let me go--let me go to her! Mother! mother!'

'My child, mine own, I am take thee!--Oh, do not struggle with me!'
he cried, himself imploring now. 'Child, one kiss for thy father;'
and meantime, putting absolute force on his vehement affection, he was
hurrying to the chancel.

There Philip hailed them with a shout as of desperate anxiety relieved;
but before a word could be uttered, down the stairs flew the Lady of
Hope, crying wildly, 'Not there--she is not--' but perceiving the little
one in the stranger's arms, she held out her own, crying, 'Ah! is she
hurt, my angel?'

'Unhurt, Eustacie! Our child is unhurt!' Berenger said, with an agonized
endeavour to be calm; but for the moment her instinct was so entirely
absorbed in examining into the soundness of her child's limbs, that she
neither saw nor hear anything else.

'Eustacie,' he said, laying his hand on her arm, she started back, with
bewildered eyes. 'Eustacie--wife? do you not know me? Ah! I forgot that
I am changed.'

'You--you--' she gasped, utterly confounded, and gazing as if turned to
stone, and though at that moment the vibration of a mighty discharge
of cannon rocked the walls, and strewed Philip's bed with the crimson
shivers of St. John's robe, yet neither of them would have been sensible
of it had not Humfrey rushed in at the same moment, crying, 'They are
coming on like friends, sir!'

Berenger passed his hand over his face. 'You will know me WHEN--IF I
return, my dearest,' he said. 'If not, then still, thank God! Philip, to
you I trust them!'

And with one kiss on that still, cold, almost petrified brow, he had
dashed away. There was a space of absolutely motionless silence, save
that Eustacie let herself drop on the chancel step, and the child,
presently breaking the spell, pulled her to attract her notice to the
flowers. 'Mother, here are the _soucis_ for the poor gentleman's broth.
See, the naughty people had spoilt all the paths, and I rolled down and
tore my frock, and down fell the beads, but be not angry, mother dear,
for the good gentleman picked them up, and carried me up the bank.'

'The bank!' cried Eustacie, with a scream, as the sense of the words
reached her ears. 'Ah! no wonder! Well might thy danger bring thy
father's spirit;' and she grasped the little one fervently in her arms,
murmuring, 'Thank, thank God, indeed! Oh! my precious one; and did He
send that blessed spirit to rescue thee?'

'And will you tie up my frock? and may I put the flowers into the
broth?' chattered Rayonette. 'And why did he kiss me and hug me so
tight? and how did he know what you say over me as we fall asleep?'

Eustacie clasped her tighter, with a convulsive, shudder of
thankfulness; and Philip, but half hearing, and barely gathering the
meaning of her mood, ventured to speak, 'Madame---'

As if touched by an electric shock, Eustacie started up, as recalled to
instant needs, and coming towards him said, 'Do you want anything, sir?
Pardon one who has but newly seen a spirit from the other world--brought
by his child's danger.' And the dazed, trance-like look was returning.

'Spirit!' cried Philip. 'Nay, Madame, it was himself. Ah! and you are
she whom we have sought so long; and this dear child--no wonder she has
Dolly's face.'

'Who--what?' said Eustacie, pressing her temples with her hands, as if
to retain her senses. 'Speak; was yonder a living or dead man--and who?'

'Living, thank God! and your own husband; that is, if you are really
Eustacie. Are you indeed?' he added, becoming doubtful.

'Eustacie, that am I,' she murmured. 'But he is dead--they killed him; I
swathe blood where he had waited for me. His child's danger brought him
from the grave.'

'No, no. Look at me, sister Eustacie. Listen to me. Osbert brought him
home more dead than alive--but alive still.'

'No!' she cried, half passionately. 'Never could he have lived and left
me to mourn him so bitterly.'

'If you knew--' cried Philip, growing indignant. 'For weeks he lay in
deadly lethargy, and when, with his left hand, he wrote and sent Osbert
to you, your kinsfolk threw the poor fellow into a dungeon, and put us
off with lies that you were married to your cousin. All believed, only
he--sick, helpless, speechless, as he was--he trusted you still; and
so soon as Mericour came, though he could scarcely brook the saddle,
nothing would hold him from seeking you. We saw only ruin at La
Sablerie, and well-nigh ever since have we been clapped up in prison by
your uncle. We were on the way to Quinet to seek you. He has kept his
faith whole through wounds and pain and prison and threats,--ay, and
sore temptation,' cried Philip, waxing eloquent; 'and, oh, it cannot be
that you do not care for him!'

'Doubt not my faith, sir,' said Eustacie, proudly; 'I have been as true
to him as if I had known he lived. Nor do I know who you are to question
me.'

At this moment the child pressed forward, holding between her tow
careful plump hands a red earthenware bowl, with the tisane steaming in
it, and the yellow petals strewn over the surface. She and Philip had
taken a great fancy to each other, and while her mother was busy
with the other patients, she had been left to her quiet play with her
fragments of glass, which she carried one by one to display, held up
to the light, to her new friends; who, in his weak state, and after
his long captivity, found her the more charming playmate because she so
strangely reminded him of his own little sisters. She thought herself
his little nurse, and missing from his broth the yellow petals that she
had been wont to think the charm of tisane, the housewifely little being
had trotted off, unseen and unmissed, across the quadrangle, over
the embankment, where she had often gathered them, or attended on the
'_lessive_' on the river's brink; and now she broke forth exultingly,
'Here, here is the tisane, with all the _soucis_. Let me feed you with
them, sir.'

'Ah! thou sweet one,' gasped Philip, 'I could as soon eat them as David
could drink the water! For these--for these---!' and the tears rushed
into his eyes. 'Oh! let me but kiss her, Madame; I loved her from the
first moment. She has the very face of my little sweeting, (what French
word is good enough for her?) didst run into peril for me, not knowing
how near I was to thee? What, must I eat it? Love me then.'

But the boarded door was thrown back, and 'Madame, more wounded,'
resounded. The thrill of terror, the elastic reaction, at the ensuing
words, 'from the north gate,' was what made Eustacie in an instant know
herself to be not widow but wife. She turned round at once, holding out
her hand, and saying with a shaken, agitated voice, '_Mon frere_,
pardon me, I know not what I say; and, after all, he will find me _bien
mechante_ still.' Then as Philip devoured her hand with kisses, and held
it fast, 'I must go; these poor men need me. When I can, I will return.'

'Only let me have the little one,' entreated Philip; 'it is almost home
already to look at her.'

And when Eustacie next looked in on them, they were both fast asleep.

She, poor thing, the only woman with brains among the many scared
females in the garrison, might not rest or look the wonder in the face.
Fresh sufferers needed her care, and related gallant things of 'the
Duke's Englishman,' things of desperate daring and prowess that sent the
blood throbbing to her heart with exultation, but only to be followed by
a pang of anguish at having let him go back to peril--nay, perhaps, to
death--without a word of tenderness or even recognition. She imaged him
as the sunny-faced youth who had claimed her in the royal castle, and
her longing to be at his side and cling to him as his own became every
moment more fervent and irresistible, until she gladly recollected the
necessity of carrying food to the defenders; and snatching an interval
from her hospital cares, she sped to the old circular kitchen of the
monastery, where she found the lame baker vainly trying to organize a
party of frightened women to carry provisions to the garrison of the
bridge-tower.

'Give some to me,' she said. 'My husband is there! I am come to fetch
his dinner.'

The peasant women looked and whispered as if they thought that, to add
to their misfortunes, their Lady of Hope had become distracted by grief;
and one or two, who held the old faith, and were like the crane among
the sparrows, even observed that it was a judgment for the profane
name that had been given her, against which she had herself uniformly
protested.

'My husband is come,' said Eustacie, looking round with shining eyes.
'Let us be brave wives, and not let our men famish.'

She lifted a loaf and a pitcher of broth, and with the latter poised on
her erect and graceful head, and elastic though steady step, she led the
way; the others following her with a sort of awe, as of one they fancied
in a superhuman state. In fact, there was no great danger in traversing
the bridge with its lofty parapet on either side; and her mind was too
much exalted and moved to be sensible of anything but a certain exulting
awe of the battle sounds. There was, however, a kind of lull in the
assault which had raged so fiercely ever since the fall of the officer,
and the arrival of the reinforcements. Either the enemy had paused to
take food, or were devising some fresh mode of attack; and as the
line of women advanced, there started forth from under the arch a
broad-shouldered, white-faced, golden-bearded personage, who cried
joyously, 'My dearest, my bravest! this for me!' and lifted the pitcher
from her head as he grasped her hand with a flesh and blood clasp
indeed, but the bright-cheeked, wavy-haired lad of her dream withered
away with a shock of disappointment, and she only looked up with wistful
puzzled earnestness instead of uttering the dear name that she had so
long been whispering to herself. 'Dearest,' he said, 'this is precious
indeed to me, that you should let me feast my eyes once more on you. But
you may not tarry; the rogues may renew the attack at any moment.'

She had thought of herself as insisting on standing beside him and
sharing his peril. Had he been himself she must have don so, but this
was a stranger, whose claiming her made her shrink apart till she could
feel the identity which, though she believed, she could not realize.
Her hand lay cold and tremulous within his warm pressure, but he was too
much wrought up and too full of joy and haste to be sensible of anything
but of the brave affection that had dared all to come to him; and he
was perfectly happy, even as a trumpet-call among the foe warned him to
press her fingers to his lips and say, as his bright blue eye kindled,
'God grant that we may meet and thank Him tonight! Farewell, my lost and
found! I fight as one who has something to fight for.'

