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Title: Stray Pearls: Memoirs of Margaret De Ribaumont, Viscountess of Bellaise
Author: Yonge, Charlotte M. (Charlotte Mary)
Language: English
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STRAY PEARLS

MEMOIRS OF MARGARET DE RIBAUMONT, VISCOUNTESS OF BELLAISE

By Charlotte Yonge



PREFACE


No one can be more aware than the author that the construction of this
tale is defective. The state of French society, and the strange scenes
of the Fronde, beguiled me into a tale which has become rather a family
record than a novel.

Formerly the Muse of the historical romance was an independent and
arbitrary personage, who could compress time, resuscitate the dead,
give mighty deeds to imaginary heroes, exchange substitutes for popular
martyrs on the scaffold, and make the most stubborn facts subservient to
her purpose. Indeed, her most favoured son boldly asserted her right
to bend time and place to her purpose, and to make the interest and
effectiveness of her work the paramount object. But critics have lashed
her out of these erratic ways, and she is now become the meek hand maid
of Clio, creeping obediently in the track of the greater Muse, and never
venturing on more than colouring and working up the grand outlines that
her mistress has left undefined. Thus, in the present tale, though it
would have been far more convenient not to have spread the story over
such a length of time, and to have made the catastrophe depend upon
the heroes and heroines, instead of keeping them mere ineffective
spectators, or only engaged in imaginary adventures for which a
precedent can be found, it has been necessary to stretch out their
narrative, so as to be at least consistent with the real history, at the
entire sacrifice of the plot. And it may be feared that thus the story
may partake of the confusion that really reigned over the tangled thread
of events. There is no portion of history better illustrated by memoirs
of the actors therein than is the Fronde; but, perhaps, for that very
reason none so confusing.

Perhaps it may be an assistance to the reader to lay out the bare
historical outline like a map, showing to what incidents the memoirs of
the Sisters of Ribaumont have to conform themselves.

When Henry IV. succeeded in obtaining the throne of France, he found
the feudal nobility depressed by the long civil war, and his exchequer
exhausted. He and his minister Sully returned to the policy of Louis
XI., by which the nobles were to be kept down and prevented from
threatening the royal power. This was seldom done by violence, but by
giving them employment in the Army and Court, attaching them to the
person of the King, and giving them offices with pensions attached to
them.

The whole cost of these pensions and all the other expenses of
Government fell on the townspeople and peasantry, since the clergy and
the nobles to all generations were exempt from taxation. The trade and
all the resources of the country were taking such a spring of recovery
since the country had been at peace, and the persecution of the
Huguenots had ceased, that at first the taxation provoked few murmurs.
The resources of the Crown were further augmented by permitting almost
all magistrates and persons who held public offices to secure the
succession to their sons on the payment of a tariff called LA PAULETTE,
from the magistrate who invented it.

In the next reign, however, an effort was made to secure greater
equality of burthens. On the meeting of the States-General--the only
popular assembly possessed by France--Louis XIII., however, after
hearing the complaints, and promising to consider them, shut the doors
against the deputies, made no further answer, and dismissed them to
their houses without the slightest redress. The Assembly was never to
meet again till the day of reckoning for all, a hundred and seventy
years later.

Under the mighty hand of Cardinal Richelieu the nobles were still more
effectually crushed, and the great course of foreign war begun, which
lasted, with short intervals, for a century. The great man died, and
so did his feeble master; and his policy, both at home and abroad, was
inherited by his pupil Giulio Mazarini, while the regency for the
child, Louis XIV., devolved on his mother, Anne of Austria--a pious and
well-meaning, but proud and ignorant, Spanish Princess--who pinned her
faith upon Mazarin with helpless and exclusive devotion, believing him
the only pilot who could steer her vessel through troublous waters.

But what France had ill brooked from the high-handed son of her ancient
nobility was intolerable from a low-born Italian, of graceful but
insinuating manners. Moreover, the war increased the burthens of the
country, and, in the minority of the King, a stand was made at last.

The last semblance of popular institutions existed in the Parliaments
of this was the old feudal Council of the Counts of Paris, consisting
of the temporal and spiritual peers of the original county, who had
the right to advise with their chief, and to try the causes concerning
themselves. The immediate vassals of the King had a right to sit there,
and were called Paris De France, in distinction from the other nobles
who only had seats in the Parliament in whose province their lands might
lie. To these St. Louis, in his anxiety to repress lawlessness, had
added a certain number of trained lawyers and magistrates; and these
were the working members of these Parliaments, which were in general
merely courts of justice for civil and criminal causes. The nobles only
attended on occasions of unusual interest. Moreover, a law or edict of
the King became valid on being registered by a Parliament. It was a
moot question whether the Parliament had the power to baffle the King by
refusing to register an edict, and Henry IV. had avoided a refusal from
the Parliament of Paris, by getting his edict of toleration for the
Huguenots registered at Nantes.

The peculiarly oppressive house-tax, with four more imposts proposed in
1648, gave the Parliament of Paris the opportunity of trying to make an
effectual resistance by refusing the registration. They were backed
by the municipal government of the city at the Hotel de Ville, and
encouraged by the Coadjutor of the infirm old Archbishop of Paris,
namely, his nephew, Paul de Gondi, titular Bishop of Corinth in partibus
infidelium, a younger son of the Duke of Retz, an Italian family
introduced by Catherince de Medici. There seemed to be a hope that the
nobility, angered at their own systematic depression, and by Mazarin’s
ascendency, might make common cause with the Parliament and establish
some effectual check to the advances of the Crown. This was the origin
of the party called the Fronde, because the speakers launched their
speeches at one another as boys fling stones from a sling (fronde) in
the streets.

The Queen-Regent was enraged through all her despotic Spanish
haughtiness at such resistance. She tried to step in by the arrest of
the foremost members of the Opposition, but failed, and only provoked
violent tumults. The young Prince of Conde, coming home from Germany
flushed with victory, hated Mazarin extremely, but his pride as a Prince
of the Blood, and his private animosities impelled him to take up the
cause of the Queen. She conveyed her son secretly from Paris, and the
city was in a state of siege for several months. However, the execution
of Charles I. in England alarmed the Queen on the one hand, and
the Parliament on the other as to the consequences of a rebellion,
provisions began to run short, and a vague hollow peace was made in the
March of 1649.

Conde now became intolerably overbearing, insulted every one, and so
much offended the Queen and Mazarin that they caused him, his brother,
and the Duke of Bouillon, to be arrested and imprisoned at Vincennes.
His wife, though a cruelly-neglected woman whom he had never loved, did
her utmost to deliver him, repaired to Bordeaux, and gained over the
Parliament there, so that she held out four months against the Queen.
Turenne, brother to Bouillon, and as great a general as Conde, obtained
the aid of Spaniards, and the Coadjutor prevailed on the King’s uncle,
Gaston, Duke of Orleans, to represent that the Queen must give way,
release the Princes, part with Mazarin, and even promise to convoke the
States-General. Anne still, however, corresponded with the Cardinal, and
was directed by him in everything. Distrust and dissension soon broke
out, Conde and the Coadjutor quarrelled violently, and the royal
promises made to both Princes and Parliament were eluded by the King,
at fourteen, being declared to have attained his majority, and thus that
all engagements made in his name became void.

Conde went of to Guienne and raised an army; Mazirin returned to
the Queen; Paris shut its gates and declared Mazarin an outlaw. The
Coadjutor (now become Cardinal de Retz) vainly tried to stir up the Duke
of Orleans to take a manly part and mediate between the parties; but
being much afraid of his own appanage, the city of Orleans, being
occupied by either army, Gaston sent his daughter to take the charge
of it, as she effectually did--but she was far from neutrality, being
deluded by a hope that Conde would divorce his poor faithful wife to
marry her. Turenne, on his brother’s release, had made his peace with
the Court, and commanded the royal army. War and havoc raged outside
Paris; within the partisans of the Princes stirred the populace to
endeavour to intimidate the Parliament and municipality into taking
their part. Their chief leader throughout was the Duke of Beaufort, a
younger son of the Duke of Vendome, the child of Gabrille d’Estrees.
He inherited his grandmother’s beauty and his grandfather’s charm of
manner; he was the darling of the populace of Paris, and led them, in
an aimless sort of way, whether there was mischief to be done; and the
violence and tumult of this latter Fronde was far worse than those of
the first.

A terrible battle in the Faubourg St. Antoine broke Conde’s force, and
the remnant was only saved by Mademoiselle’s insisting on their being
allowed to pass through Paris. After one ungrateful attempt to terrify
the magistrates into espousing his cause and standing a siege on his
behalf, Conde quitted Paris, and soon after fell ill of a violent fever.

His party melted away. Mazarin saw that tranquillity might be restored
if he quitted France for a time. The King proclaimed an amnesty, but
with considerable exceptions and no relaxation of his power; and these
terms the Parliament, weary of anarchy, and finding the nobles had cared
merely for their personal hatreds, not for the public good, were forced
to accept.

Conde, on his recovery, left France, and for a time fought against his
country in the ranks of the Spaniards. Beaufort died bravely fighting
against the Turks at Cyprus. Cardinal de Retz was imprisoned, and
Mademoiselle had to retire from Court, while other less distinguished
persons had to undergo the punishment for their resistance, though, to
the credit of the Court party be it spoken, there were no executions,
only imprisonments; and in after years the Fronde was treated as a brief
frenzy, and forgotten.

Perhaps it may be well to explain that Mademoiselle was Anne Genevieve
de Bourbon, daughter of Gaston, Duke of Orleans, by his first wife, the
heiress of the old Bourbon branch of Montpensier. She was the greatest
heiress in France, and an exceedingly vain and eccentric person, aged
twenty-three at the beginning of the Fronde.

It only remains to say that I have no definite authority for introducing
such a character as that of Clement Darpent, but it is well known
that there was a strong under-current of upright, honest, and
highly-cultivated men among the bourgeoisie and magistrates, and that
it seemed to me quite possible that in the first Fronde, when the
Parliament were endeavouring to make a stand for a just right, and
hoping to obtain further hopes and schemes, and, acting on higher and
purer principles than those around him, be universally misunderstood and
suspected.


C. M. YONGE.



LIST OF CONTENTS



CHAPTER I. WHITEHALL BEFORE THE COBWEBS

CHAPTER II. A LITTLE MUTUAL AVERSION

CHAPTER III. CELADON AND CHLOE

CHAPTER IV. THE SALON BLEU

CHAPTER V. IN GARRISON

CHAPTER VI. VICTORY DEARLY BOUGHT

CHAPTER VII. WIDOW AND WIFE

CHAPTER VIII. MARGUERITE TO THE RESCUE

CHAPTER IX. THE FIREBAND OF THE BOCAGE

CHAPTER X. OLD THREADS TAKEN UP

CHAPTER XI. THE TWO QUEENS

CHAPTER XII. CAVALIERS IN EXILE

CHAPTER XIII. MADEMOISELLE’S TOILETTE

CHAPTER XIV. COURT APPOINTMENTS

CHAPTER XV. A STRANGE THANKGIVING DAY

CHAPTER XVI. THE BARRICADES

CHAPTER XVII. A PATIENT GRISEL

CHAPTER XVIII. TWELFTH NIGHT, OR WHAT YOU WILL

CHAPTER XIX. INSIDE PARIS (Annora’s Narrative)

CHAPTER XX. CONDOLENCE (By Margaret)

CHAPTER XXI. ST. MARGARET AND THE DRAGON

CHAPTER XXII. ST. MARGARET AND THE DRAGON (By Annora)

CHAPTER XXIII. THE LION AND THE MOUSE

CHAPTER XXIV. FAMILY HONOUR

CHAPTER XXV. THE HAGUE

CHAPTER XXVI. HUNKERSLUST

CHAPTER XXVII. THE EXPEDIENT (Annora’s Narrative)

CHAPTER XXVIII. THE BOEUF GRAS (Annora’s Narrative)

CHAPTER XXIX. MADAME’S OPPORTUNITY (Annora’s Narrative)

CHAPTER XXX. THE NEW MAID OF ORLEAN (Margaret’s Narrative)

CHAPTER XXXI. PORTE ST. ANTOINE (Margaret’s Narrative)

CHAPTER XXXII. ESCAPE (Annora’s Narrative)

CHAPTER XXXIII. BRIDAL PEARLS

CHAPTER XXXIV. ANNORA’S HOME



STRAY PEARLS

MEMOIRS OF MARGARET DE RIBAUMONT, VISCOUNTESS OF BELLAISE



CHAPTER I. -- WHITEHALL BEFORE THE COBWEBS.



I have long promised you, my dear grandchildren, to arrange my
recollections of the eventful years that even your father can hardly
remember. I shall be glad thus to draw closer the bonds between
ourselves and the English kindred, whom I love so heartily, though I may
never hope to see them in this world, far less the dear old home where I
grew up.

For, as perhaps you have forgotten, I am an English woman by birth,
having first seen the light at Walwyn House, in Dorsetshire. One brother
had preceded me--my dear Eustace--and another brother, Berenger, and my
little sister, Annora, followed me.

Our family had property both in England and in Picardy, and it was while
attending to some business connected with the French estate that my
father had fallen in love with a beautiful young widow, Madame la
Baronne de Solivet (nee Cheverny), and had brought her home, in spite of
the opposition of her relations. I cannot tell whether she were warmly
welcomed at Walwyn Court by any one but the dear beautiful grandmother,
a Frenchwoman herself, who was delighted again to hear her mother
tongue, although she had suffered much among the Huguenots in her youth,
when her husband was left for dead on the S. Barthelemi.

He, my grandfather, had long been dead, but I perfectly remember her.
She used to give me a sugar-cake when I said ‘Bon soir, bonne maman,’
with the right accent, and no one made sugar-cake like hers. She always
wore at her girdle a string of little yellow shells, which she desired
to have buried with her. We children were never weary of hearing how
they had been the only traces of her or of her daughter that her husband
could find, when he came to the ruined city.

I could fill this book with her stories, but I must not linger over
them; and indeed I heard no more after I was eight years old. Until that
time my brother and I were left under her charge in the country, while
my father and mother were at court. My mother was one of the Ladies of
the Bedchamber of Queen Henrietta Maria, who had been enchanted to find
in her a countrywoman, and of the same faith. I was likewise bred up in
their Church, my mother having obtained the consent of my father, during
a dangerous illness that followed my birth, but the other children were
all brought up as Protestants. Indeed, no difference was made between
Eustace and me when we were at Walwyn. Our grandmother taught us both
alike to make the sign of the cross, and likewise to say our prayers and
the catechism; and oh! we loved her very much.

Eustace once gave two black eyes to our rude cousin, Harry Merricourt,
for laughing when he said no one was as beautiful as the Grandmother,
and though I am an old woman myself, I think he was right. She was like
a little fairy, upright and trim, with dark flashing eyes, that never
forgot how to laugh, and snowy curls on her brow.

I believe that the dear old lady made herself ill by nursing us two
children day and night when we had the smallpox. She had a stroke, and
died before my father could be fetched from London; but I knew nothing
of all that; I only grieved, and wondered that she did not come to me,
till at last the maid who was nursing me told me flatly that the old
lady was dead. I think that afterwards we were sent down to a farmer’s
house by the sea, to be bathed and made rid of infection; and that the
pleasure of being set free from our sick chambers and of playing on the
shore drove from our minds for the time our grief for the good grandma,
though indeed I dream of her often still, and of the old rooms and
gardens at Walwyn, though I have never seen them since.