He might not leave his post, but he watched her with eyes that could not
be satiated, as she recrossed the bridge; and, verily, his superabundant
ecstasy, and the energy that was born of it, were all needed to sustain
the spirits of his garrison through that terrible afternoon. The enemy
seemed to be determined to carry the place before it could be relieved,
and renewed the storm again and again with increasing violence; while
the defenders, disheartened by their pertinacity, dismayed at the
effects of the heavy artillery, now brought to bear on the tower, and
direfully afraid of having the bridge destroyed, would have abandoned
their barbican and shut themselves up within the body of the place, had
not Berenger been here, there, and everywhere, directing, commanding,
exhorting, cheering, encouraging, exciting enthusiasm by word and
example, winning proud admiration by feats of valour and dexterity
sprung of the ecstatic inspiration of new-found bliss, and watching,
as the conscious defender of his own most beloved, without a moment's
respite, till twilight stillness sank on the enemy, and old Falconnet
came to relieve him, thanking him for his gallant defence, and auguring
that, by noonday tomorrow at latest, M. le Duc would succour them,
unless he were hampered by any folly of this young Navarre.

Too blissful for the sense of fatigue, Berenger began to impart to the
Commandant his delight, but the only answer he got was 'Hope, yes, every
hope;' and he again recognized what he had already perceived, that the
indistinctness of his utterance made him entirely unintelligible to
the deaf Commandant, and that shouting did but proclaim to the whole
garrison, perhaps even to the enemy's camp, what was still too new a
joy not to be a secret treasure of delight. So he only wrung the old
Captain's hand, and strode away as soon as he was released.

It was nearly dark, in spite of a rising moon, but beneath the cloister
arch was torchlight, glancing on a steel head-piece, and on a white cap,
both bending down over a prostrate figure; and he heard the voice he
loved so well say, 'It is over! I can do no more. It were best to dig
his grave at once here in silence--it will discourage the people less.
Renaud and Armand, here!'

He paused for a few minutes unseen in the shadow while she closed the
eyes and composed the limbs of the dead soldier; then, kneeling, said
the Lord's Prayer in French over him. Was this the being he had left as
the petted plaything of the palace? When she rose, she came to the arch
and gazed wistfully across the moonlit quadrangle, beyond the dark
shade cast by the buildings, saying to the soldier, 'You are sure he was
safe?'

'My Eustacie,' said Berenger, coming forward, 'we meet in grave times!'

The relief of knowing him safe after the sickening yearnings and
suspense of the day, and moreover the old ring of tenderness in his
tone, made her spring to him with real warmth of gladness, and cry, 'It
is you! All is well.

'Blessedly well, _ma mie_, my sweetheart,' he said, throwing his arm
round her, and she rested against him murmuring, 'Now I feel it! Thou
are thyself!' They were in the dark cloister passage, and when he would
have moved forward she clung closer to him, and murmured, 'Oh, wait,
wait, yet an instant--thus I can feel that I have thee--the same--my
own!'

'My poor darling,' said Berenger, after a second, 'you must learn to
bear with both my looks and speech, though I be but a sorry shattered
fellow for you.'

'No, no,' she cried, hanging on him with double fervour. 'No, I am
loving you the more already,--doubly--trebly--a thousand times. Only
those moments were so precious, they made all these long years as
nothing. But come to the little one, and to your brother.'

The little one had already heard them, and was starting forward to meet
them, though daunted for a moment by the sight of the strange father:
she stood on the pavement, in the full flood of the moonlight from the
east window, which whitened her fair face, flaxen hair, and gray dress,
so that she did truly look like some spirit woven of the moonbeams.
Eustacie gave a cry of satisfaction: 'Ah! good, good; it was by
moonlight that I saw her first!'

Berenger took her in his arm, and held her to his breast with a sense of
insatiable love, while Philip exclaimed, 'Ay, well may you make much of
her, brother. Well might you seek them far and wide. Such treasures are
not to be found in the wide world.'

Berenger without answering, carried the little one to the step of the
ruined high altar, and there knelt, holding Eustacie by the hand, the
child in one arm, and, with the moon glancing on his high white brow
and earnest face, he spoke a few words of solemn thanks and prayer for
a blessing on their reunion, and the babe so wonderfully preserved to
them.

Not till then did he carry her into the lamplight by Philip's bed, and
scan therein every feature, to satisfy his eyes with the fulfilled hope
that had borne him through those darkest days, when, despairing of the
mother, the thought of the child had still sustained him to throw
his will into the balance of the scale between life and death. Little
Berangere gazed up into his face silently, with wondering, grave,
and somewhat sleepy eyes, and then he saw them fix themselves on his
powder-grimed and blood-stained hands. 'Ah! little heart,' he said,
'I am truly in no state to handle so pure a piece of sugar as thou; I
should have rid myself of the battle-stains ere touching thee, but how
recollect anything at such a moment?'

Eustacie was glad he had broken the spell of silence; for having
recovered her husband, her first instinct was to wait upon him. She took
the child from him, explaining that she was going to put her to bed in
her own rooms up the stone stair, which for the present were filled with
fugitive women and children who had come in from the country, so that
the chancel must continue the lodging of Berenger and his brother;
and for the time of her absence she brought him water to wash away the
stains, and set before him the soup she had kept warm over her little
charcoal brazier. It was only when thus left that he could own, in
answer to Philip's inquiries, that he could feel either hunger or
weariness; nay, he would only acknowledge enough of the latter to give
a perfect charm to rest under such auspices. Eustacie had dispatched her
motherly cares promptly enough to be with him again just as in taking
off his corselet he had found that it had been pierced by a bullet,
and pursuing the trace, through his doublet, he found it lodged in that
purse which he had so long worn next his heart, where it had spent its
force against the single pearl of Ribaumont. And holding it up to the
light, he saw that it was of silver. Then there returned on him and
Philip the words they had heard two days before, of silver bullets
forged for the destruction of the white moonlight fairy, and he further
remembered the moment's shock and blow that in the midst of his wild
amaze on the river's bank had made him gather his breath and strength to
bound desperately upwards, lest the next moment he should find himself
wounded and powerless.

For the innocent, then, had the shot been intended; and she running
into danger out of her sweet, tender instincts of helpfulness, had been
barely saved at the extreme peril of her unconscious father's life.
Philip, whose vehement affection for the little one had been growing
all day, was in the act of telling Berenger to string the bullet in the
place of the injured pearl, as the most precious heirloom of Ribaumont
bravery, when Eustacie returned, and learning all, grew pale and
shuddered as danger had never made her do before: but this strange day
had almost made a coward of her.

'And this is has spared,' said Berenger, taking out the string of little
yellow shells. 'Dost know them, sweet heart? They have been my chaplet
all this time.'

'Ah!' cried Eustacie, 'poor, good Mademoiselle Noemi! she threaded them
for my child, when she was very little. Ah! could she have given them to
you--could it then not have been true--that horror?'

'Alas! it was too true. I found these shells in the empty cradle, in the
burnt house, and deemed them all I should ever have of my babe.'

'Poor Noemi! poor Noemi! She always longed to be a martyr; but we fled
from her, and the fate we had brought on her. That was the thought that
preyed on my dear father. He grieved so to have left his sheep--and it
was only for my sake. Ah! I have brought evil on all who have been good
to me, beginning with you. You had better cast me off, or I shall bring
yet worse!'

'Let it be so, if we are only together.'

He drew her to him and she laid her head on his shoulder, murmuring,
'Ah! father, father, were you but here to see it. So desolate yesterday,
so ineffably blest today. Oh! I cannot even grieve for him now, save
that he could not just have seen us; yet I think he knew it would be
so.'

'Nay, it may be that he does see us,' said Berenger. 'Would that I had
known who it was whom you were laying down "_en paix et seurte bonne_!"
As it was, the psalm brought precious thoughts of Chateau Leurre, and
the little wife who was wont to sing it with me.'

'Ah!' said Eustacie, 'it was when he sang those words as he was about
to sleep in the ruin of the Temple that first I--cowering there in
terror--knew him for no Templar's ghost, but for a friend. That story
ended my worst desolation. That night he became my father; the next my
child came to me!'

'My precious treasure! Ah! what you must have undergone, and I all
unknowing, capable of nothing wiser than going out of my senses, and
raging in a fever because I could convince no one that those were all
lies about your being aught but my true and loving wife. But tell me,
what brought thee hither to be the tutelary patron, where, but for the
siege, I had over-passed thee on the way to Quinet?'

Then Eustacie told him how the Italian pedlar had stolen her letters,
and attempted to poison her child--the pedlar whom he soon identified
with that wizard who had talked to him of 'Esperance,' until the cue
had evidently been given by the Chevalier. Soon after the Duke had
dispatched a messenger to say that the Chevalier de Ribaumont was on the
way to demand his niece; and as it was a period of peace, and the law
was decidedly on his side, Madame de Quinet would be unable to offer any
resistance. She therefore had resolved to send Eustacie away--not to
any of the seaports whither the uncle would be likely to trace her, but
absolutely to a place which he would have passed through on his journey
into Guyenne. The monastery of Notre-Dame de l'Esperance at Pont de
Dronne had been placed there, as well as a colony of silk-spinners,
attracted by the mulberry-trees of the old abbey garden. These, however,
having conceived some terror of the ghosts of the murdered monks, had
entreated for a pastor to protect them; and Madame la Duchesse thought
that in this capacity Isaac Gardon, known by one of the many aliases to
which the Calvinist ministers constantly resorted, might avoid suspicion
for the present. She took the persecuted fugitives for some stages in an
opposite direction, in her own coach, then returned to face and baffle
the Chevalier, while her trusty steward, by a long _detour_, conducted
them to Pont de Dronne, which they reached the very night after to
Chevalier had returned through it to Nid de Merle.

The pastor and his daughter were placed under the special protection of
Captain Falconnet, and the steward had taken care that they should be
well lodged in three rooms that had once been the abbot's apartments.
Their stay had been at first intended to be short, but the long journey
had been so full of suffering to Isaac, and left such serious effects,
that Eustacie could not bear to undertake it again, and Madame de Quinet
soon perceived that she was safer there than at the chateau, since
strangers were seldom admitted to the fortress, and her presence
there attracted no attention. But for Isaac Gardon's declining health,
Eustacie would have been much happier here than at the chateau; the
homely housewifely life, where all depended on her, suited her; and,
using her lessons in domestic arts of nursing and medicine for the
benefit of her father's flock, she had found, to her dismay, that
the simple people, in their veneration, had made her into a sort of
successor to the patroness of the convent. Isaac had revived enough for
a time to be able to conduct the worship in the church, and to instruct
some his flock; but the teaching of the young had been more and more
transferred to her, and, as he ingenuously said, had taught her more
than she ever knew before. He gradually became weaker through more
suffering, and was absolutely incapable of removal, when an attack
by the Guisards was threatened. Eustacie might have been sent back to
Quinet; but she would not hear of leaving him; and this first had been
a mere slight attack, as if a mere experiment on the strength of the
place. She had, however, then had to take the lead in controlling the
women, and teaching them to act as nurses, and to carry out provisions;
and she must then have been seen by some one, who reported her presence
there to Narcisse--perhaps by the Italian pedlar. Indeed Humfrey, who
came in for a moment to receive his master's orders, report his watch,
and greet his lady, narrated, on the authority of the lately enlisted
men-at-arms, that M. de Nid de Merle had promised twenty crowns to any
one who might shoot down the heretics' little white _diablesse_.

About six weeks had elapsed since the first attack on Pont de Dronne,
and in that time Gardon had sunk rapidly. He died as he lived, a gentle,
patient man, not a characteristic Calvinist, though his lot had been
thrown with that party in his perplexed life of truth-seeking and
disappointment in the aspirations and hopes of early youth. He had been,
however, full of peace and trust that he should open his eyes where the
light was clear, and no cloud on either side would mar his perception;
and his thankfulness had been great for the blessing that his almost
heaven-sent daughter had been to him in his loneliness, bereavement,
and decay. Much as he loved her, he did not show himself grieved or
distressed on her account; but, as he told her, he took the summons to
leave her as a sign that his task was done, and the term of her trials
ended. 'I trust as fully,' he said, 'that thou wilt soon be in safe and
loving hands, as though I could commit thee to them.'

And so he died in her arms, leaving her a far fuller measure of blessing
and of love than ever she had derived from her own father; and as the
enemy's trumpets were already sounding on the hills, she had feared
insult to his remains, and had procured his almost immediate burial in
the cloister, bidding the assistants sing, as his farewell, that evening
psalm which had first brought soothing to her hunted spirit.

There, while unable, after hours of weeping, to tear herself from the
grave of her father and protector, had she in her utter desolation been
startled by the summons, not only to attend to the wounded stranger,
but to lodge him in the chancel. 'Only this was wanting,' was the first
thought in her desolation, for this had been her own most cherished
resort. Either the _bise_, or fear of a haunted spot, or both, had
led to the nailing up of boards over the dividing screen, so that the
chancel was entirely concealed from the church; and no one ever thought
of setting foot there till Eustacie, whose Catholic reverence was
indestructible, even when she was only half sure that it was not worse
than a foible, had stolen down thither, grieved at its utter desolation,
and with fond and careful hands had cleansed it, and amended the ruin
so far as she might. She had no other place where she was sure of being
uninterrupted; and here had been her oratory, where she daily prayed,
and often came to hide her tears and rally her spirits through that long
attendance on her fatherly friend. It had been a stolen pleasure. Her
reverent work there, if once observed, would have been treated as rank
idolatry; and it was with consternation as well as grief that she found,
by the Captain's command, that this her sanctuary and refuge was to be
invaded by strange soldiers! Little did she think---!

And thus they sat, telling each other all, on the step of the ruined
chancel, among the lights and shadows of the apse. How unlike to stately
Louvre's halls of statuary and cabinets of porcelain, or the Arcadian
groves of Montpipeau! And yet how little they recked that they were in
a beleaguered fortress, in the midst of ruins, wounded sufferers all
around, themselves in hourly jeopardy. It was enough that they had one
another. They were so supremely happy that their minds unconsciously
gathered up those pale lights and dark fantastic shades as adjuncts of
their bliss.



CHAPTER XLIII. LE BAISER D'EUSTACIE



     No pitying voice, no eye, affords
     One tear to grace his obsequies.
                        --GRAY


Golden sunshine made rubies and sapphires of the fragments of glass in
the windows of Notre-Dame de l'Esperance, and lighted up the brown face
and earnest eyes of the little dark figure, who, with hands clasped
round her knees, sat gazing as if she could never gaze her fill, upon
the sleeping warrior beside whom she sat, his clear straight profile
like a cameo, both in chiseling and in colour, as it lay on the brown
cloak where he slept the profound sleep of content and of fatigue.

Neither she nor Philip would have spoken or stirred to break that
well-earned rest; but sounds from without were not long in opening his
eyes, and as they met her intent gaze, he smiled and said, 'Good morrow,
sweet heart! What, learning how ugly a fellow is come back to thee?'

'No, indeed! I was trying to trace thine old likeness, and then
wondering how I ever liked thy boyish face better than the noble look
thou bearest now!'

'Ah! when I set out to come to thee, I was a walking rainbow; yet I was
coxcomb enough to think thou wouldst overlook it.'

'Show me those cruel strokes,' she said; 'I see one'--and her finger
traced the seam as poor King Charles had done--'but where is the one my
wicked cousin called by that frightful name?'

'Nay, verily, that sweet name spared my life! A little less spite at my
peach cheek, and I had been sped, and had not lisped and stammered all
my days in honour of _le baiser d'Eustacie_!' and as he pushed aside his
long golden silk moustache to show the ineffaceable red and purple scar,
he added, smiling, 'It has waited long for its right remedy.'

At that moment the door in the rood-screen opened. Captain Falconnet's
one eye stared in amazement, and from beneath his gray moustache
thundered forth the word 'Comment!' in accents fit to wake the dead.

Was this Esperance, the most irreproachable of pastor's daughters and
widows? 'What, Madame, so soon as your good father is under ground? At
least I thought ONE woman could be trusted; but it seems we must see to
the wounded ourselves.'

She blushed, but stood her ground; and Berenger shouted, 'She is my
wife, sir!--my wife whom I have sought so long!'

'That must be as Madame la Duchesse chooses,' said the Captain. 'She is
under her charge, and must be sent to her as soon as this _canaille_ is
cleared off. To your rooms, Madame!'

'I am her husband!' again cried Berenger. 'We have been married sixteen
years.'

'You need not talk to me of dowry; Madame la Duchesse will settle that,
if you are fool enough to mean anything by it. No, no, Mademoiselle,
I've no time for folly. Come with me, sir, and see if that be true which
they say of the rogues outside.'

And putting his arm into Berenger's, he fairly carried him
off, discoursing by the way on _feu_ M. l'Amiral's saying that
'over-strictness in camp was perilous, since a young saint, an old
devil,' but warning him that this was prohibited gear, as he was
responsible for the young woman to Madame la Duchesse. Berenger, who had
never made the Captain hear anything that he did not know before, looked
about for some interpreter whose voice might be more effectual, but
found himself being conducted to the spiral stair of the church steeple;
and suddenly gathering that some new feature in the case had arisen,
followed the old man eagerly up the winding steps to the little square
of leaden roof where the Quinet banner was planted. It commanded a wide
and splendid view, to the Bay of Biscay on the one hand, and the inland
mountains on the other; but the warder who already stood there pointed
silently to the north, where, on the road by which Berenger had come,
was to be seen a cloud of dust, gilded by the rays of the rising sun.

Who raised it was a matter of no doubt; and Berenger's morning orisons
were paid with folded hands, in silent thanks-giving, as he watched
the sparkling of pikes and gleaming of helmets--and the white flag of
Bourbon at length became visible.

Already the enemy below were sending out scouts--they rode to the top of
the hill--then a messenger swan his horse across the river. In the camp
before the bridge-tower men buzzed out of their tents, like ants whose
hill is disturbed; horses were fastened to the cannon, tents were
struck, and it was plain that the siege was to be raised.

Captain Falconnet did his ally the honour to consult him on the
expedience of molesting the Guisards by a sally, and trying to take some
of their guns; but Berenger merely bowed to whatever he said, while he
debated aloud the PROS and CONS, and at last decided that the garrison
had been too much reduced for this, and that M. le Duc would prefer
finding them drawn up in good order to receive him, to their going
chasing and plundering disreputable among the enemy--the Duke being here
evidently a much greater personage than the King of Navarre, hereditary
Governor of Guyenne though he were. Indeed, nothing was wanting to the
confusion of Berenger's late assailants. In the camp on the north side
of the river, things were done with some order; but that on the other
side was absolutely abandoned, and crowds were making in disorder for
the ford, leaving everything behind them, that they might not have their
retreat cut off. Would there be a battle? Falconnet, taking in with his
eye the numbers of the succouring party, thought the Duke would allow
the besiegers to depart unmolested, but remembered with a sigh that
young king had come to meddle in their affair!