When we were quite well and tolerably free from pock-marks, my father
took us to London with him, and there Eustace was sent to school at
Westminster; while I, with little Berry, had a tutor to teach us Latin
and French, and my mother’s waiting-maid instructed me in sewing and
embroidery. As I grew older I had masters in dancing and the spinnet,
and my mother herself was most careful of my deportment. Likewise she
taught me such practices of our religion as I had not learnt from
my grandmother, and then it was I found that I was to be brought up
differently from Eustace and the others. I cried at first, and declared
I would do like Eustace and my father. I did not think much about it; I
was too childish and thoughtless to be really devout; and when my mother
took me in secret to the queen’s little chapel, full of charming objects
of devotion, while the others had to sit still during sermons two hours
long, I began to think that I was the best off.

Since that time I have thought much more, and talked the subject over
both with my dear eldest brother and with good priests, both English
and French, and I have come to the conclusion, as you know, my children,
that the English doctrine is no heresy, and that the Church is a true
Church and Catholic, though, as my home and my duties lie here, I remain
where I was brought up by my mother, in the communion of my husband and
children. I know that this would seem almost heresy to our good Pere
Chavand, but I wish to leave my sentiments on record for you, my
children.

But how I have anticipated my history! I must return, to tell you that
when I was just sixteen I was told that I was to go to my first ball
at Whitehall. My hair was curled over my forehead, and I was dressed in
white satin, with the famous pearls of Ribaumont round my neck, though
of course they were not to be mine eventually.

I knew the palace well, having often had the honour of playing with the
Lady Mary, who was some years younger than I, so that I was much less
alarmed than many young gentlewomen there making their first appearance.
But, as my dear brother Eustace led me into the outer hall, close behind
my father and mother, I heard a strange whistle, and, looking up, I saw
over the balustrade of the gallery a droll monkey face looking out of a
mass of black curls, and making significant grimaces at me.

I knew well enough that it was no other than the Prince of Wales. He
was terribly ugly and fond of teasing, but in a good-natured way, always
leaving off when he saw he was giving real pain, and I liked him much
better than his brother, the Duke of York, who was proud and sullen.
Yet one could always trust the Duke, and that could not be said for the
Prince.

By the time we had slowly advanced up the grand staircase into the
banqueting-hall, and had made our reverences to the king and queen--ah,
how stately and beautiful they looked together!--the Prince had stepped
in some other way, and stood beside me.

‘Well, Meg,’ he said, in an undertone--‘I beg pardon, Mrs.
Margaret--decked out in all her splendour, a virgin for the sacrifice!’

‘What sacrifice, sir?’ I asked, startled.

‘Eh!’ he said. ‘You do not know that le futur is arrived!’

‘She knows nothing, your Highness,’ said Eustace.

‘What, oh, what is there to know?’ I implored the Prince and my brother
in turn to inform me, for I saw that there was some earnest in the
Prince’s jests, and I knew that the queen and my mother were looking out
for a good match for me in France.

‘Let me show him to you,’ presently whispered the Prince, who had been
called off by his father to receive the civilities of an ambassador.
Then he pointed out a little wizened dried-up old man, who was hobbling
up to kiss Her Majesty’s hand, and whose courtly smile seemed to me to
sit most unnaturally on his wrinkled countenance. I nearly screamed. I
was forced to bite my lips to keep back my tears, and I wished myself
child enough to be able to scream and run away, when my mother presently
beckoned me forward. I hardly had strength to curtsey when I was
actually presented to the old man. Nothing but terror prevented my
sinking on the floor, and I heard as through falling waters something
about M. le Marquis de Nidemerle and Mrs. Margaret Ribmont, for so we
were called in England.

By and by I found that I was dancing, I scarcely knew how or with whom,
and I durst not look up the whole time, nor did my partner address a
single word to me, though I knew he was near me; I was only too thankful
that he did not try to address me.

To my joy, when we had made our final reverences, he never came near me
again all the evening. I found myself among some young maidens who were
friends of mine, and in our eager talk together I began to forget what
had passed, or to hope it was only some teasing pastime of the Prince
and Eustace.

When we were seated in the coach on the way to our house my father began
to laugh and marvel which had been the most shy, the gallant or the
lady, telling my mother she need never reproach the English with
bashfulness again after this French specimen.

‘How will he and little Meg ever survive to-morrow’s meeting!’ he said.

Then I saw it was too true, and cried out in despair to beg them to let
me stay at home, and not send me from them; but my mother bade me not be
a silly wench. I had always known that I was to be married in France
and the queen and my half-brother, M. de Solivet, had found an excellent
parti for me. I was not to embarrass matters by any folly, but I must
do her credit, and not make her regret that she had not sent me to a
convent to be educated.

Then I clung to my father. I could hold him tight in the dark, and the
flambeaux only cast in a fitful flickering light. ‘Oh, sir,’ said I,
‘you cannot wish to part with your little Meg!’

‘You are your mother’s child, Meg,’ he said sadly. ‘I gave you up to her
to dispose of at her will.’

‘And you will thank me one of these days for your secure home,’ said my
mother. ‘If these rogues continue disaffected, who knows what they may
leave us in England!’

‘At least we should be together,’ I cried, and I remember how I fondled
my father’s hand in the dark, and how he returned it. We should never
have thought of such a thing in the light; he would have been ashamed to
allow such an impertinence, and I to attempt it.

Perhaps it emboldened me to say timidly: ‘If he were not so old--’

But my mother declared that she could not believe her ears that a child
of hers should venture on making such objections--so unmaidenly, so
undutiful to a parti selected by the queen and approved by her parents.

As the coach stopped at our own door I perceived that certain strange
noises that I had heard proceeded from Eustace laughing and chuckling to
himself all the way. I must say I thought it very unkind and cruel
when we had always loved each other so well. I would hardly bid him
good-night, but ran up to the room I shared with nurse and Annora,
and wept bitterly through half the night, little comforted by nurse’s
assurance that old men were wont to let their wives have their way far
more easily than young ones did.



CHAPTER II. -- A LITTLE MUTUAL AVERSION.



I had cried half the night, and when in the morning little Nan wanted
to hear about my ball, I only answered that I hated the thought of it. I
was going to be married to a hideous old man, and be carried to France,
and should never see any of them again. I made Nan cry too, and we both
came down to breakfast with such mournful faces that my mother chid me
sharply for making myself such a fright.

Then she took me away to the still-room, and set me for an hour to make
orange cakes, while she gave orders for the great dinner that we were
to give that day, I knew only too well for whose sake; and if I had only
known which orange cake was for my betrothed, would not it have been a
bitter one! By and by my mother carried me off to be dressed. She never
trusted the tiring-woman to put the finishing touches with those clumsy
English fingers; and, besides, she bathed my swollen eyelids with
essences, and made me rub my pale cheeks with a scarlet ribbon, speaking
to me so sharply that I should not have dared to shed another tear.

When I was ready, all in white, and she, most stately in blue velvet and
gold, I followed her down the stairs to the grand parlour, where stood
my father, with my brothers and one or two persons in black, who I found
were a notary and his clerk, and there was a table before them with
papers, parchment, a standish, and pens. I believe if it had been a
block, and I had had to lay my head on it, like poor Lady Jane Grey, I
could not have been much more frightened.

There was a sound of wheels, and presently the gentleman usher came
forward, announcing the Most Noble the Marquis de Nidemerle, and the
Lord Viscount of Bellaise. My father and brothers went half-way down the
stairs to meet them, my mother advanced across the room, holding me
in one hand and Annora in the other. We all curtsied low, and as the
gentlemen advanced, bowing low, and almost sweeping the ground with the
plumes in their hats, we each had to offer them a cheek to salute after
the English fashion. The old marquis was talking French so fast that
I could not understand him in the least, but somehow a mist suddenly
seemed to clear away from before me, and I found that I was standing
before that alarming table, not with him, but with something much
younger--not much older, indeed, than Eustace.

I began to hear what the notary was reading out, and behold it
was--‘Contract of marriage on the part of Philippe Marie Francois de
Bellaise, Marquis de Nidermerle, and Eustace de Ribaumont, Baron Walwyn
of Walwyn, in Dorset, and Baron de Ribaumont in Picardy, on behoof of
Gaspard Henri Philippe, Viscount de Bellaise, nephew of the Marquis de
Nidemerle, and Margaret Henrietta Maria de Ribaumont, daughter of the
Baron de Ribaumont.’

Then I knew that I had been taken in by the Prince’s wicked trick, and
that my husband was to be the young viscount, not the old uncle! I do
not think that this was much comfort to me at the moment, for, all the
same, I was going into a strange country, away from every one I had ever
known.

But I did take courage to look up under my eye-lashes at the form I was
to see with very different eyes. M. de Ballaise was only nineteen, but
although not so tall as my father or brother, he had already that grand
military bearing which is only acquired in the French service, and no
wonder, or he had been three years in the Regiment de Conde, and had
already seen two battles and three sieges in Savoy, and now had only
leave of absence for the winter before rejoining his regiment in the Low
Countries.

Yet he looked as bashful as a maiden. It was true that, as my father
said, his bashfulness was as great as an Englishman’s. Indeed, he had
been bred up at his great uncle’s chateau in Anjou, under a strict abbe
who had gone with him to the war, and from whom he was only now to be
set free upon his marriage. He had scarcely ever spoken to any lady but
his old aunt--his parents had long been dead--and he had only two or
three times seen his little sister through the grating of her convent.
So, as he afterwards confessed, nothing but his military drill and
training bore him through the affair. He stood upright as a dart, bowed
at the right place, and in due time signed his name to the contract, and
I had to do the same. Then there ensued a great state dinner, where he
and I sat together, but neither of us spoke to the other; and when, as
I was trying to see the viscount under my eyelashes, I caught his eyes
trying to do the same by me, I remember my cheeks flaming all over, and
I think his must have done the same, for my father burst suddenly out
into a laugh without apparent cause, though he tried to check himself
when he saw my mother’s vexation.

When all was over, she highly lauded the young gentleman, declaring that
he was an example of the decorum with which such matters were conducted
in France; and when my father observed that he should prefer a little
more fire and animation, she said: ‘Truly, my lord, one would think you
were of mere English extraction, that you should prefer the rude habits
of a farmer or milkmaid to the reserve of a true noble and lady of
quality.’

‘Well, dame, I promised that you should have it your own way with the
poor lass,’ said my father; ‘and I see no harm in the lad, but I own I
should like to know more of him, and Meg would not object either. It was
not the way I took thee, Margaret.’

‘I shall never make you understand that a widow is altogether a
different thing,’ said my mother.

I suppose they never recollected that I could hear every word they
said, but I was full in view of them, and of course I was listening most
anxiously for all I could gather about my new life. If I remember right,
it was an envoy-extraordinary with whom the marquis and his nephew had
come, and their stay was therefore very short, so that we were married
after a very few days in the Queen’s Chapel, by her own almoner.

I do not remember much about the wedding, as indeed it was done very
quietly, being intended to be kept altogether a secret; but in some way,
probably through the servants, it became known to the mob in London, and
as we drove home from Whitehall in the great coach with my father and
mother, a huge crowd had assembled, hissing and yelling and crying out
upon Lord Walwyn for giving his daughter to a French Papist.

The wretches! they even proceeded to throw stones. My young bridegroom
saw one of these which would have struck me had he not thrown himself
forward, holding up his hat as a shield. The stone struck him in the
eye, and he dropped forward upon my mother’s knee senseless.

The crowd were shocked then, and fell back, but what good did that do to
him? He was carried to his chamber, and a surgeon was sent for, who said
that there was no great injury done, for the eye itself had not been
touched, but that he must be kept perfectly quiet until the last minute,
if he was to be able to travel without danger, when the suite were to
set off in two day’s time. They would not let me go near him. Perhaps I
was relieved, for I should not have known what to do; yet I feared that
he would think me unkind and ungrateful, and I would have begged my
mother and Eustace to thank him and make my excuses, but I was too shy,
and I felt it very hard to be blamed for indifference and rudeness.

Indeed, we four young ones kept as much together as we could do in the
house and gardens, and played all our dear old games of shuttlecock, and
pig go to market, and proverbs, and all that you, my children, call very
English sports, because we knew only too well that we should never play
at them altogether again. The more I was blamed for being childish,
the more I was set upon them, till at last my mother said that she was
afraid to let me go, I was so childish and unfeeling; and my father
replied that she should have thought of that before. He and I were both
more English at heart than French, and I am sure now that he perceived
better than I did myself that my clinging to my brothers and sister, and
even my noisy merriment, were not the effect of want of feeling.

As to my bridegroom, I have since known that he was dreadfully afraid of
us, more especially of me, and was thankful that the injury kept him a
prisoner. Nay, he might have come downstairs, if he had been willing, on
the last evening, but he shrank from another presentation to me before
the eyes of all the world, and chose instead to act the invalid, with no
companion save Eustace, with whom he had made friends.

I will not tell you about the partings, and the promises and assurances
that we should meet again. My father had always promised that my mother
should see France once more, and he now declared that they would all
visit me. Alas! we little thought what would be the accomplishment of
that promise.

My father and Eustace rode with us from London to Dover, and all the
time I kept close to them. M. de Bellaise was well enough to ride too.
His uncle, the marquis, went in a great old coach with the ladies,
wives of some of his suite, and I should have been there too, but that
I begged so hard to ride with my father that he yielded, after asking
M. le Vicomte whether he had any objection. M. le Vicomte opened great
eyes, smiled, blushed and bowed, stammering something. I do not think
that he had a quite realised previously that I was his wife, and
belonged to him. My father made him ride with us, and talked to him; and
out in the open air, riding with the wind in our cheeks, and his plume
streaming in the breeze, he grew much less shy, and began to talk about
the wolf-hunts and boar-hunts in the Bocage, and of all the places
that my father and I both knew as well as if we had seen them, from the
grandam’s stories.

I listened, but we neither of us sought the other; indeed, I believe it
seemed hard to me that when there was so little time with my father and
Eustace, they should waste it on these hunting stories. Only too soon
we were at Dover, and the last, last farewell and blessing were given. I
looked my last, though I knew it not at that dear face of my father!



CHAPTER III. -- CELADON AND CHLOE



My tears were soon checked by dreadful sea-sickness. We were no sooner
out of Dover than the cruel wind turned round upon us, and we had to go
beating about with all our sails reefed for a whole day and night before
it was safe to put into Calais.

All that time I was in untold misery, and poor nurse Tryphena was worse
than I was, and only now and then was heard groaning out that she was a
dead woman, and begging me to tell some one to throw her over board.

But it was that voyage which gave me my husband. He was not exactly at
his ease, but he kept his feet better than any of the other gentlemen,
and he set himself to supply the place of valet to his uncle, and of
maid to me, going to and fro between our cabins as best he could, for
he fell and rolled whenever he tried to more; sharp shriek or howl, or a
message through the steward, summoned him back to M. le Marquis, who had
utterly forgotten all his politeness and formality towards the ladies.

However, our sufferings were over at last. My husband, who was by
this time bruised from head to foot by his falls, though he made no
complaints, came to say we should in a few moments be in port. He helped
me to dress, for Tryphena thought she was dead, and would not move; and
he dragged me on deck, where the air revived me, and where one by one
the whole party appeared, spectacles of misery.

M. le Marquis did not recover himself till he was on shore, and caused
himself to be assisted to the quay between his nephew and the valet,
leaving me to myself; but the dear viscount returned for me, and after
he had set me ashore, as he saw I was anxious about Tryphena, he went
back and fetched her, as carefully as if she had been a lady, in spite
of the grumblings of his uncle and of her own refractoriness, for she
was horribly frightened, and could not understand a word he said to her.

Nevertheless, as soon as we had all of us come to ourselves, it turned
out that he had gained her heart. Indeed, otherwise I should have had
to send her home, for she pined sadly for some time, and nothing but her
love for me and her enthusiastic loyalty to him kept her up during the
first months.

As to my husband and me, that voyage had made us as fond of one
another’s company on one side of the Channel as we had been afraid of it
before on the other, but there was no more riding together for us. I had
to travel in the great coach with M. le Marquis, the three ladies, and
all our women, where I was so dull and weary that I should have felt
ready to die, but for watching for my husband’s plume, or now and
then getting a glance and a nod from him as he rode among the other
gentlemen, braving all their laughter at his devotion; for, bashful as
he was, he knew how to hold his own.

I knew that the ladies looked on me as an ugly little rustic foreigner,
full of English mauvaise honte. If they tried to be kind to me, it was
as a mere child; and they went on with their chatter, which I could
hardly follow, for it was about things and people of which I knew
nothing, so that I could not understand their laughter. Or when they
rejoiced in their return from what they called their exile, and
found fault with all they had left in England, my cheeks burned with
indignation.

My happy hours were when we halted for refreshments. My husband handed
me to my place at table and sat beside me; or he would walk with me
about the villages where we rested. The ladies were shocked, and my
husband was censured for letting me ‘faire l’Anglaise,’ but we were
young and full of spirits, and the being thus thrown on each other had
put an end to his timidity towards me. He did indeed blush up to his
curls, and hold himself as upright as a ramrod, when satire was directed
to us as Celadon and Chloe; but he never took any other notice of it,
nor altered his behaviour in consequence. Indeed, we felt like children
escaping from school when we crept down the stairs in early morning, and
hand-in-hand repaired to the church in time for the very earliest mass
among the peasants, who left their scythes at the door, and the women
with their hottes, or their swaddled babies at their backs. We would
get a cup of milk and piece of barley-bread at some cottage, and wander
among the orchards, fields, or vineyards before Mesdames had begun
their toiles; and when we appeared at the dejeuner, the gentlemen would
compliment me on my rouge au naturel, and the ladies would ironically
envy my English appetite.

Sometimes we rested in large hostels in cities, and then our walk began
with some old cathedral, which could not but be admired, Gothic though
it were, and continued in the market-place, where the piles of fruit,
vegetables, and flowers were a continual wonder and delight to me. My
husband would buy bouquets of pinks and roses for me; but in the coach
the ladies always said they incommoded them by their scent, and obliged
me to throw them away. The first day I could not help shedding a few
tears, for I feared he would think I did not value them; and then I
perceived that they thought the little Englishwoman a child crying for
her flowers. I longed to ask them whether they had ever loved their
husbands; but I knew how my mother would have looked at me, and forbore.

Once or twice we were received in state at some chateau, where our mails
had to be opened that we might sup in full toilet; but this was seldom,
for most of the equals of M. le Marquis lived at Paris. Sometimes our
halt was at an abbey, where we ladies were quartered in a guest-chamber
without; and twice we slept at large old convents, where nobody had
lived since the Huguenot times, except a lay brother put in by M. l’Abbe
to look after the estate and make the house a kind of inn for travelers.
There were fine walled gardens run into wild confusion, and little
neglected and dismantled shrines, and crosses here and there, with long
wreaths of rose and honeysuckle trailing over them, and birds’ nests in
curious places. My Viscount laughed with a new pleasure when I showed
him the wren’s bright eye peeping out from her nest, and he could not
think how I knew the egg of a hedge-sparrow from that of a red-breast.
Even he had never been allowed to be out of sight of his tutor, and he
knew none of these pleasures so freely enjoyed by my brothers; while as
to his sister Cecile, she had been carried from her nurse to a convent,
and had thence been taken at fourteen to be wedded to the grandson and
heir of the Count d’Aubepine, who kept the young couple under their own
eye at their castle in the Bocage.

My husband had absolutely only seen her twice, and then through the
grating, and the marriage had taken place while he was in Savoy last
autumn. He knew his brother-in-law a little better, having been his
neighbour at Nid de Merle; but he shrugged his shoulders as he spoke of
‘le chevalier,’ and said he was very young, adored by his grandparents,
and rather headstrong.

As to growing up together in the unity that had always existed between
an absolute surprise to him to find that my dear brother was grieved
at parting with me. He said he had lain and heard our shouts in the
passages with wonder as we played those old games of ours.

‘As though you were in a den of roaring wild beasts,’ I said; for I
ventured on anything with him by that time, voices, I teased him about
his feelings at having to carry off one of these same savage beasts with
him; and then he told me how surprised he had been when, on the last
evening he spent in his chamber in our house, Eustace had come and
implored him to be good to me, telling him--ah, I can see my dear
brother’s boyish way!--all my best qualities, ranging from my always
speaking truth to my being able to teach the little dog to play tricks,
and warning him of what vexed or pained me, even exacting a promise that
he would take care of me when I was away from them all. I believe that
promise was foremost in my husband’s mind when he waited on me at sea.
Nay, he said when remembered the tears in my brother’s eyes, and saw how
mine arose at the thought, his heart smote him when he remembered that
his sister’s marriage had scarcely cost him a thought or care, and that
she was an utter stranger to him; and then we agreed that if ever we had
children, we would bring them up to know and love one another, and
have precious recollections in common. Ah! l’homme propose, mais Dieu
dispose.

It was only on that day that it broke upon me that we were to be
separated immediately after our arrival in Paris. M. de Bellaise was to
go to his regiment, which was at garrison at Nancy, and I was to be
left under the charge of old Madame la Marquise de Nidemerle at Paris. I
heard of it first from the Marquise himself in the coach, as he thanked
one of the ladies who invited me--with him--to her salon in Paris, where
there was to be a great entertainment in the summer. When I replied that
M. de Bellaise would have rejoined his regiment, they began explaining
that I should go into society under Madame de Nidemerle, who would exert
herself for my sake.

I said no more. I knew it was of no use there; but when next I could
speak with my husband--it was under an arbour of vines in the garden of
the inn where we dine--I asked him whether it was true. He opened large
eyes, and said he knew I could not wish to withdraw him from his duty to
his king and country, even if he could do so with honour.

‘Ah! no,’ I said; ‘I never thought of that.’ But surely the place of
a wife was with her husband, and I had expected to go with him to his
garrison at Nancy, and there wait when he took the field. He threw
himself at my feet, and pressed my hands with transport at what he
called this unheard-of proof of affection; and then I vexed him by
laughing, for I could not help thinking what my brothers would have
said, could they have seen us thus.

Still he declared that, in spite of his wishes, it was hardly possible.
His great-uncle and aunt would never consent. I said they had no right
to interfere between husband and wife, and he replied that they had
brought him up, and taken the place of parents to him; to which
I rejoined that I was far nearer to him. He said I was a mutinous
Englishwoman; and I rejoined that he should never find me mutinous to
him.

Nay, I made up my mind that if he would not insist on taking me, I would
find means to escape and join him. What! Was I to be carried about in
the coach of Madame de Nidemerle to all the hateful salons of Paris,
while my husband, the only person in France whom I could endure, might
be meeting wounds and death in the Low Countries while I might be
dancing!

So again I declined when the ladies in the coach invited me to their
houses in Paris. Should I go to a convent? they asked; and one began to
recommend the Carmelites, another the Visitation, another Port Royal,
till I was almost distracted; and M. le Marquis began to say it was a
pious and commendable wish, but that devotion had its proper times and
seasons, and that judgment must be exercised as to the duration of a
retreat, etc.

‘No, Monsieur,’ said I, ‘I am not going into a convent. A wife’s duty is
with her husband; I am going into garrison at Nancy.’

Oh, how they cried out! There was such a noise that the gentlemen turned
their horses’ heads to see whether any one was taken ill. When they
heard what was the matter, persecution began for us both.

We used to compare our experiences; the ladies trying to persuade me now
that it was improper, now that I should be terrified to death now that I
should become too ugly to be presentable; while the gentlemen made game
of M. de Bellaise as a foolish young lover, who was so absurd as to
encumber himself with a wife of whom he would soon weary, and whose
presence would interfere with his enjoyment of the freedom and
diversions of military life. He who was only just free from his
governor, would he saddle himself with a wife? Bah!

He who had been so shy defended himself with spirit; and on my side I
declared that nothing but his commands, and those of my father, should
induce me to leave him. At Amiens we met a courier on his way to
England, and by him we dispatched letters to my father.

M. de Nidemerle treated all like absurd childish nonsense, complimenting
me ironically all the while; but I thought he wavered a little before
the journey was over, wishing perhaps that he had never given his nephew
a strange, headstrong, English wife, but thinking that, as the deed was
done, the farther off from himself she was the better.

At least, he no longer blamed his nephew and threatened him with his
aunt; but declared that Madame de Rambouillet would soon put all such
folly out of our minds.

I asked my husband what Madame de Rambouillet could have to do with
our affairs; and he shrugged his shoulders and answered that the divine
Arthenice was the supreme judge of decorum, whose decisions no one could
gainsay.



CHAPTER IV. -- THE SALON BLEU



We arrived at Paris late in the day, entering the city through a great
fortified gateway, and then rolling slowly through the rough and narrow
streets. You know them too well, my children, to be able to conceive
how strange and new they seemed to me, accustomed as I was to our smooth
broad Thames and the large gardens of the houses in the Strand lying on
its banks.

Our carriage turned in under the porte cochere of this Hotel de
Nidemerle of ours, and entered the courtyard. My husband, his uncle,
and I know not how many more, were already on the steps. M. de Nidemerle
solemnly embraced me and bade me welcome, presenting me at the same time
to a gentlemen, in crimson velvet and silver, as my brother. My foolish
heart bounded for a moment as if it could have been Eustace; but it was
altogether the face of a stranger, except for a certain fine smile like
my mother’s. It was, of course, my half-brother, M. le Baron de
Solivet, who saluted me, and politely declared himself glad to make the
acquaintance of his sister.

The Marquis then led me up the broad stairs, lined with lackeys, to our
own suite of apartments, where I was to arrange my dress before being
presented to Madame de Nidemerle, who begged me to excuse her not being
present to greet me, as she had caught cold, and had a frightful megrim.

I made my toilet, and they brought me a cup of eau sucree and a few
small cakes, not half enough for my hungry English appetite.

My husband looked me over more anxiously than ever he had done before;
and I wished, for his sake, that I had been prettier and fitter to make
a figure among all these grand French ladies.

My height was a great trouble to me in those unformed days. I had so
much more length to dispose of than my neighbours, and I knew they
remarked me the more for it; and then my hair never would remain in curl
for half an hour together. My mother could put it up safely, but since
I had left her it was always coming down, like flax from a distaff;
and though I had in general a tolerably fresh and rosy complexion, heat
outside and agitation within made my whole face, nose and all, instantly
become the colour of a clove gillyflower. It had so become every
afternoon on the journey, and I knew I was growing redder and redder
every moment, and that I should put him, my own dear Viscount, to shame
before his aunt.

‘Oh! my friend,’ I sighed, ‘pardon me, I cannot help it.’

‘Why should I pardon thee?’ he answered tenderly. ‘Because thou hast so
great and loving a heart?’

‘Ah! but what will thine aunt think of me?’

‘Let her think,’ he said. ‘Thou art mine, not Madame’s.’

I know not whether those words made me less red, but they gave me such
joyous courage that I could have confronted all the dragoons, had I been
of the colour of a boiled lobster, and when he himself sprinkled me for
the last time with essences, I felt ready to defy the censure of all the
marchionesses in France.

My husband took me by the hand and led me to the great chamber, where in
an alcove stood the state bed, with green damask hangings fringed with
gold, and in the midst of pillows trimmed with point-lace sat up Madam
la Marquis, her little sallow face, like a bit of old parchment, in the
midst of the snowy linen, and not--to my eyes--wearing a very friendly
aspect.

She had perhaps been hearing of my wilfulness and insubordination, for
she was very grand and formal with me, solemnly calling me Madame la
Vicomtesse, and never her niece, and I thought all the time that I
detected a sneer. If I had wished for my husband’s sake to accompany
him, I wished it ten thousand times more when I fully beheld the
alternative.

Ah! I am writing treason. Had I been a well-trained French young girl
I should have accepted my lot naturally, and no doubt all the
family infinitely regretted that their choice has fallen on one so
impracticable.

I was happier as the supper-table, to which we were soon summoned, for
I had become accustomed to M. de Nidemerle, who was always kind to me.
Poor old man, I think he had hoped to have something young and lively in
his house; but I never thought of that, and of course my husband was my
only idea.

M. de Solivet set by me, and asked many questions about my mother and
the rest of the family, treating me more as a woman than anyone else
had done. Nor was it long before I caught slight resemblances both to my
mother and to my brother Berenger, which made me feel as home with
him. He was a widower, and his two daughters were being educated in
a convent, where he promised to take me to visit them, that I might
describe them to their grandmother.

Poor little things! I thought them very stiff and formal, and pitied
them when I saw them; but I believed they were really full of fun and
folic among their companions.

M. de Solivet was consulted on this wild scheme of mine, and the
Marchioness desired him to show me its absurdity. He began by arguing
that it was never when to act in the face of custom, and that he had
only known of two ladies who had followed their husbands to the
wars, and both them only belonged to the petite noblesse, and were
no precedent for me! One of them had actually joined her husband when
wounded and made prisoner, and it was said that her care had saved his
life!

Such a confession on his part rendered me the more determined, and
we reminded M. de Nidemerle of his promise to consult Madame de
Rambouillet, though I would not engage even then to abide by any
decision except my father’s, which I daily expected. I overheard people
saying how much M. de Bellaise was improved by his marriage, and how
much more manly and less embarrassed he had become, and I felt that my
resolution made him happy, so that I became the more determined.

Children, you who have laughed at Les Precieuses can have little idea
what the Hotel de Rambouillet was when, three nights after arrival, I
went thither with my husband and his uncle and aunt.

The large salon, hung and draped with blue velvet, divided by lines of
gold, was full of people ranged in a circle, listening eagerly to
the recital of poem by the author, an Abbe, who stood in the midst,
declaiming each couplet with emphasis, and keeping time with his foot,
while he made gestures with his uplifted hand. Indeed, I thought at
first he was in a furious passion and was going to knock someone down,
till I saw calmly everyone sat; and then again I fancied we had come
to a theatre by mistake; but happily I did not speak, and, without
interrupting the declamation, chairs were given us, and exchanging a
mute salutation with a lady of a noble cast of beauty, who guided us
to seats, we quietly took our places. She was Julie d’Argennes, the
daughter of Madame de Rambouillet. A gentlemen followed her closely, the
Duke of Montausier, who adored her, but whom she could not yet decide on
accepting.

I found it difficult to fit from laughing as the gestures of the Abbe,
especially when I thought of my brother and how they would mock them;
but I knew that this would be unpardonable bad taste, and as I had come
in too late to have the clue to the discourse, I amused myself with
looking about me.

Perhaps the most striking figure was that of the hostess, with her
stately figure, and face, not only full of intellect, but of something
that went far beyond it, and came out of some other higher world, to
which she was trying to raise this one.

Next I observed a lady, no longer in her first youth, but still
wonderfully fair and graceful. She was enthroned in a large arm-chair,
and on a stool beside her sat her daughter, a girl of my own age, the
most lovely creature I had ever seen, with a profusion of light flaxen
hair, and deep blue eyes, and one moment full of grave thought, at
another of merry mischief. A young sat by, whose cast of features
reminded me of the Prince of Wales, but his nose was more aquiline,
his dark blue eyes far more intensely bright and flashing, and whereas
Prince Charles would have made fun of all the flourishes of our poet,
they seemed to inspire in this youth an ardour he could barely restrain,
and when there was something vehement about Mon epee et ma patrie he
laid his hand on his sword, and his eyes lit up, so that he reminded me
of a young eagle.