However, it was needful to go down and marshal the men for the reception
of the new-comers, or to join in the fight, as the case might be.

And it was a peaceful entrance that took place some hours later, and was
watched from the windows of the prior's rooms by Eustacie, her child,
and Philip, whom she had been able to install in her own apartments,
which had been vacated by the refugee women in haste to return home, and
where he now sat in Maitre Gardon's great straw chair, wrapped in
his loose gown, and looking out at the northern gates, thrown open to
receive the King and Duke, old Falconnet presenting the keys to the
Duke, the Duke bowing low as he offered them to the King, and the King
waving them back to the Duke and the Captain. Then they saw Falconnet
presenting the tall auxiliary who had been so valuable to him, his
gesture as he pointed up to the window, and the King's upward look, as
he doffed his hat and bowed low, while Eustacie responded with the
most graceful of reverences, such as reminded Philip that his little
sister-in-law and tender nurse was in truth a great court lady.

Presently Berenger came up-stairs, bringing with him his faithful
foster-brother Osbert, who, though looking gaunt and lean, had nearly
recovered his strength, and had accompanied the army in hopes of finding
his master. The good fellow was full of delight at the welcome of his
lady, and at once bestirred himself in assisting her in rectifying the
confusion in which her guests had left her apartment.

Matters had not long been set straight when steps were heard on the
stone stair, and, the door opening wide, Captain Falconnet's gruff voice
was heard, 'This way, Monseigneur; this way, Sire.'

This was Madame la Baronne de Ribaumont's first reception. She was
standing at the dark walnut table, fresh starching and crimping
Berenger's solitary ruff, while under her merry superintendence those
constant playfellows, Philip and Rayonette, were washing, or pretending
to wash, radishes in a large wooden bowl, and Berenger was endeavouring
to write his letter of good tidings, to be sent by special messenger
to his grand-father. Philip was in something very like a Geneva gown;
Eustacie wore her prim white cap and frill, and coarse black serge
kirtle; and there was but one chair besides that one which Philip was
desired to retain, only two three-legged stools and a bench.

Nevertheless, Madame de Ribaumont was equal to the occasion; nothing
could have been more courtly, graceful, or unembarrassed than her manner
of receiving of King's gallant compliments, and of performing all the
courtesies suited to the hostess and queen of the place: it was the air
that would have befitted the stateliest castle hall, yet that in
its simplicity and brightness still more embellished the old ruinous
convent-cell. The King was delighted, he sat down upon one of the
three-legged stools, took Rayonette upon his knee, undertook to finish
washing the radishes, but ate nearly all he washed, declaring that they
put him in mind of his old hardy days on the mountains of Bearn. He
insisted on hearing all Rayonette's adventure in detail; and on seeing
the pearls and the silver bullet, 'You could scarcely have needed the
token, sir,' said he with a smile to Berenger; 'Mademoiselle had already
shown herself of the true blood of the bravest of knights.'

The tidings of the attack on Pont de Dronne had caused the Duke to make
a forced march to its relief, in which the King had insisted on joining
him; and they now intended to wait at Pont de Dronne till the rest
of the troops came up, and to continue their march through Guyenne to
Nerac, the capital of Henry's county of Foix. The Duke suggested that
if Philip were well enough to move when the army proceeded, the family
might then take him to Quinet, where the Duchess would be very desirous
to see Madame; and therewith they took leave with some good-humoured
mirth as to whether M. le Ribaumont would join them at supper, or remain
in the bosom of his family, and whether he were to be regarded as a gay
bridegroom or a husband of sixteen year's standing.

'Nay,' said the King, 'did his good Orpheus know how nearly his Eurydice
had slipped through his fingers again? how M. de Quinet had caught the
respectable Pluto yonder in the gray moustache actually arranging an
escort to send the lady safe back to Quinet _bon gre malgre_--and truly
a deaf Pluto was worse than even Orpheus had encountered!'

So laughing, he bowed again his compliments; but Eustacie demanded, so
soon as he was gone, what he meant by calling her by such names. If he
thought it was her Christian name, it was over-familiar--if not, she
liked it less.

'It is only that he last saw you in the Infernal Region, _ma mie_,'
said Berenger; 'and I have sought you ever since, as Orpheus sought
Eurydice.'

But her learning did not extend so far; and when the explanation was
made, she pouted, and owned that she could not bear to be reminded of
the most foolish and uncomfortable scene in her life--the cause of all
her troubles; and as Berenger was telling her of Diane's confession
that her being involved in the pageant was part of the plot for their
detention at Paris, Osbert knocked at the door, and entered with a
bundle in his arms, and the air of having done the right thing.

'There, sir,' he said with proud satisfaction, 'I have been to the camp
across the river. I heard there were good stuffs to be had there for
nothing, and thought I would see if I could find a coat for Monsieur
Philippe, for his own is a mere ruin.'

This was true, for Eustacie had been deciding that between blood and
rents it had become a hopeless case for renovation; and Osbert joyfully
displayed a beautifully-embroidered coat of soft leather, which he had
purchased for a very small sum of a plunderer who had been there before
him. The camp had been so hastily abandoned that all the luggage
had been left, and, like a true valet, Osbert had not neglected the
opportunity of replenishing his master's wardrobe. 'And,' said he, 'I
saw there on whom M. le Baron knows,--M. de Nid de Merle.'

'Here!' cried Eustacie, startled for a moment, but her eyes resting
reassured on her husband.

'Madame need not be alarmed,' said Osbert; 'M. le Baron has well repaid
him. Ah! ah! there he lies, a spectacle for all good Christians to
delight in.'

'It was then he, _le scelerat_?' exclaimed Berenger; 'I have already
thought it possible.'

'And he fell by your hands!' cried Eustacie. 'That is as it should be.'

'Yes, Madame,' said Osbert; 'it did my very heart good to see him
writhing there like a crushed viper. M. le Baron's bullet was mortal,
and his own people thought him not worth the moving, so there he lies
on the ground howling and cursing. I would have given him the _coup de
grace_ myself, but that I thought M. le Baron might have some family
matters to settle with him; so I only asked what he thought now of
clapping guiltless folk into dungeons, and shooting innocent children
like sparrows; but he grinned and cursed like a demon, and I left him.'

'In any one's charge?' asked Berenger.

'In the field's, who is coming for him,' said the descendant of the
Norseman. 'I only told Humfrey that if he saw any one likely to meddle
he should tell them he was reserved for you. Eh! M. le Baron is not
going now. Supper is about to be served, and if M. le Baron would let me
array him with this ruff of Spanish point, and wax the ends of his belle
moustache---'

'It is late,' added Eustacie, laying her hand on his arm; 'there may be
wild men about--he may be desperate! Oh, take care!'

'_Ma mie_, do you not think me capable of guarding myself from a wild
cat leap of a dying man? He must not be left thus. Remember he is a
Ribaumont.'

Vindictiveness and revenge had their part in the fire of Eustacie's
nature. Many a time had she longed to strangle Narcisse; and she was
on the point of saying, 'Think of his attempts on that little one's
life--think of your wounds and captivity;' but she had not spent three
years with Isaac Gardon without learning that there was sin in giving
way to her keen hatred; and she forced herself to silence, while
Berenger said, reading her face, 'Keep it back, sweet heart! Make it
not harder for me. I would as soon go near a dying serpent, but it were
barbarity to leave him as Osbert describes.'

Berenger was too supremely and triumphantly happy not to be full of
mercy; and as Osbert guided him to the hut where the miserable man lay,
he felt little but compassion. The scene was worse than he had expected;
for not only had the attendants fled, but plunderers had come in their
room, rent away the coverings from the bed, and torn the dying man from
it. Livid, nearly naked, covered with blood, his fingers hacked,
and ears torn for the sake of the jewels on them, lay the dainty and
effeminate tiger-fop of former days, moaning and scarcely sensible. But
when the mattress had been replaced, and Berenger had lifted him back to
it, laid a cloak over him, and moistened his lips, he opened his eyes,
but only to exclaim, 'You there! As if I had not enough to mock me!
Away!' and closed them sullenly.

'I would try to relieve you, cousin,' said Berenger.

The answer was a savage malediction on hypocrisy, and the words, 'And my
sister?'

'Your sister is in all honour and purity at the nunnery of Lucon.'

He laughed a horrible, incredulous laugh. 'Safely disposed of ere you
cajoled _la petite_ with the fable of your faithfulness! Nothing like
a Huguenot for lying to both sides;' and then ensued another burst
of imprecations on the delay that had prevented him from seizing the
fugitives--till he--till he felt as if the breath of hell were upon him,
and could not help vindicating himself, vain though he knew it to
be: 'Narcisse de Ribaumont,' he said gravely, 'my word has never been
broken, and you know the keeping of it has not been without cost. On
that word believe that Madame de Selinville is as spotless a matron as
when she periled herself to save my life. I never even knew her sex till
I had drawn her half drowned from the sea, and after that I only saw her
in the presence of Dom Colombeau of Nissard, in whose care I left her.'

Narcisse's features contorted themselves into a frightful sneer as he
muttered, 'The intolerable fool; and that he should have got the better
of me, that is if it be true--and I believe not a word of it.'