This was the Princess of Conde, who in the pride of her youthful beauty
had been the last flame of Henri IV., who had almost begun a war on her
account; this was her lovely daughter, Mademoiselle de Bourbon, and her
sons, the brave Duke of Enghien, with his deformed brother, the Prince
of Conti.

When the recital was over, there was a general outburst of applause, in
which M. de Nidemerle joined heartily. Madame de Rambouillet gave her
meed of approbation, but her daughter, Mademoiselle d’ Argennes, took
exception at the use of the word chevaucher, for to ride, both as being
obsolete, and being formed from the name of a single animal, instead of
regularly derived from a Latin verb.

The Abbe defended his word, and for fully twenty minutes there was an
eager argument, people citing passages and derivations, and defining
shades of meaning with immense animation and brilliant wit, as I now
understand, though then it seemed to me a wearisome imbroglio about a
trifle. I did not know what real benefit was done by these discussions
in purifying the language from much that was coarse and unrefined. Yes,
and far more than the language, for Madame de Rambouillet, using her
great gifts as a holy trust for the good of her neighbour, conferred
no small benefit on her generation, nor is that good even yet entirely
vanished. Ah! If there were more women like her, France and society
would be very different.

When the discussion was subsiding, Mademoiselle d’ Argennes came to take
me by the hand, and to present us to the queen of the salon.

‘Here, my mother, are our Odoardo and Gildippe,’ she said.

You remember, my children, that Odoardo and Gildippe are the names
bestowed by Tasso on the English married pair who went together on the
first crusade, and Gildippe continued to be my name in that circle,
my nom de Parnasse, as it was called--nay, Madame de Montausieur still
gives it to me.

The allusion was a fortunate one; it established a precedent, and,
besides, English people have always been supposed to be eccentric. I am,
however, doing the noble lady injustice. Arthenice, as she was called by
an anagram of her baptismal name of Catherine, was no blind slave to the
conventional. She had originality enough to have been able to purify the
whole sphere in which she moved, and to raise the commonplace into the
ideal. ‘Excuse me,’ she said to her friends, and she led my husband
apart into a deep window, and there, as he told me, seemed to look him
through and through. And verily he was one who needed not to fear such
an inspection, any more than the clearest crystal.

Then, in like manner, she called for me, and made me understand that I
was condemning myself to a life of much isolation, and that I must
be most circumspect in my conduct, whole, after all, I might see very
little of my husband; I must take good care that my presence was a help
and refreshment, not a burden and perplexity to him, or he would neglect
me and repent my coming. ‘It may seem strange,’ she said, ‘but I think
my young friend will understand me, that I have always found that,
next of course to those supplied by our holy religion, the best mode of
rendering our life and its inconveniences endurable is to give them a
colouring of romance.’ I did not understand her then, but I have often
since thought of her words, when the recollection of the poetical aspect
of the situation has aided my courage and my good temper. Madame de
Rambouillet looked into my eyes as she spoke, then said: ‘Pardon an old
woman, my dear;’ and kissed my brow, saying: ‘You will not do what I
have only dreamt of.’

Finally she led us forward to our great-uncle, saying: ‘Madame le
Marquis, I have conversed with these children. They love one another,
and so long as that love lasts they will be better guardians to one
another than ten governors or twenty dames de compagnie.’

In England we should certainly not have done all this in public, and my
husband and I were terribly put to the blush; indeed, I felt my whole
head and neck burning, and caught a glimpse of myself in a dreadful
mirror, my white bridal dress and flaxen hair making my fiery face look,
my brothers would have said, ‘as if I had been skinned.’

And then, to make it all worse, a comical little crooked lady, with a
keen lively face, came hopping up with hands outspread, crying: ‘Ah, let
me see her! Where is the fair Gildippe, the true heroine, who is about
to confront the arrows of the Lydians for the sake of the lord of her
heart?’

‘My niece,’ said the Marquis, evidently gratified by the sensation I had
created, ‘Mademoiselle de Scudery does you the honour of requesting to
be presented to you.’

I made a low reverence, terribly abashed, and I fear it would have
reduced my mother to despair, but it was an honour that I appreciated;
for now that I was a married woman, I was permitted to read romances,
and I had just begun on the first volume of the Grand Curus. My husband
read it to me as I worked at my embroidery, and you may guess how we
enjoyed it.

But I had no power of make compliments--nay, my English heart recoiled
in anger at their making such an outcry, whether of blame or praise,
at what seemed to me the simplest thing in the world. The courtesy
and consideration were perfect; as soon as these people saw that I was
really abashed and distressed, they turned their attention from me.
My husband was in the meantime called to be presented to the Duke of
Enghien, and I remained for a little while unmolested, so that I
could recover myself a little. Presently a soft voice close to me
said ‘Madame,’ and I looked up into the beautiful countenance of Anne
Genevieve de Bourbon, her blue eyes shining on me with the sweetest
expression. ‘Madame,’ she said, ‘permit me to tell you how glad I am for
you.’

I thanked her most heartily. I felt this was the real tender sympathy
of a being of my own age and like myself, and there were something so
pathetic in her expression that I felt sorry for her.

‘You are good! You will keep good,’ she said.

‘I hope so, Mademoiselle,’ I said.

‘Ah! yes, you will. They will not make you lose your soul against your
will!’ and she clenched her delicate white hand.

‘Nobody can do that, Mademoiselle.’

‘What! Not when they drag you to balls and fete away from the cloister,
where alone you can be safe?’

‘I hope not there alone,’ I said.

‘For me it is the only place,’ she repeated. ‘What is the use of wearing
haircloth when the fire of the Bourbons is in one’s blood, and one has a
face that all the world runs after?’

‘Mais, Mademoiselle,’ I said; ‘temptation is only to prove our
strength.’

‘You are strong. You have conquered,’ she said, and clasped my hand.
‘But then you loved him.’

I suppose I smiled a little with my conscious bliss, for this strange
young princess hastily asked: ‘Did you love him? I mean, before you were
married.’

‘Oh no,’ I said, glad to disavow what was so shocking in my new country.

‘But he is lovable? Ah! that is it. While you are praying to Heaven, and
devoting yourself to a husband whom you love, remember that if I ruin my
soul, it is because they would have it so!’

At that moment there was a pause. A gentleman, the Marquis de
Feuquieres, had come in, bringing with him a very young lad, in the
plian black gown and white collar of a theological student; and it was
made known that the Marquis had been boasting of the wonderful facility
of a youth was studying at the College of Navarre, and had declared
that he could extemporise with eloquence upon any subject. Some one
had begged that the youth might be fetched and set to preach on a text
proposed to him at the moment, and here he was.

Madame de Rambouillet hesitated a little at the irreverence, but the
Duke of Enghien requested that the sermon might take place, and she
consented, only looking at her watch and saying it was near midnight,
so that the time was short. M. Voiture, the poet, carried round a velvet
bag, and each was to write a text on a slip of paper to be drawn out at
haphazard.

We two showed each other what we wrote. My husband’s was--‘Love is
strong as death;’ mine--‘Let the wife cleave unto her husband.’ But
neither of them was drawn out. I saw by the start that Mademoiselle
de Bourbon gave that it was hers, when the first paper was taken
out--‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!’ a few minutes were offered to
the young Abbe to collect his thoughts, but he declined them, and he was
led to a sort of a dais at the end of the salon, while the chairs were
placed in a half-circle. Some of the ladies tittered a little, though
Madame de Rambouillet looked grave; but they composed themselves. We all
stood and repeated the Ave, and then seated ourselves; while the youth,
in a voice already full and sweet, began solemnly: ‘What is life? what
is man?’

I can never convey to you how this world and all its fleeting follies
seemed to melt away before us, and how each of us felt our soul alone
in the presence of our Maker, as though nothing mattered, or ever
would matter, but how we stood with Him. One hardly dared to draw one’s
breath. Mademoiselle de Bourbon was almost stifled with the sobs she
tried to restrain lest her mother should make her retire. My husband
held my hand, and pressed it unseen. He was a deeper, more thoughtful
man ever after he heard that voice, which seemed to come, as it were,
from the Angel at Bochim who warned the Israelites; and that night we
dedicated ourselves to the God who had not let us be put asunder.

I wished we could have gone away at once and heard no more, and so
must, I think, the young preacher have felt; but he was surrounded with
compliments. M. Voiture said he had never heard ‘so early nor so late a
sermon;’ while others thronged up with their compliments.

Madame de Rambouillet herself murmured: ‘He might be Daniel hearing
the compliments of Belshazzar on his deciphering the handwriting,’
so impassively did he listen to the suffrages of the assembly, only
replying by a bow.

The Duke of Enghien, boldest of course, pressed up to him and, taking
his hand, begged to know his name.

‘Bossuet, Monseigneur,’ he answered.

There were one or two who had the bad taste to smile, for Bossuet (I
must tell my English kindred) means a draught-ox; but once more the
lovely sister of the young Duke grasped my hand and said: ‘Oh, that I
could hide myself at once! Why will they not let me give myself to my
God? Vanity of vanities! why am I doomed?’

I was somewhat frightened, and was glad that a summons of ‘my daughter’
from the Princess of Conde interrupted these strange communications.
I understood them better when we were called upon to ell the old
Marchioness the names of every one whom we had met at the Hotel de
Rambouillet, and on hearing of the presence of Mademoiselle de Bourbon
she said: ‘Ah! yes, a marriage is arranged for the young lady with the
Duke of Longueville.’

‘But!’ exclaimed my husband, ‘the Duke is an old man, whose daughter is
older than I.’

‘What has that to do with it?’ said his aunt. ‘There is not much blood
in France with which a Montmorency Bourbon can match. Moreover, they
say the child is devote, and entetee on Madam de Port Royal, who is more
than suspected of being outree in her devotion; so the sooner she is
married the better!’

Poor beautiful girl, how I pitied her then! Her lovely, wistful, blue
eyes haunted me all night, in the midst of my own gladness; for a
courier had come that evening bringing my father’s reply. He said my
mother deplored my unusual course, but that for his part he liked his
little girl the better for her courage, and that he preferred that I
should make my husband’s home happy to my making it at court. All
he asked of me was to remember that I had to guard the honour of my
husband’s name and of my country, and he desired that I should take
Tryphena with me wherever I went.



CHAPTER V. -- IN GARRISON.



I am almost afraid to dwell on those happiest days of my life that I
spent in garrison. My eyes, old as they are, fill with tears when I am
about to write of them, and yet they passed without my knowing how happy
they were; for much of my time was spent in solitude, much in waiting,
much in anxiety; but ah! there then always was a possibility that never,
never can return!

Nancy seems to me a paradise when I look back to it, with its broad
clean streets and open squares, and the low houses with balconies, and
yet there I often thought myself miserable, for I began to learn what it
was to be a soldier’s wife. Madame de Rambouillet had kindly written
to some of her friends in the duchy of Lorraine respecting me, and they
assisted us in obtaining a lodging and servants. This might otherwise
have been difficult, for the Duke was I the Spanish army, while we held
his territories, and naturally we were not in very good odour with the
people.

My husband had to leave me, immediately after he had placed me in
my little house at Nancy, to join the army in Germany under Marshal
Guebrian. I lived through that time by the help of the morning mass, of
needlework, and of the Grand Cyrus, which I read through and then began
again. My dear husband never failed to send me a courier once a week
with letters that were life to me, and sometimes I heard from England;
but my mother’s letters were becoming full of anxiety, affairs were
looking so ill for the king.

After a gallant victory over the Swedes my Viscount returned to me
without a wound, and with distinguished praise from the Marshal. That
was an important winter, for it saw the deaths of the great Cardinal
and of King Louis XIII., moreover of the old Marchioness. My husband’s
loving heart sorrowed for her and for his uncle; but that same week
brought thee to my arms, my dear son, my beloved Gaspard! Oh! what
a fight Tryphena and I had to prevent his being stifled in swaddling
clothes! And how all the women predicted that his little limbs would be
broken and never be straight.

That winter was only clouded by the knowledge that spring would take
my husband away again. How good he was to me! How much pleasure and
amusement he gave up for my sake! He had outgrown his bashfulness and
embarrassment in this campaign, and could take his place in company, but
re remained at home with me. Had neither the grace nor the vivacity that
would have enabled me to collect a society around me, and I seldom saw
his brother officers except my brother M. de Solivet, and his great
friend M. de Chamillard, who was quite fatherly to me.

The Duke of Enghien took the command of the army of Picardy, and
asked for our regiment. I entreated not to be sent back to Paris, and
prevailed to be allowed to take up my abode at Mezieres, where I was
not so far from the camp but that my dear M. de Bellaise could sometimes
ride over and see me. He told me of the murmur of the elder men of the
army that the fiery young inexperienced prince was disregarding all the
checks that the old Marshal de l’Hopital put in his way; but he himself
was delighted, and made sure of success. The last time he came he told
me he heard that Rocroy was invested by the enemy. I was made to promise
that in case of any advance on the enemy’s part I would instantly set
off for Paris. He said it was the only way to make him fight with a free
heart, if a battle there were, and not repent of having permitted me to
follow him, and that I must think of my child as well as myself; but he
did not expect any such good fortune as a battle, the old marshal was so
set against it!

But I knew that he did expect a battle, by the way he came back and back
again to embrace me and his child.

I have waited and watched many times since that day, but never as I then
waited. With what agony I watched and prayed! how I lived either before
the altar, or at the window! how I seemed to be all eyes and ears! How
reports came that there was fighting, then that we had the day, then
that all was lost! Then came a calm, and it was said that Marshal de
l’Hospital had refused to fight, and was in full retreat, with the Duke
of Enghien cursing and swearing and tearing his hair. My landlord had
a visit from the mayor to say that he must prepare to have some men
billeted on him, and I sent out to inquire for horses, but decided that,
as it was only our own troops retreating, there would be plenty of time.
Then one of the maids of the house rushed in declaring that firing was
plainly to be heard. Half the people were out in the streets, many more
had gone outside the city to listen. Tryphena sat crying with fright,
and rocking the baby in her lap, and wishing she had never come to this
dreadful country. Alas! poor Tryphena she would have been no better off
in her own at that moment! I ran from window to door, unable to rest a
moment, listening to the cries in the streets, asking the landlady what
she heard, and then running back to my own room to kneel in prayer, but
starting up at the next sound in the streets.

At last, just before sunset, on that long, long 19th of May, all the
bells began to ring, clashing as if mad with joy, and a great roaring
shout burst out all over the city: ‘Victory! Victory! Vive le Roi! Vive
le Duc d’Enghien!’

I was at the window just in time to see a party of splendid horsemen,
carrying the striped and castellated colours of Spain, galloping through
the town, followed by universal shouts and acclamations. My man-servant,
Nicole, frantic with joy, came in to tell me that they had only halted
at the inn long enough to obtain fresh horses, on their way to the
Queen-Regent with the news of the great victory of Rocroy. More
standards taken, more cannon gained, more of the enemy killed and
captive than could be counted, and all owing to the surpassing valour of
the Duke of Enghien!

‘And my husband!’ I cried, and asked everybody, as if, poor little fool
that I was, any one was likely to know how it fared with one single
captain of the dragoons of Conde on such a day as that.

The good landlady and Tryphena both tried to reassure me that if there
were ill news it would have been sent to me at once; but though they
persuaded me at last to go to bed, I could not sleep, tossing about and
listening till morning light, when I dropped into a sound sleep, which
lasted for hours. I had longed for the first morning mass to go and pray
there, but after all I only heard the bells through my slumber, feeling
as if I could not rouse myself, and then--as it seemed to me, in
another moment--I heard something that made me turn round on my pillow
and open my eyes, and there he stood--my husband himself. His regiment
had surpassed itself; he had received the thanks of his colonel; he
had but snatched a few hours’ sleep, and had ridden off to assure his
Gildippe of his safety by her own eyes, and to rejoice over our splendid
victory.

And yet he could not but shudder as he spoke. When they had asked a
Spanish prisoner how many there had been in the army, ‘Count the dead,’
he proudly answered. Nor could my husband abstain from tears as he told
me how the old Spanish guards were all lying as they stood, slain all
together, with their colonel, the Count of Fontanes, at their head,
sitting in the armchair in which he had been carried to the field,
for he was more than eighty years old, and could not stand or ride on
account of the gout.

The Duke of Enghien had said that if he had not been victorious, the
next best thing would be to have died like that.

But his charges, his fire, his coolness, his skill, the vehemence which
had triumphed over the caution of the old marshal, and the resolution
which had retrieved the day when his colleague was wounded; of all this
M. de Bellaise spoke with passionate ardour and enthusiasm, and I--oh! I
think that was the happiest and most glorious day of all my life!

When we went together to mass, how everybody looked at him! and when
we returned there was quite a little crowd--M. le Gouverneur and his
officials eager to make their compliments to M. de Bellaise, and to ask
questions about the Duke and about the battle, and whether he thought
the Duke would march this way, in which case a triumphal entry should be
prepared. They wanted to have regaled M. de Bellaise with a banquet, and
were sadly disappointed when he said he had only stolen a few hours to
set his wife’s heart at rest, and must return immediately to the camp.

There was little after that to make me anxious, for our army merely went
through a course of triumphs, taking one city after another in rapid
succession. I remained at Mezieres, and M. de Bellaise sometimes was
able to spend a few days with me, much, I fear, to the derision of his
fellow-soldiers, who could not understand a man’s choosing such a form
of recreation. We had been walking under the fine trees in the PLACE on
a beautiful summer evening, and were mounting the stairs on our return
home, when we heard a voice demanding of the hostess whether this were
the lodging of Captain de Bellaise.

I feared that it was a summons from the camp, but as the stranger came
forward I saw that he was a very young man in the dress of a groom,
booted, spurred, and covered with dust and dried splashes of mud, though
his voice and pronunciation were those of a gentleman.

‘Do you bring tidings from M. le Marquis?’ inquired my husband, who had
recognized our livery.

‘Ah! I have deceived you likewise, and no wonder, for I should not have
known you, Philippe,’ cried the new comer.

‘Armand d’Aubepine! Impossible! I thought your child was a girl,’
exclaimed my husband.

‘And am I to waste my life and grow old ingloriously on that account?’
demanded the youth, who had by this time come up to our rooms.

‘Welcome, then, my brother,’ said my husband a little gravely, as I
thought. ‘My love,’ he added, turning to me, ‘let me present to you my
brother-in-law, the Chevalier d’Aubepine.’

With infinite grace the Chevalier put a knee to the ground, and kissed
my hand.

‘Madame will be good enough to excuse my present appearance,’ he said,
‘in consideration of its being the only means by which I could put
myself on the path of honour.’

‘It is then an evasion?’ said my husband gravely.

‘My dear Viscount, do not give yourself the airs of a patriarch. They do
not suit with your one-and-twenty years, even though you are the model
of husbands. Tell me, where is your hero?’

‘The Duke? He is before Thionville.’

‘I shall be at his feet in another day. Tell me how goes the war. What
cities are falling before our arms?’

He asked of victories; M. de Bellaise asked of his sister. ‘Oh! well,
well, what do I know?’ he answered lightly, as if the matter were
beneath his consideration; and when I inquired about his child, he
actually made a grimace, and indeed he had barely seen her, for she had
been sent out to be nursed at a farmhouse, and he did not even recollect
her name. I shall never forget how he stared, when at the sound of
a little cry my husband opened the door and appeared with our little
Gaspard, now five months old, laughing and springing in his arms,
and feeling for the gold on his uniform. The count had much the same
expression with which I have seen a lady regard me when I took a
caterpillar in my hand.

‘Ah! ah!’ cried our Chevalier; ‘with all his legs and arms too! That is
what comes of marrying an Englishwoman.’ [he did not know I was within
hearing, for I had gone in to give Tryphena orders about the room he
would occupy.] ‘Beside, it is a son.’

‘I hope one day to have a daughter whom I shall love the more, the more
she resembles her mother,’ said my husband, to tease him.

‘Bah! You will not have to detest her keeping you back from glory! Tell
me, Philippe, could a lettre de cachet reach me here?’

‘We are on French soil. What have you been doing, Armand?’

‘Only flying from inglorious dullness, my friend. Do not be scandalized,
but let me know how soon I can reach the hero of France, and enroll
myself as a volunteer.’

‘The Duke is at Binche. I must return thither tomorrow. You had better
eat and sleep here tonight, and then we can decide what is to be done.’

‘I may do that,’ the youth said, considering. ‘My grandfather could
hardly obtain an order instantaneously, and I have a fair start.’

So M. de Bellaise lent him some clothes, and he appeared at supper as
a handsome lively-looking youth, hardly come to his full height, for
he was only seventeen, with a haughty bearing, and large, almost fierce
dark eyes, under eyebrows that nearly met.

At supper he told us his story. He was, as you know the only scion of
the old house of Aubepine, his father having been killed in a duel, and
his mother dying at his birth. His grandparents bred him up with the
most assiduous care, but (as my husband told me) it was the care of
pride rather than of love. When still a mere boy, they married him
to poor little Cecile de Bellaise, younger still, and fresh from her
convent, promising, on his vehement entreaty, that so soon as the
succession should be secured by the birth of a son, he should join the
army.

Imagine then his indignation and despair when a little daughter--a
miserable little girl, as he said--made her appearance, to prolong his
captivity. For some centuries, he said--weeks he meant--he endured, but
then came the tidings of Rocroy to drive him wild with impatience, and
the report that there were negotiations for peace completed the work. He
made his wife give him her jewels and assist his escape from the
window of her chamber; bribed a courier--who was being sent from M.
de Nidemerle to my husband--to give him his livery and passport and
dispatches, and to keep out of sight; and thus passed successfully
through Paris, and had, through a course of adventures which he narrated
with great spirit, safely reached us. Even if the rogue of a courier, as
he justly called his accomplice, had betrayed him, there was no fear but
that he would have time to put himself on the roll of the army, whence a
promising young noble volunteer was not likely to be rejected.

My husband insisted that he should write to ask the pardon of his
grandfather, and on that condition engaged to introduce him to the
Duke and to the lieutenant-colonel of his regiment. M. de Bellaise then
inquired anxiously after the health of our uncle, who, on the death of
his wife, had retired to his own estate at Nid de Merle, close to the
Chateau d’Aubepine. Of this the young gentleman could tell little or
nothing.

‘Bah!’ he said, adding what he thought was a brilliant new military
affirmation, unaware that it was as old as the days of the League. ‘What
know I? He is, as all old men are, full of complaints.’

Handsome, graceful, courteous, spirited as was this young Chevalier, I
could not like him, and I afterwards told my husband that I wondered at
his assisting him.

‘My love,’ he said, ‘the Chateau d’Aubepine is dull enough to die
of. The poor fellow was eating out his own heart. He has followed
his instinct, and it is the only thing that can save him from worse
corruption.’

‘His instinct of selfishness,’ I said. ‘His talk was all of glory, but
it was of his own glory, not his duty nor the good of his country. He
seems to me to have absolutely no heart!’

‘Do not be hard on him; remember how he has been brought up.’

‘You were brought up in like manner by two old people.’

‘Ah! but they loved me. Besides, my tutor and his were as different as
light and darkness.’

‘And your poor little sister,’ I said.

‘She must have won his gratitude by her assistance. He will have learnt
to love her when he returns. Come, ma mie, you must forgive him. If
you knew what his captivity was, you could not help it. He was the
play-fellow of my boyhood, and if I can help him to the more noble path,
my aid must not be wanting, either for his sake or that of my sister.’

How wise and how noble these two years had made my dear husband; how
unlike the raw lad I had met at Whitehall! It was the training in
self-discipline that he had given himself for my sake--yes, and for that
of his country and his God.



CHAPTER VI. -- VICTORY DEARLY BOUGHT



No difficulty was made about enrolling the Chevalier d’Aubepine as a
volunteer in the regiment of Conde, and as the lettre de cachet, as my
brother De Solivet said, the Cardinal understood his game too well to
send one to bring back a youth who had rushed to place himself beneath
the banners of his country in the hands of a prince of the blood.

Indeed, we soon learned that there was no one to pursue him. His
grandfather had a stroke of apoplexy in his rage on hearing of the
arrest, and did not survive it a week, so that he had become Count
of Aubepine. The same courier brought to my husband a letter from
his sister, which I thought very stiff and formal, all except the
conclusion: ‘Oh, my brother, I implore you on my knees to watch over him
and bring him back to me!’

Yet, as far as we knew and believed, the young man had never written at
all to his poor little wife. My husband had insisted on his producing
a letter to his grandfather; but as to his wife, he shrugged his
shoulders, said that she could see that he was safe, and that was enough
for her.

He was, in fact, like one intoxicated with the delights of liberty and
companionship. He enjoyed a certain eclat from the manner of his coming,
and was soon a universal favourite among the officers. Unfortunately,
the influence and example there were not such as to lead him to think
more of his wife. The Duke of Enghien had been married against his will
to a poor little childish creature, niece to Cardinal de Richelieu, and
he made it the fashion to parade, not only neglect, but contempt, of
one’s wife. He was the especial hero of our young Count’s adoration, and
therefore it was the less wonder that, when in the course of the winter,
the chaplain wrote that the young Madame le Comtesse was in the most
imminent danger, after having given birth to the long desired son and
heir, he treated the news with supreme carelessness. We should never
have known whether she lived or died, had not the courier, by whom M. de
Bellaise wrote to her as well as to his uncle, brought back one of her
formal little letters, ill-spelt and unmeaning, thanking Monsieur son
frere and Madame sa femme for their goodness, and saying she was nearly
recovered.

‘It cuts me to the heart to receive such letters,’ said my husband,
‘and to feel how little I can be to her. Some day I hope I may know her
better, and make her feel what a brother means.’

All this happened while we were in garrison for the winter at Nancy.
Again we offered M. d’Aubepine a room in our house; but though he was,
in his way, fond of my husband, and was polite to me, he thought a
residence with us would interfere with his liberty, and, alas! his
liberty consisted in plunging deeper and deeper into dissipation,
gambling, and all those other sports which those about him made him
think the privileges of manhood. We could do nothing; he laughed at M.
de Bellaise, and so indeed did these chosen friends of his. I believe
plenty of wit was expended on us and our happy domestic life; but what
was that to us? The courage of M. de Bellaise was well known, and he had
so much good-temper and kindness that no one durst insult him.

He was doubly tender to me that winter and spring because the accounts
from England were so sad. My dear brother Berenger had been killed
at the battle of Alresford, and affairs looked very ill for the royal
cause. I wept for my brother; but, ah! those tears were as nothing
compared with what I was soon to shed.

The Duke of Enghien arrived. He was not to take the command of the army
of the Low Countries, but of that of Germany. He came on the very day
we had heard of the loss of Freiburg in Brisgau, and all was at once
activity. I saw the inspection of the army just outside the city, and a
glorious sight it was; bodies of infantry moving like one great machine,
squadrons of cavalry looking invincible, all glittering with gold, and
their plumes waving, the blue and gold banners above their heads; and
the dear regiment of Conde, whence salutes from eye and hand came to me
and my little Gaspard as they rode past.

I did not tremble as in the last campaign. Ah! perhaps I did not pray
so much. I heard of the crossing of the Rhine at Brisach, and then came
rumours of a tremendous battle at Freiburg. The bells had only just
begun to ring, when Pierre, our groom, galloped into the town, and sent
up at once his packet. His master, he said, was wounded, but not badly,
and had covered himself with glory. I tore open the packet. There were a
few lines by his own dear hand;--

‘My heart--I shall be with thee soon to rest in thy care--D.G. Kiss your
son. Thy B.’

The rest of the packet was from my half-brother De Solivet, and told
how, in the frightful attack on the vineyard at Freiburg, seven times
renewed, my dear, dear Philippe had received a shot in the knee, just as
he was grasping a Bavarian standard, which he carried off with him. He
would have returned to the charge, but faintness overpowered him, and
he was supported on horseback from the field to the tent. The wound had
been dressed, and the surgeon saw no occasion for alarm. M. de Solivet,
who had a slight wound himself, and M. d’Aubepine, who was quite
uninjured, though he had done prodigies of valour, would tend him with
all their hearts. I had better send the carriage and horses at once to
bring him back, as the number of wounded was frightful, and means of
transport were wanting. Then followed a message of express command from
my husband that I was not to think of coming with the carriage. He would
not have me at Freiburg on any account.

I submitted; indeed I saw no cause for fear, and even rejoiced that for
a long time I should have my husband to myself. I made all ready for
him, and taught my little Gaspard now he would say: ‘Soyez le bienvenu,
mon papa.’

So passed a week. Then one day there was a clanking of spurs on the
stairs; I flew to the door and there stood M. d’Aubepine.

‘Is he near?’ I cried, and then I saw he was white and trembling.

‘Ah! no,’ he cried; ‘he is at Brisach! We could bring him no farther.
Can you come with me, Madame? He asked incessantly for you, and it
might--it might be that your coming may revive him.’

And then this wild headstrong youth actually sank into a chair, hid his
face on the table, and sobbed as if his heart would break.

I had no time for weeping then. I sent for the first physician in Nancy,
and offered him any sum in the world to accompany me; I had to make
almost wild efforts to procure a horse, and at last had to force one
from the governor by my importunities. I collected wine and cordials,
and whatever could be of service, and after his first outburst my young
brother-in-law helped me in a way I can never forget. No doubt the
pestiferous air caused by the horrible carnage of Freiburg had poisoned
the wound. As soon as possible my husband was removed; but the mischief
had been already done; the wound was in a bad state, fever had set in,
and though he struggled on stage after stage, declaring that he should
be well when he saw me, the agony had been such on the last day that
they barely got him to Brisach, and he there became delirious, so that
M. de Solivet decided on remaining with him, while the Count came on to
fetch me. He had ridden ever since four o’clock in the morning, and yet
was ready to set out again as soon as my preparations were complete. Oh,
I can never overlook what he was to me on that journey!

Hope kept us up through that dismal country--the path of war, where
instead of harvest on the August day we saw down-trodden, half-burned
wheat fields, where a few wretched creatures were trying to glean a few
ears of wheat. Each village we passed showed only blackened walls,
save where at intervals a farmhouse had been repaired to serve as an
estafette for couriers from the French army. The desolation of the scene
seemed to impress itself on my soul, and destroy the hopes with which
I had set forth; but on and on we went, till the walls of Brisach rose
before us.

He was in the governor’s quarters, and only at the door, I perceived
the M. d’Aubepine had much doubted whether we should find him alive.
However, that one consolation was mine. He knew me; he smiled again on
me; he called me by all his fondest names; he said that now he could
rest. For twenty-four hours we really thought that joy was working
a cure. Alas! then he grew worse again, and when the pain left him,
mortification had set in, and we could only send for a priest to
administer the last Sacraments.