'At least,' said Berenger, 'waste not these last hours on hating and
reviling me, but let this fellow of mine, who is a very fair surgeon,
bind your wound again.'

'Eh!' said Narcisse, spitefully, turning his head, 'your own rogue? Let
me see what work he made of _le baiser d'Eustacie_. Pray, how does it
please her?'

'She thanks Heaven that your chief care was to spoil my face.'

'I hear she is a prime doctress; but of course you brought her not
hither lest she should hear HOW you got out of our keeping.'

'She knows it.'

'Ah! she has been long enough at court to know one must overlook, that
one's own little matters may be overlooked.'

Berenger burst out at last, 'Her I will not hear blasphemed: the next
word against her I leave you to yourself.'

'That is all I want,' said Narcisse. 'These cares of yours are only
_douceurs_ to your conceited heretical conscience, and a lengthening out
of this miserable affair. You would scoff at the only real service you
could render me.'

'And that is---'

'To fetch a priest. Ha! ha! one of your sort would sooner hang me. You
had rather see me perish body and soul in this Huguenot dog-hole! What!
do you stammer? Bring a psalm-singing heretic here, and I'll teach him
and you what you MAY call blasphemy.'

'A priest you shall have, cousin,' said Berenger, gravely; 'I will do
my utmost to bring you one. Meanwhile, strive to bring yourself into a
state in which he may benefit you.'

Berenger was resolved that the promise should be kept. He saw that
despair was hardening the wretched man's heart, and that the possibility
of fulfilling his Church's rites might lead him to address himself to
repentance; but the difficulties were great. Osbert, the only Catholic
at hand, was disposed to continue his vengeance beyond the grave, and
only at his master's express command would even exercise his skill to
endeavour to preserve life till the confessor could be brought. Ordinary
Huguenots would regard the desire of Narcisse as a wicked superstition,
and Berenger could only hurry back to consult some of the gentlemen who
might be supposed more unprejudiced.

As he was crossing the quadrangle at full speed, he almost ran against
the King of Navarre, who was pacing up and down reading letters, and
who replied to his hasty apologies by saying he looked as if the fair
Eurydice had slipped through his hands again into the Inferno.

'Not so, Sire, but there is one too near those gates. Nid de Merle is
lying at the point of death, calling for a priest.'

'_Ventre Saint-Gris_!' exclaimed the King, 'he is the very demon of the
piece, who carved your face, stole your wife, and had nearly shot your
daughter.'

'The more need of his repentance, Sire, and without a priest he will not
try to repent. I have promised him one.'

'A bold promise!' said Henry. 'Have you thought how our good friends
here are likely to receive a priest of Baal into the camp?'

'No, Sire, but my best must be done. I pray you counsel me.'

Henry laughed at the simple confidence of the request, but replied, 'The
readiest way to obtain a priest will be to ride with a flag of truce to
the enemy's camp--they are at St. Esme--and say that M. de Nid de Merle
is a prisoner and dying, and that I offer safe-conduct to any priest
that will come to him--though whether a red-hot Calvinist will respect
my safe-conduct or your escort is another matter.'

'At least, Sire, you sanction my making this request?'

'Have you men enough to take with you to guard you from marauders?'

'I have but two servants, Sire, and I have left them with the wounded
man.'

'Then I will send with you half a dozen Gascons, who have been long
enough at Paris with me to have no scruples.'

By the time Berenger had explained matters to his wife and brother, and
snatched a hasty meal, a party of gay, soldierly-looking fellows were in
the saddle, commanded by a bronzed sergeant who was perfectly at home
in conducting messages between contending parties. After a dark ride of
about five miles, the camp at the village of St. Esme was reached,
and this person recommended that he himself should go forward with a
trumpet, since M. de Ribaumont was liable to be claimed as an escaped
prisoner. There was then a tedious delay, but at length the soldier
returned, and another horseman with him. A priest who had come to the
camp in search of M. de Nid de Merle was willing to trust himself to the
King of Navarre's safe-conduct.

'Thanks, sir,' cried Berenger; 'this is a work of true charity.'

'I think I know that voice,' said the priest.

'The priest of Nissard!'

'Even so, sir. I was seeking M. de Nid de Merle, and had but just learnt
that he had been left behind wounded.'

'You came to tell him of his sister?'

And as they rode together the priest related to Berenger that M. de
Solivet had remained in the same crushed, humiliated mood, not exactly
penitent, but too much disappointed and overpowered with shame to heed
what became of her provided she were not taken back to her brother or
her aunt. She knew that repentance alone was left for her, and permitted
herself to be taken to Lucon, where Mere Monique was the only person
whom she had ever respected. There had no doubt been germs of good
within her, but the crime and intrigue of the siren court of Catherine
de Medicis had choked them; and the first sense of better things had
been awakened by the frank simplicity of the young cousin, while,
nevertheless, jealousy and family tactics had led her to aid in his
destruction, only to learn through her remorse how much she loved him.
And when in his captivity she thought him in her power, but found
him beyond her reach, unhallowed as was her passion, yet still the
contemplation of the virtues of one beloved could not fail to raise her
standard. It was for his truth and purity that she had loved him, even
while striving to degrade these quantities; and when he came forth
from her ordeal unscathed, her worship of him might for a time be more
intense, but when the idol was removed, the excellence she had first
learnt to adore in him might yet lead that adoration up to the source of
all excellence. All she sought NOW was shelter wherein to weep and cower
unseen; but the priest believed that her tears would soon spring from
profound depths of penitence such as often concluded the lives of the
gay ladies of France. Mere Monique had received her tenderly, and the
good priest had gone from Lucon to announce her fate to her aunt and
brother.

At Bellaise he had found the Abbess much scandalized. She had connived
at her niece's releasing the prisoner, for she had acquired too much
regard for him to let him perish under Narcisse's hands, and she had
allowed Veronique to personate Diane at the funeral mass, and also
purposely detained Narcisse to prevent the detection of the escape; but
the discovery that her niece had accompanied his flight had filled her
with shame and furry.

Pursuit had been made towards La Rochelle, but when the neighbourhood
of the King of Navarre became known, no doubt was entertained that the
fugitives had joined him, and Narcisse, reserving his vengeance for the
family honour till he should encounter Berenger, had hotly resumed the
intention of pouncing on Eustacie at Pont de Dronne, which had been
decided on upon the report of the Italian spy, and only deferred by his
father's death. This once done, Berenger's own supposed infidelity would
have forced him to acquiesce in the annulment of the original marriage.

It had been a horrible gulf, and Berenger shuddered as one who had
barely struggled to the shore, and found his dear ones safe, and his
enemies shattered and helpless on the strand. They hurried on so as to
be in time. The priest, a brave and cautious man, who had often before
carried the rites of the Church to dying men in the midst of the enemy,
was in a secular dress, and when Berenger had given the password, and
obtained admittance they separated, and only met again to cross the
bridge. They found Osbert and Humfrey on guard, saying that the sufferer
still lingered, occasionally in a terrible paroxysm of bodily anguish,
but usually silent, except when he upbraided Osbert with his master's
breach of promise or incapacity to bring a priest through his Huguenot
friends.

Such a taunt was on his tongue when Pere Colombeau entered, and checked
the scoff by saying, 'See, my son, you have met with more pardon and
mercy even on earth than you had imagined possible.'

There was a strange spasm on Narcisse's ghastly face, as though he
almost regretted the obligation forced on him, but Berenger scarcely
saw him again. It was needful for the security of the priest and the
tranquillity of the religious rites that he should keep watch outside,
lest any of the more fanatical of the Huguenots should deem it their
duty to break in on what they had worked themselves into believing
offensive idolatry.

His watch did not prove uncalled for. At different times he had to plead
the King's safe-conduct, and his own honour, and even to defend his own
Protestantism by appealing to his wounds and services. Hearts were not
soft enough then for the cruelty of disturbing a dying man to be any
argument at all in that fierce camp; but even there the name of Pere
Colombeau met with respect. The saintly priest had protected too many
enemies for any one who had heard of him to wish him ill.

Nearly all night was Berenger thus forced to remain on guard, that the
sole hope of Narcisse's repentance and salvation might not be swept away
by violence from without, renewing bitterness within. Not till towards
morning was he called back. The hard, lingering death struggle had spent
itself, and slow convulsive gasps showed that life was nearly gone; but
the satanic sneer had passed away, and a hand held out, a breathing like
the word 'pardon' seemed to be half uttered, and was answered from the
bottom of Berenger's kind and pitying heart. Another quarter of an hour,
and Narcisse de Ribaumont Nid de Merle was dead. The priest looked pale,
exhausted, shocked, but would reveal nothing of the frame of mind he had
shown, only that if he had been touched by any saving penitence, it was
owing to his kinsman.

Berenger wished to send the corpse to rest in the family vault at
Bellaise, where the Chevalier had so lately been laid; and the priest
undertook to send persons with a flag of truce to provide for the
transport, as well as to announce the death to the sister and the aunt.
Wearied as he was, he would not accept Berenger's earnest invitation to
come and take rest and refreshment in the prior's rooms, but took
leave of him at the further side of the fortress, with almost reverent
blessings, as to one not far from the kingdom of heaven; and Berenger,
with infinite peacefulness in his heart, went home in the silence of the
Sunday morning, and lay sleeping away his long fatigue through the chief
part of the day, while Pastor Merlin was preaching and eloquent sermon
upon his good brother Isaac Gardon, and Eustacie shed filial tears, more
of tenderness than sorrow.



CHAPTER XLIV. THE GALIMAFRE



   Speats and raxes, speats and raxes, speat and raxes
                      Lord Somerville's billet


Never wont to let the grass grow under his feet, Henry of Navarre was
impatient of awaiting his troops at Pont de Dronne, and proposed
to hasten on to Quinet, as a convenient centre for collecting the
neighbouring gentry for conference. Thus, early on Monday, a party of
about thirty set forth on horseback, including the Ribaumonts, Rayonette
being perched by turns in front of her father or mother, and the Duke de
Quinet declaring that he should do his best to divide the journey into
stages not too long for Philip, since he was anxious to give his mother
plenty of time to make preparations for her royal guest.

He had, however, little reckoned on the young King's promptitude. The
first courier he had dispatched was overtaken at a _cabaret_ only five
leagues from Pont de Dronne, baiting his horse, as he said; the second
was found on the road with a lame horse; and the halt a day's journey
remained beyond it. The last stage had been ridden, much to the Duke's
discontent, for it brought them to a mere village inn, with scarcely any
accommodation. The only tolerable bed was resigned by the King to the
use of Philip, whose looks spoke the exhaustion of which his tongue
scorned to complain. So painful and feverish a night ensued that
Eustacie was anxious that he should not move until the Duke should,
as he promised, send a mule litter back for him; but this proposal he
resented; and in the height of his constitutional obstinacy, appeared
booted and spurred at the first signal to mount.

Nor could Eustacie, as she soon perceived, annoy him more than by
showing her solicitude for him, or attracting to him the notice of the
other cavaliers. As the only lady of the party, she received a great
deal of attention, with some of which she would gladly have dispensed.
Whether it were the King's habit of calling her '_la Belle Eurydice_,' or
because, as she said, he was '_si laid_' and reminded her of old unhappy
days of constraint, she did not like him, and had almost displeased her
husband and his brother by saying so. She would gladly have avoided the
gallantries of this day's ride by remaining with Philip at the inn; but
not only was this impossible, but the peculiar ill-temper of concealed
suffering made Philip drive her off whenever she approached him with
inquiries; so that she was forced to leave him to his brother and
Osbert, and ride forward between the King and the Duke, the last of whom
she really liked.

Welcome was the sight of the grand old chateau, its mighty wings of
chestnut forest stretching up the hills on either side, and the
stately avenue extending before it; but just then the last courier was
discovered, reeling in his saddle under the effects of repeated toasts
in honour of Navarre and Quinet.

'We are fairly sped,' said the Duke to Eustacie, shrugging his shoulders
between amusement and dismay.

'Madame la Duchesse is equal to any _galimafre_,' said Eustacie,
demurely; at which the Duke laughed heartily, saying, 'It is not for the
family credit I fear, but for my own!'

'Nay, triumph makes everything be forgiven.'

'But not forgotten,' laughed the Duke. 'But, _allons_. Now for the
onset. We are already seen. The forces muster at the gateway.'

By the time the cavalcade were at the great paved archway into the
court, the Duchess stood at the great door, a grandson on either side,
and a great burly fresh-coloured gentleman behind her.

M. de Quinet was off his horse in a second, his head bare, his hand on
the royal rein, and signing to his eldest son to hold the stirrup; but,
before the boy had comprehended, Henry had sprung down, and was kissing
the old lady's hand, saying, 'Pardon, Madame! I trust to your goodness
for excusing this surprise from an old friend's son.'

Neither seeing nor caring for king or prince, the stranger gentleman at
the same moment pounced upon Eustacie and her little girl, crying aloud
in English, 'Here she is! My dear, I am glad to see you. Give her to
me, poor Berenger's little darling. Ah! she does not understand. Where's
Merrycourt?'

Just then there was another English exclamation, 'My father! Father!
dear father!' and Philip, flinging himself from the saddle, fell almost
prone on that broad breast, sobbing convulsively, while the eyes that,
as he truly boasted, had never wasted a tear on his enemies, were
streaming so fast that his father's welcome savoured of reproof: 'What's
all this? Before these French too.'

'Take care, father,' cried Berenger, leaping from his horse; 'he has an
ugly wound just where you are holding him.'

'Wounded! my poor boy. Look up.'

'Where is your room, sir?' said Berenger, seeing his hosts entirely
occupied with the King; and at once lifting the almost helpless Philip
like a little child in his strong arms, he followed Sir Marmaduke, who,
as if walking in his sleep, led the way up the great stone staircase
that led outside the house to the upper chambers.

After a short interval, the Duchess, in the plenitude of her glory at
entertaining her dear Queen's son, came up _en grande tenue_, leading
the King by the hand, the Duke walking backwards in front, and his two
sons each holding a big wax candle on either side.

'Here, Sire, is the chamber where the excellent Queen did me the honour
to repose herself.'

The Duke swung open the door of the state bed-chamber. There on the
velvet-hung bed sat _le gros Chevalier Anglais_, whom she had herself
installed there on Saturday. Both his hands were held fast in those of
a youth who lay beside him, deadly pale, and half undressed, with the
little Ribaumont attending to a wound in his side, while her child was
held in the arms of a very tall, bald-headed young man, who stood at
the foot of the bed. The whole group of interlopers looked perfectly
glorified with happiness and delight. Even the wounded youth, ghastly
and suffering as he was, lay stroking the big Englishman's hand with
a languid, caressing air of content, almost like that of a dog who
has found his master. None of them were the least embarrassed, they
evidently thought this a visit of inquiry after the patient; and while
the Duchess stood confounded, and the Duke much inclined to laugh,
Eustacie turned eagerly, exclaiming, 'Ah! Madame, I am glad you are
come. May I beg Mademoiselle Perrot for some of your cooling mallow
salve. Riding has sadly inflamed the wound.'

'Riding--with such a wound! Are we all crazed?' said Madame la Duchesse,
absolutely bewildered out of her dignified equanimity: and her son,
seeing her for once at a loss, came to her rescue. 'His Grace will
condescend to the Andromeda Chamber, Madame. He kindly gave up his bed
to our young friend last night, when there was less choice than you can
give him.'

They all moved off again; and, before Eustacie was ready for the
mallows, Madame de Quinet, for whom the very name of a wound had
an attraction, returned with two hand-maidens bearing bandages and
medicaments, having by this time come to the perception that the wounded
youth was the son of the big Englishman who had arrived with young
Mericour in search of her little _protegee_, and that the tall man was
the husband so long supposed to be dead. She was curious to see her
pupil's surgery, of which she highly approved, though she had no words
to express her indignation at the folly of traveling so soon. Indeed,
nothing but the passiveness of fatigue could have made her despotism
endurable to Philip; but he cared for nothing so long as he could see
his father's face, and hear his voice--the full tones that his ear had
yearned for among the sharp expression of the French accent--and Sir
Marmaduke seemed to find the same perfect satisfaction in the sight of
him; indeed, all were so rejoiced to be together, that they scarcely
exerted themselves to ask questions. When Berenger would have made some
explanation, Sir Marmaduke only said, 'Tell me not yet, my dear boy. I
see it is all right, and my head will hold no more yet but that I have
you and the lad again! Thank God for it! Never mind how.'

When, however, with some difficulty they got him away from Philip's
bedside down to supper, the King came and made him high compliments upon
the distinguished bravery of his sons, and Mericour interpreted, till
Sir Marmaduke--though answering that of course the lads must do their
duty, and he was only glad to hear they had done it--became more and
more radiant and proud, as he began to gather what their trials and what
their steadfastness and courage had been. His goodly face, beaming with
honest gladness, was, as Henry told the Duchess, an absolute ornament to
her table.

Unable, however, to converse with any one but Berenger and Mericour, and
pining all the time to get back to his son, the lengthy and ceremonious
meal was a weary penance to him; and so soon as his release was
possible, he made his way up-stairs again, where he found Philip much
refreshed by a long sleep, and only afraid that he should find the sight
of his father merely a dream; then, when satisfied on that head, eager
to hear of all at home--'the sisters, the dogs, my mother, and my little
brother?' as he arranged his inquiry.

'Ha! you heard of that, did you?'

'Yes,' said Philip, 'the villains gave us letters once--only once--and
those what they thought would sting us most. O father, how could you all
think such foul shame of Berry?'

'Don't speak of it, Phil; I never did, nor Aunt Cecily, not for a
moment; but my Lord is not the man he was, and those foes of yours must
have set abroad vile reports for the very purpose of deceiving us. And
then this child must needs be born, poor little rogue. I shall be able
to take to him now all is right again; but by St. George, they have
tormented me so about him, and wanted me to take him as a providence
to join the estates together, instead of you and Berry, that I never
thought to care so little for a child of my own.'

'We drank his health at Nid de Merle, and were not a little comforted
that you would have him in our place.'

'I'd rather--Well, it skills not talking of it, but it just shows the
way of women. After all the outcry Dame Annora had made about her poor
son, and no one loving him or heeding his interest save herself, no
sooner was this little fellow born than she had no thought for any but
he, and would fain have had her father settle all his lands on him,
protesting that if Berry lived, his French lands were enough for him.
Out of sight, out of mind, is the way with women.'

Womanhood was already made accountable for all Lady Thistlewood's
follies, and Philip acquiesced, asking further, 'Nay, but how came you
hither, father? Was it to seek us or Eustacie?'