I am an old woman now, and what was then the cruelest anguish touches
me with pleasure when I think how he called me his guardian angel, and
thanked me for having been his shield from temptation, placing his
son in my sole charge, and commending his sister and his old uncle to
me--his poor little sister whose lot seemed to grieve him so much. He
talked to the Count, who wept, tore his hair, and made promises, which
he really then intended to execute, and which at least comforted my
Philippe.

The good priest who attended him said, he had never seen anything more
edifying or beautiful, and that he had never heard the confession of a
military man showing a purer heart, more full of holy love, trust, and
penitence. There was a great peace upon us all, as his life ebbed away,
and even the Count stood silent and awestruck. They took me away at
last. I remember nothing but the priest telling me that my husband was
in Paradise.

I felt as if it were all a dream, and when presently my brother came
and took my hand, I cried out: ‘Oh, wake me! Wake me!’ And when he burst
into tears I asked what he meant.

Looking back now I can see how very kind he was to me, though I made
little return, being altogether bewildered by the sudden strangeness of
my first grief. Poor M. de Solivet! he must have had a heavy charge for
Armand d’Aubepine was altogether frantic with grief, and did nothing to
help him, while I could not weep, and sat like a statue, hardly knowing
what they said to me. Nay, when the tidings came that my father had been
killed in the battle of Marston Moor three weeks before, I was too dull
and dead to grieve. Eustace had written to my husband in order that
he might prepare me; I opened the letter, and all that I can remember
feeling was that I had no one to shield me.

I had but one wish and sense of duty at that moment, namely, to carry
home those dear remains to the resting-place of his father in Anjou,
where I hope myself to rest. It was of no use to tell me that all places
would be alike to my Philippe when we should awake on the Resurrection
day. I was past reason, and was possessed with a feeling that I would be
sacrilege to leave him among the countless unnamed graves of the wounded
who, like him, had struggled as far as Brisach to die. I fancied I
should not be able to find him, and, besides, it was an enemy’s country!
I believe opposition made me talk wildly and terrify my brother; at
any rate, he swore to me that the thing should be done, if only I would
return to Nancy and to my child. I fancied, most unjustly, that this
was meant to deceive me, and get me out of the way while they buried him
whom I loved so much, and I refused to stir without the coffin.

How my brother contrived it, I do not know, but the thing was done,
and though I was but a cart that carried the coffin to Nancy, I was
pacified.

At Nancy he arranged matters more suitably. Here M. d’Aubepine, in
floods of tears, took leave of me to return to the army, and M. de
Solivet, whose wound disabled him from active service, undertook to
escort me and my precious to Anjou.

It was a long tedious journey, and my heart beats with gratitude to him
when I think what he undertook for me, and how dreary it must have been
for him, while I was too dead and dull to thank him, though I hope my
love and confidence evinced my gratitude in after life.

My dearest went first in a hearse drawn by mules, as was also my large
carriage,--that which we had so joyously bought together, saying it
would be like a kind of tent on our travels. I traveled in it with my
child and my women, and M. de Solivet rode with our men-servants. Our
pace was too slow for the fatigue to be too much for him, and he always
preceded me to every place where we halted to eat, or where we lodged
for the night, and had everything ready without a thought or a word
being needful from me. He always stood ready to give me his arm to take
me to hear mass before we set out each day. The perfect calm, and the
quiet moving on, began to do me good. I felt as if the journey had
always been going on, and only wished it were endless, for when it
was over I should feel my desolation, and have no more to do for
my Philippe. But I began to respond to my poor boy’s caresses and
playfulness a little more; I was not so short and maussade with my women
or with my good brother, and I tried to pray at mass. My brother has
since told me that he never felt more relieved in his life than once
when he made little Gaspard bring me some blue corn-flowers and wheat,
which reminded me of my English home, so that I began to weep so
profusely, that he carried away the poor frightened child, and left me
to Tryphena.

One afternoon at a little village there was a look of festival; the
bells were ringing, everybody was hurrying to the church, and when we
stopped at the door of the inn my brother came to the carriage-window
and said he was afraid that we should not find it easy to proceed at
once, for a mission priest was holding a station, and no one seemed able
to attend to anything else.

‘He is a true saint! he is just about to preach,’ said the landlady, who
had come out with her gayest apron, her whitest cap, and all her gold
chains. ‘Ah! the poor lady, it would do her heart good to hear him
preach; and by that time the roast would be ready--an admirable piece of
venison, sent for the occasion. There he is, the blessed man!’

And as I had just alighted from the carriage, for our mules had made a
double stage and could not go farther, I saw coming from the prebytere
three or four priests, with the sexton and the serving boys. One of
them, a spare thin man, with a little bronze crucifix in his hand,
paused as he saw the hearse drawn up, clasped his hands in prayer, and
then lifted them in benediction of him who lay within. I saw his face,
and there was in it an indescribable heavenly sweetness and pity which
made me say to my brother: ‘I must go and hear him.’

My brother was so glad to hear me express any wish, that I believe, if
I had asked to go and dance on the village green, he would almost have
permitted it; and leaving my little one to play in the garden under
Tryphena’s care, he gave me his arm, and we went into the church,
crowded--crowded so that we could hardly find room; but my deep mourning
made the good people respectfully make place for us and give us chairs.

Ah! that sermon! I cannot tell you it in detail; I only know that it
gave the strongest sense of healing balm to my sore heart, and seemed in
a wonderful way to lift me up into the atmosphere where my Philippe
was gone, making me feel that what kept me so far--far from him was not
death, nor his coffin, but my own thick husk of sin and worldliness.
Much more there was, which seems now to have grown into my very soul;
and by the time it was over I was weeping tears no longer bitter, and
feeling nothing so much as the need to speak to that priest.

M. de Solivet promised that I should, but we had long to wait, for the
saintly Abbe de Paul would not postpone the poor to the rich; nor could
my grief claim the precedence, for I was not the only broken-hearted
young widow in France, nor even in that little village.

I cannot be grateful enough to my brother that he put up with all the
inconveniences of sleeping at this little village, that I might carry
out what he though a mere woman’s enthusiastic fancy: but in truth it
was everything to me. After vespers the holy man was able to give me
an hour in the church, and verily it was the opening of new life to
me. Since my light had been taken from me, all had been utter desolate
darkness before me. He put a fresh light before me, which now, after
fifty years, I know to have been the dawn of better sunshine than even
that which had brightened my youth--and I thank my good God, who has
never let me entirely lose sight of it.

Very faint, almost disappointing, it seemed to me then. I came away from
my interview feeling as if it had been vain to think there could be any
balm for a crushed heart, and yet when I awoke the next morning, and
dressed myself to hear mass before resuming my journey, it was with the
sense that there I should meet a friend and comforter. And when I looked
at my little son, it was not only with dreary passionate pity for the
unconscious orphan, but with a growing purpose to bring him up as his
father’s special charge,--nay, as that from even a greater and nearer
than my Philippe.

While, as we journeyed on, I gradually dwelt less on how piteous my
arrival would be for myself, and thought more and more of its sadness
for the poor old Marquis who had loved his nephew so much, till, instead
of merely fearing to reach Nid de Merle, I began to look forward to it,
and consider how to comfort the poor old man; for had not my husband
begged me to be the staff of his old age, and to fill a daughter’s place
to him?



CHAPTER VII. -- WIDOW AND WIFE



We had avoided Paris, coming through Troyes and Orleans, and thus our
sad strange journey lasted a full month. Poor old M. de Nidemerle had,
of course, been prepared for our coming, and he came out in his coach
to meet us at the cross-roads. My brother saw the mourning liveries
approaching, and gave me notice. I descended from my carriage, intending
to go to him in his, but he anticipated me; and there, in the middle
of the road, the poor old man embraced me, weeping floods of passionate
tears of grief. He was a small man, shrunk with age, and I found him
clinging to me so like a child that I felt an almost motherly sense of
protection and tenderness towards his forlorn old age; but my English
shyness was at the moment distressed at the sense of all the servants
staring at such a meeting, and I cried out: ‘Oh, sir! you should not
have come thus.’ ‘What can I do, but show all honour to the heroic wife
of my dear child?’ sobbed he; and, indeed, I found afterwards that my
persistence in bringing home my dearest to the tombs of his forefathers
had won for me boundless gratitude and honour. They took the hearse to
the church of the convent at Bellaise, where its precious burthen was
to rest. The obsequies, requiem, and funeral mass were to take place the
next day, and in the meantime I accompanied the Marquis to the chateau,
and we spent the evening and great part of the night in talking of him
whom we had both loved so dearly, and in weeping together.

Then came the solemn and mournful day of the funeral. I was taken early
to the convent, where, among the nuns behind the grille, I might assist
at these last rites.

Thickly veiled, I looked at no one except that I curtsied my thanks to
the Abbess before kneeling down by the grating looking into the choir.
My grief had always been too deep for tears, and on that day I was
blessed in a certain exaltation of thoughts which bore me onward amid
the sweet chants to follow my Philippe, my brave, pure-hearted, loving
warrior, onto his rest in Paradise, and to think of the worship that he
was sharing there.

So I knelt quite still, but by and by I was sensible of a terrible
paroxysm of weeping from some one close to me. I could scarcely see more
than a black form when I glanced round, but it seemed to me that it was
sinking; I put out my arm in support, and I found a head on my
shoulder. I knew who it must be--my husband’s poor little sister, Madame
d’Aubepine, and I held my arm round her with an impulse of affection, as
something that was his; but before all was over, I was sure that she was
becoming faint, and at last I only moved just in time to receive her in
my lap and arms, as she sank down nearly, if not quite, unconscious.

I tore back the heavy veil that was suffocating her, and saw a tiny thin
white face, not half so large as my little Gaspard’s round rosy one.
Numbers of black forms hovered about with water and essences; and one
tall figure bent to lift the poor child from me, apologizing with a
tone of reproof, and declaring that Madame la Comtesse was ashamed to
inconvenience Madame.

‘No,’ I said; ‘one sister could not inconvenience another,’ and I felt
the feeble hand stealing round my waist, and saw a sort of smile on the
thin little lips, which brought back one look of my Philippe’s. I threw
off my own veil, and raised her in my arms so as to kiss her, and in
that embrace I did indeed gain a sister.

I did not heed the scolding and the murmuring; I lifted her; she was
very small, and light as a feather; and I was not merely tall, but very
strong, so I carried her easily to a chamber, which one of the nuns
opened for us, and laid her on the bed. She clung to me, and when some
one brought wine, I made her drink it, and prayed that they would leave
us to ourselves a little while.

I know now that nothing but the privileges of my position on that day
would have prevailed to get that grim and terrible dame de compagnie out
of the room. However, we were left alone, and the first thing the poor
young thing did when she could speak or move, was to throw herself into
my arms and cry:

‘Tell me of him!’

‘He sent his love. He commended you to me,’ I began.

‘Did he? Oh, my dear hero! And how is he looking?’

So it was of her husband, not her brother, that she was thinking. I
gave me a pang, and yet I could not wonder; and alas, d’Aubepine had not
given me any message at all for her. However, I told her what I thought
would please her--of his handsome looks, and his favour with the Duke of
Enghien, and her great dark eyes began to shine under their tear-swollen
lids; but before long, that terrible woman knocked at the door again to
say that Madame la Comtesse’s carriage was ready, and that M. le Marquis
awaited Madame la Vicomtesse.

We arranged our disordered dress, and went down hand-in-hand. The
Marquis and the Abbess both embraced the poor little Countess, and I
assured her that we would meet again, and be much together.

‘Madame la Comtesse will do herself the honour of paying her respects
to Madame la Vicomtesse,’ said the dame de compagnie with the elder M.
d’Aubepine, and had regulated her household of late years.

‘I congratulate myself on not belonging to that respectable household,’
said my brother.

M. de Nidemerle laughed, and said the good lady had brought with her
a fair share of Calvinist severity. In fact, it was reported that her
conversion had been stimulated by the hope that she should be endowed
with her family property, and bestowed in marriage on the young
d’Aubepine, the father of the present youth, and that disappointment in
both these expectations had embittered her life. I was filled with pity
for my poor little sister-in-law, who evidently was under her yoke;
and all the more when, a day or two later, the tow ladies came in great
state to pay me a visit of ceremony, and I saw how pale and thin was the
little Countess, and how cowed she seemed by the tall and severe duenna.

Little Gaspard was trotting about. The Marquis was delighted with the
child, and already loved him passionately; and the little fellow was
very good, and could amuse himself without troubling any one.

He took refuge with me from Mademoiselle de Gringrimeau; but as I held
him to kiss his aunt, her eyes filled with tears; and when I asked
whether her little girl could walk as well as he did, she faltered so
that I was startled, fearing that the child might have died and I not
have heard of it.

‘She is out at nurse,’ at last she murmured.

‘Children are best at farms,’ said Mademoiselle de Gringrimeau; ‘Madame
la Comtesse Douariere is not to be incommoded.’ The old man held out
his arms to my little boy, and said something of his being a pleasure
instead of an inconvenience; but though the lady answered politely, she
looked so severe that my poor child hid his face on my bosom and began
to cry, by way of justifying her.

However, when she was gone, both the gentlemen agreed that the little
fellow was quite right, and showed his sense, and that if they had been
only two years old, they would have cried too.

That was all in my favour when I entreated M. de Nidemerle to let me
have a visit from my sister-in-law,--not a mere call of ceremony, but a
stay at the chateau long enough for me to get acquainted with her. Not
only was she the only sister of my dear Philippe, but the Marquis, her
uncle, was her guardian and only near relative, so that he had a
right to insist, more especially as the old Countess was imbecile and
bedridden.

I think he felt towards me much as he would have done if he had been
shut up in a room with Gaspard, ready to give me anything I begged for,
provided I would not cry. He was very good to me, and I could not but be
sorry for the poor, bereaved, broken old man, and try to be a daughter
to him; and thus our relations were very different from what they had
been on our journey to Paris together in the coach. At any rate, he
promised me that I should be gratified, and the day after my brother
left us, he actually went over to Chateau d’Aubepine, and brought off
his niece in the carriage with him, presenting her to me in the hall
like the spoils of war. She was frightened, formal, and ceremonious all
super time, but I thought she was beginning to thaw, and was more afraid
of the Marquis than of me. We played at cards all the evening, the Cure
being sent for to make up the set, and now and then I caught her great
eyes looking at me wistfully; indeed, I was obliged to avoid them lest
they should make me weep; for it was almost the look that my Philippe
used to cast on me in those early days when we had not begun to know one
another.

At last we went up to bed. The rooms were all en suite, and I had given
her one opening into mine, telling her we would never shut the door save
when she wished it. I saw her gazing earnestly at her brother’s portrait
and all the precious little objects consecrated to his memory, which I
had arranged by my benitier and crucifix, but I did not expect her firs
exclamation, when our woman had left us: ‘Ah! Madame, how happy you
are!’

‘I was once!’ I sighed.

‘Ah! but you ARE happy. You have your child, and your husband loved
you.’

‘But your husband lives, and your children are well.’

‘That may be. I never see them. I have only seen my daughter twice, and
my son once, since they were born. They will not let them come to the
chateau, and they say there is no road to the farms.’

‘We will see to that,’ I said, and I made her tell me where they were;
but she knew no more of distances than I did, never going anywhere save
in the great family coach. Poor child! When I called her Cecile, she
burst into tears, and said no one had called her by that name since
she had left her friend Amelie in the convent, and as to calling me
Marguerite, Mademoiselle de Gringrimeau would be sure to say it was
bourgeois and ill-bred to use familiar names, but then we need never let
her hear us.