'Both, both, my lad. One morning just after Christmas, I rid over to
Combe with my dame behind me, and found the house in commotion with a
letter that young Sidney, Berry's friend, had just sent down by special
messenger. It had been writ more than a year, but, bless you, these poor
foreigners have such crooked ears and tongues that they don't know what
to make of a plain man's name, and the only wonder was that it ever came
at all. It seems the Duke here had to get it sent over by some of the
secret agents the French Protestants have in England, and what do they
do but send it to one of the Vivians in Cornwall; and it was handed
about among them for how long I cannot say, till there was a chance of
sending it up to my Lord of Warwick; and he, being able to make nothing
if it, shows it to his nephew, Philip Sidney, who, perceiving at once
whom it concerned, sends it straight to my Lord, with a handsome letter
hoping that it brought good tidings. There then it was, and so we first
knew that the poor lady had not been lost in the sack of the town, as
Master Hobbs told us. She told us how this Duchess had taken her under
her protection, but that her enemies were seeking her, and had even
attempted her child's life.'

'The ruffians! Even so.'

'And she said her old pastor was failing in health, and prayed that some
trusty person might be sent to bring home at least the child to safety
with her kindred. There was a letter to the same effect, praising her
highly too, from the Duchess, saying that she would do her best to guard
her, but the kinsmen had the law on their side, and she would be safer
in England. Well, this was fair good news, save that we marveled the
more how you and Berry should have missed her; but the matter now was
who was the trusty person who should go. Claude Merrycourt was ready---'

'How came he there?' demanded Philip. 'I thought he had gone, or been
sent off with Lady Burnet's sons.'

'Why, so he had; but there's more to say on that score. He was so much
in favour at Combe, that my Lord would not be denied his spending the
holiday times there; and, besides, last summer we had a mighty coil.
The Horners of Mells made me a rare good offer for Lucy for their eldest
son, chiefly because they wanted a wife for him of my Lady Walwyn's and
Mistress Cecily's breeding; and my wife was all for accepting it,
having by that time given up all hope of poor Berry. But I would have no
commands laid on my girl, seeing that I had pledged my word not to cross
her in the matter, and she hung about my neck and prayed me so meekly to
leave her unwedded, that I must have been made of stone not to yield to
her. So I told Mr. Horner that his son Jack must wait for little Nancy
if he wanted a daughter of mine--and the stripling is young enough. I
believe he will. But women's tongues are not easy to stop, and Lucy
was worn so thin, and had tears in her eyes--that she thought I never
marked--whenever she was fretted or flouted, and at last I took her back
to stay at Combe for Aunt Cecily to cheer up a bit; and--well, well, to
get rid of the matter and silence Dame Nan, I consented to a betrothal
between her and Merrycourt--since she vowed she would rather wait
single for him than wed any one else. He is a good youth, and is working
himself to a shadow between studying and teaching; but as to sending
him alone to bring Berry's wife back, he was over-young for that. No one
could do that fitly save myself, and I only wish I had gone three years
ago, to keep you two foolish lads out of harm's way. But they set up
an unheard-of hubbub, and made sure I should lose myself. What are you
laughing at, you Jacksauce?'

'To think of you starting, father, with not a word of French, and never
from home further than once to London.'

'Ah! you thought to come the traveled gentleman over me, but I've been
even with you. I made Dame Nan teach me a few words, but I never could
remember anything but that "mercy" is "thank ye". However, Merrycourt
offered to come with me, and my Lord wished it. Moreover, I thought he
might aid in tracing you out. So I saw my Lord alone, and he passed his
word to me that, come what would, no one should persuade him to alter
his will to do wrong to Berenger's daughter; and so soon as Master Hobbs
could get the THROSTLE unladen, and fitted out again, we sailed for
Bordeau, and there he is waiting for us, while Clause and I bought
horses and hired a guide, and made our way here on Saturday, where we
were very welcome; and the Duchess said she would but wait till she
could learn there were no bands of the enemy at hand, to go down with me
herself to the place where she had sent the lady. A right worthy dame is
this same Duchess, and a stately; and that young King, as they call him,
seems hard to please, for he told Berry that his wife's courtliness and
ease in his reception were far above aught that he found here. What
he means is past a plain man, for as to Berry's wife she is handy, and
notable enough, and 'tis well he loves her so well; but what a little
brown thing it is, for a man to have gone through such risks for.
Nothing to look at beside his mother!'

'If you could only see Madame de Selinville!' sighed Philip; then--'Ah!
sir, you would know the worth of Eustacie had you seen her in yonder
town.'

'Very like!' said Sir Marmaduke; 'but after all our fears at home of a
fine court madam, it takes one aback to see a little homely brown thing,
clad like a serving wench. Well, Dame Nan will not be displeased, she
always said the girl would grow up no beauty, and 'tis the way of
women to brook none fairer than themselves! Better so. She is a good
Protestant, and has done rarely by you, Phil.'

'Truly, I might be glad 'twas no court madam that stood by me when Berry
was called back to the fight: and for the little one, 'tis the loveliest
and bravest little maid I ever saw. Have they told you of the marigolds,
father?'

'Why, the King told the whole to the Duchess, so Berry said, and then
drank the health of the daughter of the bravest of knights; and Berry
held her up in his arms to bow again, and drink to them from his glass.
Berry looked a proud man, I can tell you, and a comely, spite of his
baldness; and 'tis worth having come here to see how much you lads are
thought of--though to be sure 'tis not often the poor creatures here see
so much of an Englishman as we have made of Berry.'

Philip could not but laugh. ''Tis scarce for that that they value him,
sir.'

'Say you so? Nay, methinks his English heart and yours did them good
service. Indeed, the King himself told me as much by the mouth of
Merrycourt. May that youngster's head only not be turned! Why, they set
him at table above Berenger, and above half the King's gentlemen. Even
the Duchess makes as if he were one of her highest guests--he a poor
Oxford scholar, doubting if he can get his bread by the law, and flouted
as though he were not good enough for my daughter. 'Tis the world
topsy turvy, sure enough! And that this true love that Berenger has run
through fire and water after, like a knight in a pedlar's run through
turn out a mere little, brown, common-looking woman after all, not one
whit equal to Lucy!'

Sir Marmaduke modified his disappointment a little that night, when he
had talked Philip into a state of feverishness and suffering that became
worse under Madame de Quinet's reproofs and remedies, and only yielded
to Eustacie's long and patient soothing. He then could almost have owned
that it was well she was not like his own cherished type of womanhood,
and the next day he changed his opinion still more, even as to her
appearance.

There was a great gathering of favourers of the Huguenot cause on that
day; gentlemen came from all parts to consult with Henry of Navarre, and
Madame de Quinet had too much sense of the fitness of things to allow
Madame de Ribaumont to appear at the ensuing banquet in her shabby,
rusty black serge, and tight white borderless cap. The whole wardrobe of
the poor young Duchess de Quinet was placed at her service, and though,
with the thought of her adopted father on her heart, she refused gay
colours, yet when, her toilette complete, she said into Philip's room,
he almost sprang up in delight, and Sir Marmaduke rose and ceremoniously
bowed as to a stranger, and was only undeceived when little Rayonette
ran joyously to Philip, asking if _Manan_ was not _si belle, si belle_.

The effects of her unrestful nights has now passed away, and left her
magnificent eyes in their full brilliancy and arch fire; the blooming
glow was restored to her cheek; and though neck, brow, and hands were
browner than in the shelter of convent or palace, she was far more near
absolute beauty than in former days, both from countenance and from
age. Her little proud head was clustered with glossy locks of jet, still
short, but curling round her brow and neck, whose warm brunette tints
contrasted well with the delicate, stiffened cobweb of her exquisite
standing ruff, which was gathered into a white satin bodice, with a
skirt of the same material, over which swept a rich black brocade train
open in front, with an open body and half-sleeves with falling lace, and
the hands, delicate and shapely as ever, if indeed a little tanned, held
fan and handkerchief with as much courtly grace as though they had never
stirred broth nor wrung out linen. Sir Marmaduke really feared he had
the court madam on his hands after all, but he forgot all about his
fears, as she stood laughing and talking, and by her pretty airs and
gestures, smiles and signs, making him enter into her mirth with Philip,
almost as well as if she had not spoken French.

Even Berenger started, when he came up after the counsel to fetch her
to the banqueting-hall. She was more entirely the Eustacie of the Louvre
than he had ever realized seeing her, and yet so much more; and when the
Duchess beheld the sensation she produced among the _noblesse_, it was
with self-congratulation in having kept her in retirement while it
was still not known that she was not a widow. The King of Navarre had
already found her the only lady present possessed of the peculiar aroma
of high-breeding which belonged to the society in which both he and she
had been most at home, and his attentions were more than she liked from
one whose epithet of Eurydice she had never quite forgiven; at least,
that was the only reason she could assign for her distaste, but the
Duchess understood her better than did Berenger, nay, better than she
did herself, and kept her under the maternal wings of double form and
ceremony.

Berenger, meanwhile, was in great favour. A command had been offered him
by the King of Navarre, who had promised that if he would cast in his
lot with the Huguenots, his claims on all the lands of Ribaumont should
be enforced on the King of France when terms were wrung from him, and
Narcisse's death removed all valid obstacle to their recognition; but
Berenger felt himself bound by all home duties to return to England, nor
had he clear convictions as to the absolute right of the war in which
he had almost unconsciously drawn his sword. Under the Tudors the divine
right of kings was strongly believed in, and it was with many genuine
misgivings that the cause of Protestant revolt was favoured by Elisabeth
and her ministers; and Berenger, bred up in a strong sense of loyalty,
as well as in doctrines that, as he had received them, savoured as
little of Calvinism as of Romanism, was not ready to espouse the
Huguenot cause with all his heart; and as he could by no means have
fought on the side of King Henry III. or of the Guises, felt thankful
that the knot could be cut by renouncing France altogether, according
to the arrangement which had been defeated by the Chevalier's own
supper-subtle machinations.