I took the poor little forlorn creature to sleep with me, and then, and
in the course of the next day or two, the whole sad state of things came
before me.

The little Cecile de Bellaise had been carried to a convent at Angers
from the farm that she could just remember. Here she had spent all the
happy days of her life. The nuns ere not strict, and they must have been
very ignorant, for they had taught her nothing but her prayers, a little
reading, some writing, very bad orthography, embroidery, and heraldry;
but they were very good-natured, and had a number of pensionnaires who
seemed to have all run wild together in the corridors and gardens, and
played all sorts of tricks on the nuns. Sometimes Cecile told me some
of these, and very unedifying they were,--acting ghosts in the passages,
fastening up the cell doors, ringing the bells at unearthly hours,
putting brushes or shoes in the beds, and the like practical jokes.

Suddenly, from the midst of these wild sports, while still a mere child
under fourteen, Cecile was summoned to be married to Armand d’Aubepine,
who was two years older, and was taken at once to Chateau d’Aubepine.

There was no more play for her; she had to sit upright embroidering
under the eyes of Madame la Comtesse and of Mademoiselle de Gringrimeau;
nor did she ever go out of doors except for a turn on the terrace
with the ladies, or a drive in the great coach. Of course they were
disappointed in having such a little unformed being on their hands, but
they must have forgotten that they had ever been young themselves, when
they forced her to conform rigidly to the life that suited them, and
which they thought the only decorous thing for a lady of any age.

There was nothing else that was young near her except her husband,
and he thought her an ugly little thing, and avoided her as much as
possible. He had expected to be freed from his tutor on his marriage,
and when he was disappointed, he was extremely displeased, and
manifested his wrath by neglect of her. His governor must have been a
very different one from my dear husband’s beloved abbe, fro I know that
if I had been five times as ugly and stupid as I was, my Philippe would
have tried to love me, because it was his duty--and have been kind
to me, because he could not be unkind to any one. But the Chevalier
d’Aubepine had never learnt to care for any one’s pleasure but his own;
he was angry at, and ashamed of, the wife who had been imposed on him;
he chafed and raged at not being permitted to join the army and see the
world; and in the meantime he, with the connivance of his governor, from
time to time escaped at night to Saumur, and joined in the orgies of the
young officers in garrison there.

Nevertheless, through all his neglect, Cecile loved him with a
passionate, faithful adoration, surpassing all words, just as I have
seen a poor dog follow faithfully a savage master who gives him nothing
but blows. She never said a word of complaint to me of him. All I
gathered of this was from her simple self-betrayals, or from others, or
indeed what I knew of himself; but the whole sustenance of that young
heart had been his few civil words at times when he could make her
useful to him. I am persuaded, too, that Mademoiselle de Gringrimeau
exercised her spite in keeping the two young creatures from any childish
or innocent enjoyments that might have drawn them together. If etiquette
were the idol of that lady, I am sure that spite flavoured the incense
she burned to it.

I think, if I had been in Cecile’s position, I should either have gone
mad, or have died under the restraint and dreariness; but she lived on
in the dull dream of half-comprehended wretchedness, and gave birth
to her daughter, but without being in the least cheered, for a peasant
woman was in waiting, who carried the child off while she was still too
much exhausted to have even kissed it. All she obtained was universal
murmuring at the sex of the poor little thing. It seemed the climax of
all her crimes, which might be involuntary, but for which she was made
to suffer as much as if they had been her fault.

Her husband was more displeased than any one else; above all when he
heard the news of Rocroy; and then it was that he devised the scheme of
running away, and in discussing it with her became more friendly than
ever before. Of course it was dreadful to her that he should go to the
war, but the gratification of helping him, keeping his secret, plotting
with him, getting a few careless thanks and promises, carried the day,
and bore her through the parting. ‘He really did embrace me of his own
accord,’ said the poor young creature; and it was on that embrace that
she had ever since lived, in hope that when they should meet again he
might find it possible to give her a few shreds of affection.

Of course, when she was found to have been cognizant of his departure,
she was in the utmost disgrace. Rage at his evasion brought on the fit
of apoplexy which cost the old count his life; and the blame was so laid
upon her, not only by Mademoiselle de Gringrimeau, but by Madame and by
her confessor, that she almost believed herself a sort of parricide; and
she had not yet completed the course of penitential exercises that have
been imposed on her.

By the time--more than half a year later--her son was born, the old
countess had become too childish to be gratified for more than a moment.
Indeed, poor Cecile herself was so ill that she survived only by a
wonder, since no one cared whether she lived or died, except her own
maid, who watched over her tenderly, and gave her, when she could
read it, a letter from her husband upon the joyful news. She wore
that letter, such as it was, next her heart, and never told her how my
husband had absolutely stood over him while he wrote it.

So she recovered, if it can be called recovery--for her health had been
shattered by all this want of the most care and consideration; she was
very weak and nervous, and suffered constantly from headache, and her
looks were enough to break one’s heart. I suppose nothing could have
made her beautiful, but she had a strange, worn, blighted, haggard,
stunted look, quite dreadful for one not yet eighteen; she was very
short, and fearfully thin and pale, but out of the sad little face there
looked my Philippe’s eyes, and now and then his smile.

After talking till late I fell asleep, and when I woke to dress for
morning mass, I found that she had not slept at all, and had a frightful
headache. I bade her lie still till I came back, and she seemed hardly
able to believe in such luxury. Mademoiselle said nothing but resolution
was wanting to shake off a headache.

‘Have you found it so?’ I asked.

‘At any rate, it is better than the doses Mademoiselle gives me,’ she
said.

‘You shall try my remedy this time,’ I said; and I set out for the
little village church, which stood at the garden-gate, with a fixed
determination that this state of things--slow torture and murder, as it
seemed to me--should not go on. If one work bequeathed to me by my dear
Philippe was to take care of his uncle, another surely was to save and
protect his sister.



CHAPTER VIII. -- MARGUERITE TO THE RESCUE.



It was in my favour that M. de Nidemerle had conceived a very high
opinion of me, far above my deserts. My dear husband’s letters had been
full of enthusiasm for me. I found them all among the Marquis’s papers;
and his tenderness and gratitude, together with the circumstances of
my return, had invested me with a kind of halo, which made me a sort of
heroine in his eyes.

Besides, I did my best to make the old man’s life more cheerful. I read
him the Gazette that came once a week, I played at cards with him
all the evening, and I sometimes even wrote or copied his letters on
business; and, when I sat at my embroidery, he liked to come and sit
near me, sometimes talking, playing with Gaspard, or dozing. He was
passionately fond of Gaspard, and let the child domineer over him in a
way that sometimes shocked me.

Thus he was ready to believe what I told him of his niece, and assured
me I might keep her with me as long as I wished, if the Countess, her
mother-in-law, would consent. The first thing we did together was that I
took her to see her children. The boy was at a farm not very far off; he
was seven months old, and a fine healthy infant, though not as clean
as I could have wished; but then Tryphena and I had been looked on as
barbarians, who would certainly be the death of Gaspard, because we
washed him all over every evening, and let him use his legs and arms.
Cecile was enchanted; she saw an extraordinary resemblance between her
son and his father; and hugged the little form like one who had been
famished.

Our search for the little Armantine was less prosperous. Cecile could
not ride, nor could even walk a quarter of a mile without nearly dying
of fatigue; nay, the jolting of the coach as we drove along the road
would have been insupportable to her but for her longing to see her
little one. We drove till it was impossible to get the coach any
farther, and still the farm was only just in sight.

I jumped out and said I would bring the child to her, and I went
up between the hedges with two lackeys behind me, till I came to a
farmyard, where three or four children, muddy up to the very eyes, were
quarrelling and playing with the water of a stagnant pool. I made my way
through animals, dogs, and children, to the farm kitchen, where an old
grandmother and a beggar sat on two chairs opposite to one another, on
each side of the fire, and a young woman was busy over some raw joints
of an animal. They stared at me with open mouths, and when I said that
Madame la Comtesse d’Aubepine was come to see her child, and was waiting
in the carriage, they looked as if such a thing had never been heard of
before. The young woman began to cry--the old woman to grumble. I think
if they had dared, they would have flown into a passion, and I was
really alarmed lest the child might be sick or even dead. I told them
impressively who I was, and demanded that they would instantly show me
the little one.

The young woman, muttering something, stepped out and brought in her
arms the very dirtiest child of the whole group I had left in the
gutter, with the whole tribe behind her. My first impulse was to snatch
it up and carry it away to its mother, taking it home at once to Nid de
Merle; but it squalled and kicked so violently when I held out my arms
to it, that it gave me time to think that to carry it thus away without
authority might only bring Cecile into trouble with those who had the
mastery over her, and that to see it in such a condition could only
give her pain. I should not have objected to the mere surface dirt of
grubbing in the farmyard (shocking as it may sound to you, Mademoiselle
mes Petites Filles). Eustace and I had done such things at Walwyn
and been never the worse for it; but this poor little creature had a
wretched, unwholesome, neglected air about her that made me miserable,
and the making her fit to be seen would evidently be a long business,
such as could hardly be undertaken in the midst of the salting of a pig,
which was going on.

I therefore promised the woman a crown if she would make the child tidy
and bring her to Nid de Merle on the Sunday. Something was muttered
about Mademoiselle having said the child was not to be constantly
brought to the house to incommonde Madame la Comtesse; but I made her
understand that I meant Nid de Merle, and trusted that the hope of the
money would be a bait.

Cecile was sorely disappointed when I returned without the child, and
conjured me at once to tell her the worst, if it were indeed dead; but
she let herself be pacified by the hope of seeing it on Sunday, and
indeed she was half dead with fatigue from the roughness of the road.

The child was duly brought by the foster-mother who was in the full
costume of a prosperous peasant, with great gold cross and gay apron;
but I was not better satisfied about the little on, though she had a
cleaner face, cap, and frock. Unused to the sight of black, she would
let neither of us touch her, and we could only look at her, when she
sat on her nurse’s knee with a cake in her hand. I was sure she was
unhealthy and uncared for, her complexion and everything about her
showed it, and my Gaspard was twice her size. It was well for the peace
of the young mother that she knew so little what a child ought to be
like, and that her worst grief was that the little Armantine would not
go to her.

‘And oh! they will send her straight into a convent as soon as she is
weaned, and I shall never have her with me!’ sighed Cecile.

‘ON’ ON had done many harsh things towards my poor little sister-in-law,
and I began now to consider of whom ON now consisted. It seemed to me
to be only Mademoiselle de Gringrimeau acting in the name of the doting
Countess and the absent husband, and that one resolute effort might
emancipate the poor young thing.

I was still considering the matter, and rallying my forces, when a
message came from the Chateau l’Aube that Madame la Douariere was dying,
and Madame la Comtesse must return instantly. I went with her; I could
not let her return alone to Mademoiselle’s tender mercies, and the
Marquis approved and went with us. In fact, the two chateaux were not
two miles apart, through the lanes and woods, though the way by the road
was much longer.

The old Countess lingered another day and then expired. Before the
funeral ceremonies were over, I had seen how Mademoiselle de Gringrimeau
tyrannise over this young sister-in-law, who was still a mere gentle
child, and was absolutely cowed by the woman. When I tried to take her
home with me, Mademoiselle had the effrontery to say that the Count
himself, as well as the late dowager, had given her authority over
Madame as dame de compagnie, and that she did not consider it etiquette
to visit after so recent a bereavement, thus decidedly hitting at me.

However, I had made up my mind. I entreated my poor weeping Cecile to
hold out yet a little longer in hope; and then I returned home to lay
the whole situation before the Marquis, and to beg him to assert his
authority as uncle, and formally request that she might reside under
his protection while her husband was with the army--a demand which could
hardly fail to be granted.

I wrote also to M. d’Aubepine, over whom I thought I had some influence,
and added likewise a letter to my half-brother De Solivet, explaining
the situation, and entreating him to get the young gentleman into his
lodgings, and not let him out till he had written his letters, signed
and sealed them!

The plan answered. In due time our courier returned, and with all we
wanted in the way of letters, with one great exception, alas! any true
sign of tenderness for the young wife. There was a formal letter for
her, telling her to put herself and her children under the charge of her
uncle and her brother’s widow, leaving the charge of the chateau and the
servants to the intendant and to Mademoiselle de Gringrimeau. The poor
child had to imbibe what her yearning heart could extract from the
conventional opening and close. I have my share of the budget still, and
her it is:--


‘MADAME--You still love to play your part of beneficent angel, and wish
to take on your shoulder my impedimenta. Well, be it so then; though
I have no hope that you will make thereof (en) anything like yourself.
Kissing your hands.

‘LE COMTE D’AUBEPINE.’


His whole family was thus disposed of in two letters of the alphabet
(en).

M. de Nidemerle received a polite request to undertake the charge of
his niece, and Mademoiselle had likewise her orders, and I heard from my
brother how he had smiled at my commands, but had found them necessary,
for Armand d’Aubepine had been exactly like a naughty boy forced to do
a task. Not that he had the smallest objection to his wife and children
being with me--in fact, he rather preferred it; he only hated being
troubled about the matter, wanted to go to a match at tennis, and
thought it good taste to imitate the Duke of Enghien in contempt for
the whole subject. Would he ever improve? My brother did not give much
present hope of it, saying that on returning to winter quarters he had
found the lad plunged all the deeper in dissipation for want of the
check that my dear husband had been able to impose on him; but neither
M. de Solivet nor the Marquis took it seriously, thinking it only what
every youth in the army went through, unless he were such a wonderful
exception as my dear Philippe had been.

Cecile could hardly believe that such peace and comfort were in store
for her, and her tyrant looked as gloomy as Erebus at losing her slave,
but we did not care for that; we brought her home in triumph, and a
fortnight’s notice was given to the foster-mother in which to wean
Mademoiselle d’Aubepine and bring her to Nid de Merle.

That fortnight was spent by our guest in bed. As if to justify
Mademoiselle de Gringrimeau, she was no sooner under my care than she
had a sharp illness; but Tryphena, who had been so instructed by
my grandmother, Lady Walwyn, as to be more skilful than any doctor,
declared that it was in consequence of the long disregard of health and
strain of spirits, and so managed her that, though never strong, she
improved much in health, and therewith in looks. Beautiful she could
hardly be, as the world counts beauty, but to me her sweet, tender,
wistful expression made her countenance most lovable, and so did her
gentle unmurmuring humility. She sincerely believed that all the cruel
slights she underwent were the result of her own ugliness, stupidity,
and ignorance, and instead of blaming her husband, she merely pitied him
for being tied to her. As to grating that her brother had been a better
man than her husband, she would have thought that high treason--the
difference was only that her dear Marguerite was so pretty, so clever,
amiable, and well taught, that she had won his heart.

In truth, I had outgrown the ungainliness of my girlhood, and, now that
it did not matter to any one, had become rather a handsome woman, and it
was of no use to tell her that I had been worse than she, because there
was so much more of me, when my dear young husband gave me the whole of
his honest heart.

To make herself, at least, less dull was her next desire. One reason
why she had so seldom written was that she knew she could not spell, and
Mademoiselle insisted on looking over her letters that they might not
be a disgrace. I doubted whether M. le Comte would have discovered the
errors, but when the Marquis praised some letters that I had written to
amuse him from Nancy and Mezieres, she was fired with ambition to write
such clever letters as might bewitch her husband. Besides, if she could
teach her daughter, the child need not be banished to a convent.