At the conference of gentlemen held at Quinet, he had been startled by
hearing the name of the Sieur de Bellaise, and had identified him with
a grave, thin, noble-looking man, with an air of high-bred and patient
poverty. He was a Catholic but no Guisard, and supported the middle
policy of the Montmorency party, so far as he possessed any influence;
but his was only the weight of personal character, for he had merely a
small property that had descended to him through his grandmother, the
wife of the unfortunate Bellaise who had pined to death in the dungeon
at Loches, under Louis XI. Here, then, Berenger saw the right means of
riding himself and his family of the burthen that his father had mourned
over, and it only remained to convince Eustacie. Her first feeling when
she heard of the King's offer, was that at last her ardent wish would
be gratified, she should see her husband at the head of her vassals,
and hear the war-cry motto '_A moi Ribaumont_.' Then came the old
representation that the Vendeen peasants were faithful Catholics who
could hardly be asked to fight on the Calvinist side. The old spirit
rose in a flush, a pout, a half-uttered query why those creatures should
be allowed their opinions. Madame la Baronne was resuming her haughty
temperament in the _noblesse_ atmosphere; but in the midst came the
remembrance of having made that very speech in her Temple ruin--of the
grave sad look of rebuke and shake of the head with which the good old
minister had received it--and how she had sulked at him till forced to
throw herself on him to hinder her separation from her child. She burst
into tears, and as Berenger, in some distress, began to assure her that
he would and could do nothing without her consent, she struggled to
recover voice to say, 'No! no! I only grieve that I am still as wicked
as ever, after these three years with that saint, my dear father. Do as
you will, only pardon me, the little fierce one!'

And then, when she was made to perceive that her husband would have to
fight alone, and could not take her with him to share his triumphs or
bind his wounds, at least not except by bringing her in contact with
Henry of Navarre and that atmosphere of the old court, she acquiesced
the more readily. She was a woman who could feel but not reason; and,
though she loved Nid de Merle, and had been proud of it, Berenger's
description of the ill-used Sieur de Bellaise had the more effect on
her, because she well remembered the traditions whispered among the
peasants with whom her childhood had been passed, that the village
crones declared nothing had gone well with the place since the Bellaise
had been expelled, with a piteous tale of the broken-hearted lady, that
she had never till now understood.

For the flagrant injustice perpetrated on her uncle and cousin in the
settlement on Berenger and herself she cared little, thinking they had
pretty well repaid themselves, and not entering into Berenger's deeper
view, that this injustice was the more to be deplored as the occasion of
their guilt; but she had no doubt or question as to the grand stroke
of yielding up her claims on the estate to the Sieur de Bellaise. The
generosity of the deed struck her imagination, and if Berenger would
not lead her vassals to battle, she did not want them. There was no
difficulty with Sir Marmaduke; he only vowed that he liked Berenger's
wife all the better for being free of so many yards of French dirt
tacked to her petticoat, and Philip hated the remembrance of those red
sugar-loaf pinnacles far too much not to wish his brother to be rid of
them.

M. de Bellaise, when once he understood that restitution was intended,
astonished Sir Marmaduke by launching himself on Berenger's neck with
tears of joy; and Henry of Navarre, though sorry to lose such a partisan
as the young Baron, allowed that the Bellaise claims, being those of a
Catholic, might serve to keep out some far more dangerous person whom
the court party might select in opposition to an outlaw and a Protestant
like M. de Ribaumont.

'So you leave us,' he said in private to Berenger, to whom he had taken
a great liking. 'I cannot blame you for not casting your lot into such
a witch's caldron as this poor country. My friends think I dallied at
court like Rinaldo in Armida's garden. They do not understand that when
one hears the name of Bourbon one does not willingly make war with the
Crown, still less that the good Calvin left a doctrine bitter to the
taste and tough of digestion. Maybe, since I have been forced to add my
spoon to stir the caldron, it may clear itself; if so, you will remember
that you have rights in Normandy and Picardy.'

This was the royal farewell. Henry and his suite departed the next
morning, but the Duchess insisted on retaining her other guests till
Philip's cure should be complete. Meantime, Claude de Mericour had
written to his brother and arranged a meeting with him. He was now no
boy who could be coerced, but a staid, self-reliant, scholarly person,
with a sword by his side and an English passport to secure him, and his
brother did not regard him as quite the disgrace to his family he had at
first deemed him. He was at least no rebel; and though the law seemed to
French eyes infinitely beneath the dignity of a scion of nobility, still
it was something not to have him a heretic preacher, and to be able
at least to speak of him as betrothed to the sister of the Baron de
Ribaumont. Moreover, that Huguenot kinsman, whose extreme Calvinist
opinions had so nearly revolted Mericour, had died and left him all his
means, as the only Protestant in the family; and the amount, when Claude
arranged matters with his brother, proved to be sufficient to bear him
through his expenses handsomely as a student, with the hope of marriage
so soon as he should have kept his terms at the Temple.

And thus the good ship THROSTLE bore home the whole happy party to
Weymouth, and good Sir Marmaduke had an unceasing cause for exultation
in the brilliant success of his mission to France.

After all, the first to revisit that country was no other than the
once homesick Philip. He wearied of inaction, and thought his county
neighbours ineffably dull and lubberly, while they blamed him for being
a fine, Frenchified gentleman, even while finding no fault with their
old friend Berenger, or that notable little, lively, housewifely lady
his wife, whose broken English and bright simplicity charmed every one.
Sorely Philip needed something to do; he might have been a gentleman
pensioner, but he had no notion, he said, of loitering after a lady to
boat and hunt, when such a king as Henry of Navarre was in the field;
and he agreed with Eustacie in her estimate of the court, that it was
horribly dull, and wanting in all the sparkle and brilliancy that even
he had perceived at Paris.

Eustacie gladly retreated to housewifery at Combe Walwyn, but a
strenuous endeavour on Lady Thistlewood's part to marry her stepson to a
Dorset king's daughter, together with the tidings of the renewed war in
France, spurred Philip into writing permission from his father to join
the King of Navarre as a volunteer.

Years went by, and Philip was only heard of in occasional letters,
accompanied by presents to his sisters and to little Rayonette, and
telling of marches, exploits, and battles,--how he had taken a standard
of the League at Coutras, and how he had led a charge of pikemen at
Ivry, for which he received the thanks of Henry IV. But, though so near
home, he did not set foot on English ground till the throne of France
was secured to the hero of Navarre, and he had marched into Paris in
guise very unlike the manner he had left it.

Then home he came, a bronzed gallant-looking warrior, the pride of the
county, ready for repose and for aid to his father in his hearty
old age, and bearing with him a pressing invitation from the King
to Monsieur and Madame de Ribaumont to resume their rank at court.
Berenger, who had for many years only known himself as Lord Walwyn,
shook his head. 'I thank the King,' he said, 'but I am better content
to breed up my children as wholly English. He bade me to return when he
should have stirred the witch's caldron into clearness. Alas! all he
has done is to make brilliant colours shine on the vapour thereof. Nay,
Phil; I know your ardent love for him, and marvel not at it. Before he
joined the Catholic Church I trusted that he might have given truth to
the one party, and unity to the other; but when the clergy accepted him
with all his private vices, and he surrendered unconditionally, I lost
hope. I fear there is worse in store. Queen Catherine did her most fatal
work of evil when she corrupted Henry of Navarre.'

'If you say more, Berry, I shall be ready to challenge you!' said
Philip. 'When you saw him, you little knew the true king of souls that
he is, is greatness, or his love for his country.'

'Nay, I believe it; but tell me, Philip, did you not hint that you had
been among former friends--at Lucon, you said, I think?'

Philip's face changed. 'Yes; it was for that I wished to see you alone.
My troop had to occupy the place. I had to visit the convent to arrange
for quartering my men so as least to scandalize the sisters. The Abbess
came to speak to me. I knew her only by her eyes! She is changed--aged,
wan, thin with their discipline and fasts--but she once or twice
smiled as she alone in old times could smile. The place rings with her
devotion, her charity, her penances, and truly her face is'--he could
hardly speak--'like that of a saint. She knew me at once, asked for
you all, and bade me tell you that NOW she prays for you and yours
continually, and blesses you for having opened to her the way of peace.
Ah! Berry, I always told you she had not her equal.'

'Think you so even now?'

'How should I not, when I have seen what repentance has made of her?'

'So!' said Berenger, rather sorrowfully, 'our great Protestant champion
has still left his heart behind in a French convent.'

'Stay, Berenger! do you remember yonder villain conjurer's prediction
that I should wed none but a lady whose cognizance was the leopard?'

'And you seem bent on accomplishing it,' said Berenger.

'Nay, but in another manner--that which you devised on the spur of
the moment. Berenger, I knew the sorcerer spake sooth when that little
moonbeam child of yours brought me the flowers from the rampart. I had
speech with her last night. She has all the fair loveliness that belongs
of right to your mother's grandchild, but her eye, blue as it is, has
the Ribaumont spirit; the turn of the head and the smile are what I
loved long ago in yonder lady, and, above all, she is her own sweet
self. Berenger, give me your daughter Berangere, and I ask no portion
with her but the silver bullet. Keep the pearls for your son's heirloom;
all I ask with Rayonette is the silver bullet.'


THE END





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