I began to give her a few lessons in the morning, and to read to her.
And just then there came to Nid de Merle, to see me, the good Abbe
Bonchamp, the excellent tutor to whom my dear Philippe always said he
owed so much. The good man had since had another employment, and on
quitting it, could not help gratifying his desire to me and see the wife
and child of his dear pupil, as indeed I had begged him to do, if ever
it were in his power, when I fulfilled my husband’s wishes by writing
his last greeting and final thanks to the good man.

I remember the dear quaint form riding up on a little hired mule, which
he almost concealed with his cassock. Above, his big hat looked so
strange that Gaspard, who was wonderfully forward for his age, ran up
to me crying: ‘A droll beast, mamma! it had four legs and a great hat!’
while little Armantine fled crying from the monster.

All the servants were, however, coming out eagerly to receive the
blessing of the good man, who had mad himself much beloved in the
household. The Marquis embraced him with tears, and presented him to
me, when he fell on his knee, took my hand, pressed it to his lips
and bathed it with his tears, and then held Gaspard to his breast with
fervent love.

It was necessary to be cheerful before M. de Nidemerle. He had truly
loved his nephew, and mourned for him, but the aged do not like a
recurrence to sorrow, so the abbe amused him with the news brought from
Saumur, and our party at cards was a complete one that evening.

But the next day, the Abbe, who had loved his pupil like a son, could
talk of him to me, and it was a comfort I cannot express to my aching
heart to converse with him. Everything had settled into an ordinary
course. People fancied me consoled; I had attended to other things, and
I could not obtrude my grief on the Marquis or on Cecile; but on! My
sick yearning for my Philippe only grew the more because I might not
mention him or hear his name. However, the Abbe only longed to listen to
all I could tell him of the last three years, and in return to tell me
much that I should never otherwise have known of the boyhood and youth
of my dear one.

I felt as if the good man must never leave us, and I entreated M. de
Nidemerle to retain him at once as governor to little Gaspard. The
Marquis laughed at securing a tutor for a child not yet three years old;
but he allowed that the boy could not be in better hands, and, moreover,
he was used to the Abbe, and liked to take his arm and to have him to
make up the party at cards, which he played better than the cure.

So the Abbe remained as chaplain and as tutor, and, until Gaspard should
be old enough to profit by his instructions, Cecile and I entreated him
to accept us as pupils. I had begun to feel the need of some hard and
engrossing work to take off my thoughts alike from my great sorrow and
my pressing anxieties about my English home, so that I wished to return
to my Latin studies again, and the Abbe helped me to read Cicero de
Officiis again, and likewise some of the writings of St. Gregory the
Great. He also read to both of us the Gospels and Mezeray’s HISTORY OF
FRANCE, which I did not know as an adopted Frenchwoman ought to know
it, and Cecile knew not at all; nay, the nuns had scarcely taught her
anything, even about religion, nor the foundations of the faith.

No, I can never explain what we, both of us, owe to the Abbe Bonchamp.
You, my eldest grandchild, can just recollect the good old man as he sat
in his chair and blessed us ere he passed to his rest and the reward of
his labours.



CHAPTER IX. -- THE FIREBRAND OF THE BOCAGE.



Yes, the life at Nid de Merle was very peaceful. Just as exquisitely
happy it was in spite of alarms, anxieties, perplexities, and
discomforts, so when I contemplate my three years in Anjou I see that
they were full of peace, though the sunshine of my life was over and
Cecile had never come.

We had our children about us, for we took little Maurice d’Aubepine home
as soon as possible; we followed the course of devotion and study traced
for us by the Abbe; we attended to the wants of the poor, and taught
their children the Catechism; we worked and lived like sisters, and I
thought all that was life to me was over. I forgot that at twenty-two
there is much life yet to come, and that one may go through many a
vicissitude of feeling even though one’s heart be in a grave.

The old Marquis did not long remain with us. He caught a severe cold in
the winter, and had no strength to rally. Tryphena would have it that
he sank from taking nothing but tisanes made of herbs; and that if
she might only have given him a good hot sack posset, he would have
recovered; but he shuddered at the thought, and when a doctor came from
Saumur, he bled the poor old gentleman, faintings came on, and he
died the next day. I was glad Tryphena’s opinion was only expressed in
English.

The poor old man had been very kind to me, and had made me love him
better than I should have supposed to be possible when we crossed
from Dover. The very last thing he had done was to write to my mother,
placing his hotel at Paris at her disposal in case she and her son
should find it expedient to leave England; and when his will was opened
it proved that he had left me personal guardian and manager of the
estates of his heir, my little Gaspard, now M. de Nidemerle, joining no
one with me in the charge but my half-brother the Baron de Solivet.

I had helped him, read letters to him, and written them for him, and
overlooked his accounts enough for the work not to be altogether new
and strange to me, and I took it up eagerly. I had never forgotten
the sermon by the holy Father Vincent, whom the Church has since
acknowledged as a saint, and our excellent Abbe had heightened the
impression that a good work lay prepared for me; but he warned me to be
prudent, and I am afraid I was hot-headed and eager.

Much had grieved me in the six months I had spent in the country, in the
state of the peasantry. I believe that in the Bocage they are better
off than in many parts of France, but even there they seemed to me
much oppressed and weighed down. Their huts were wretched--they had
no chimneys, no glass in the windows, no garden, not even anything
comfortable for the old to sit in; and when I wanted to give a poor
rheumatic old man a warm cushion, I found it was carefully hidden away
lest M. l’Intendant should suppose the family too well off.

Those seigniorial rights then seemed to me terrible. The poor people
stood in continual fear either of the intendant of the king or of the
Marquis, or of the collector of the dues of the Church. At harvest time,
a bough was seen sticking in half the sheaves. In every ten, one sheaf
is marked for the tithe, tow for the seigneur, two for the king; and the
officer of each takes the best, so that only the worst are left for the
peasant.

Nay, the only wonder seemed to me that there were any to be had at all,
for our intendant thought it his duty to call off the men from their own
fields for the days due from them whenever he wanted anything to be done
to our land (or his own, or his son’s-in-law), without the slightest
regard to the damage their crops suffered from neglect.

I was sure these things ought not to be. I thought infinitely more good
might be done by helping the peasants to make the most of what they
had, and by preventing them from being robbed in my son’s name, than by
dealing out gallons of soup and piles of bread at the castle gates to
relieve the misery we had brought on them, or by dressing the horrible
sores that were caused by dirt and bad food. I told the Abbe, and he
said it was a noble inspiration in itself, but that he feared that one
lady, and she a foreigner, could not change the customs of centuries,
and that innovations were dangerous. I also tried to fire with the
same zeal for reformation the Abbess of Bellaise, who was a young and
spirited woman, open to conviction; but she was cloistered, and could
not go to investigate matters as I did, with the Abbe for my escort, and
often with my son. He was enchanted to present any little gift, and it
was delightful that the peasants should learn to connect all benefits
with Monsieur le Marquis, as they already called the little fellow.

I think they loved me the better when they found that I was the
grandchild of the Madame Eustace who had been hidden in their cottages.
I found two or three old people who still remembered her wanderings when
she kept the cows and knitted like a peasant girl among them. I was even
shown the ruinous chamber where my aunt Thistlewood was born, and the
people were enchanted to hear how much the dear old lady had told me of
them, and of their ways, and their kindness to her.

I encouraged the people to make their cottages clean and not to be
afraid of comforts, promising that our intendant at least should not
interfere with them. I likewise let him know that I would not have men
forced to leave their fields when it would ruin their crops, and that
it was better that ours should suffer than theirs. He was obsequious in
manner and then disobeyed me, till one day I sent three labourers back
again to secure their own hay before they touched ours. And when the
harvest was gathered in the Abbe and I went round the fields of the
poor, and I pointed out the sheaves that might be marked, and they were
not the best.

I taught the girls to knit as they watched their cows, and promised
to buy some of their stockings, so that they might obtain sabots for
themselves with the price. They distrusted me at first, but before
long, they began to perceive that I was their friend, and I began to
experience a nice kind of happiness.

Alas! even this was too sweet to last, or perhaps, as the good Abbe
warned me, I was pleasing myself too much with success, and with going
my own way. The first murmur of the storm came thus: I had been out all
the afternoon with the Abbe, Armantine’s bonne, and the two children,
looking at the vineyards, which always interested me much because we
have none like them in England. In one, where they were already treading
the grapes, the good woman begged that M. le Marquis and Mademoiselle
would for once tread the grapes to bring good luck. They were frantic
with joy; we took off their little shoes and silk stockings, rolled them
up in thick cloths, and let them get into the trough and dance on the
grapes with their little white feet. That wine was always called ‘the
Vintage of le Marquis.’ We could hardly get them away, they were so
joyous, and each carried a great bunch of grapes as a present to the
little boy at home and his mother.

We thought we saw a coachman’s head and the top of a carriage passing
through the lanes, and when we came home I was surprised to find my
sister-in-law in tears, thoroughly shaken and agitated.

Mademoiselle de Gringrimeau had been to see her, she said, and had told
her the Count was in Paris, but had not sent for her; and I thought that
enough to account for her state; but when the children began to tell
their eager story, and hold up their grapes to her, she burst again into
tears, and cried: ‘Oh, my dear sister, if you would be warned. It is
making a scandal, indeed it is! They call you a plebeian.’

I grew hot and angry, and demanded what could be making a scandal, and
what business Mademoiselle de Gringrimeau had to meddle with me or my
affairs.

‘Ah! but she will write to my husband, and he will take me from you, and
that would be dreadful. Give it up. Oh, Marguerite, give it up for MY
sake!’

What was I to give up? I demanded. Running about the country, it
appeared, like a farmer’s wife rather than a lady of quality, and
stirring up the poor against their lords. It was well known that all the
English were seditious. See what they had done to their king; and here
was I, beginning the same work. Had not the Count’s intendant at
Chateau d’Aubepine thrown in his teeth what Madame de Bellaise did and
permitted? He was going to write to Monseigneur, ay, and the king’s own
intendant would hear of it, so I had better take care, and Mademoiselle
had come out of pure benevolence to advise Madame la Comtesse to come
and take refuse at her husband’s own castle before the thunderbolt
should fall upon me, and involve her in my ruin.

I laughed. I was sure that I was neither doing nor intending any harm;
I thought the whole a mere ebullition of spite on the duenna’s part to
torment and frighten her emancipated victim, and I treated all as a joke
to reassure Cecile, and even laughed at the Abbe for treating the matter
more seriously, and saying it was always perilous to go out of a beaten
track.

‘I thought the beaten track and wide road were the dangerous ones,’ I
said, with more lightness, perhaps, than suited the subject.

‘Ah, Madame,’ he returned gravely, ‘you have there the truth; but there
may be danger in this world in the narrow path.’

The most effectual consolation that I could invent for Cecile was that
if her husband thought me bad company for her, he could not but fetch
her to her proper home with him, as soon as peace was made. Did I really
think so? The little thing grew radiant with the hope.

Days went on, we heard nothing, and I was persuaded that the whole had
been, as I told Cecile, a mere figment of Mademoiselle de Gringrimeau’s.

I had written to beg my mother, with my brother and sister, to come
and join us, and I as already beginning to arrange a suite of rooms
for them, my heart bounding as it only can do at the thought of meeting
those nearest and dearest of one’s own blood.

I remember that I was busy giving orders that the linen should be aired,
and overlooking the store of sheets, when Gaspard and Armantine from the
window called out: ‘Horses, horses, mamma! fine cavaliers!’

I rushed to the window and recognized the Solivet colours. No doubt the
baron had come to announce the arrival of my mother and the rest, and
I hastened down to meet him at the door, full of delight, with my son
holding my hand.

My first exclamation after the greeting was to ask where they were, and
how soon they would arrive, and I was terribly disappointed when I found
that he had come alone, and that my mother, with Eustace and Annora,
were at the Hotel de Nidemerle, at Paris, without any intention of
leaving it. He himself had come down on business, as indeed was only
natural since he was joined with me in the guardianship of my little
Marquis, and he would likewise be in time to enjoy the chase over the
estates.

He said no more of his purpose then, so I was not alarmed; and he seemed
much struck with the growth and improvement of Gaspard. I had much to
hear of the three who were left to me of my own family. M. de Solivet
had never seen them before, and could hardly remember his mother, so he
could not compare them with what they were before their troubles; but I
gathered that my mother was well in health, and little the worse for
her troubles, and that my little Nan was as tall as myself, a true White
Ribaumont, with an exquisite complexion, who would be all the rage if
she were not so extremely English, more English even than I had been
when I had arrived.

‘And my brother, my Eustace. Oh, why did he not come with you?’ I asked.

And M. de Solivet gravely answered that our brother was detained by a
suit with the Poligny family respecting the estate of Ribaumont, and,
besides, that the rapidity of the journey would not have agreed with his
state of health. I only then fully understood the matter, for our letter
had been few, and had to be carefully written and made short; and though
I knew that, at the battle of Naseby, Eustace had been wounded and made
prisoner, he had written to me that his hurt was not severe, and that
he had been kindly treated, through the intervention of our cousin Harry
Merrycourt, who, to our great regret, was among the rebels, but who had
become surety for Eustace and procured his release.

I now heard that my brother had been kept with the other prisoners in
a miserable damp barn, letting in the weather on al sides, and with no
bedding or other comforts, so that when Harry Merrycourt sought him out,
he had taken a violent chill, and had nearly died, not from the wound,
but from pleurisy. He had never entirely recovered, though my mother
thought him much stronger and better since he had been in France, out
of sight of all that was so sad and grievous to a loyal cavalier in
England.

‘They must come to me,’ I cried. ‘He will soon be well in this beautiful
air; I will feed him with goat’s mild and whey, and Tryphena shall nurse
him well.’

M. de Solivet made no answer to this, but told me how delighted
the Queen of England had to welcome my mother, whom she had at once
appointed as one of her ladies of the bedchamber; and then we spoke of
King Charles, who was at Hampton Court, trying to make terms with the
Parliament, and my brother spoke with regret and alarm of the like
spirit of resistance in our own Parliament of Paris, backed by the mob.
I remember it was on that evening that I first heard the name Frondeurs,
or Slingers, applied to the speechifiers on either side who started
forward, made their hit, and retreated, like the little street boys with
their slings. I was to hear a great deal more of that name.

It was not till after supper that I heard the cause of M. de Solivet’s
visit. Cecile, who always retired early, went away sooner than usual to
leave us together, so did the Abbe, and then the baron turned to me and
said: ‘Sister, how soon can you be prepared to come with me to Paris?’

I was astounded, thinking at first that Eustace’s illness must be more
serious than he had led me to suppose, but he smiled and said notre
frere de Volvent, which was the nearest he could get to Walwyn, had
nothing do with it; it was by express command of the Queen Regent, and
that I might thank my mother and the Queen of England that it was no
worse. ‘This is better than a letter de catche,’ he added, producing a
magnificent looking envelope with a huge seal of the royal French arms,
that made me laugh rather nervously to brave my dismay, and asked what
he called THAT. He responded gravely that it was no laughing matter, and
I opened it. It was an official order that Gaspard Philippe Beranger de
Bellaise, Marquis de Nidemerle, should be brought to the Louvre to be
presented to the King.

‘Well,’ I said, ‘I must go to Paris. Ought I to have brought my boy
before? I did not know that he ought to pay his homage till he was
older. Was it really such a breach of respect?’

‘You are a child yourself, my sister,’ he said, much injuring my
dignity. ‘What have you not been doing here?’

Then it came on me. The intendant of the King had actually written
complaints of me to the Government. I was sewing disaffection among the
peasants by the favours I granted my own, teaching them for rebellion
like that which raged in England, and bringing up my son in the same
sentiments. Nay, I was called the Firebrand of the Bocage! If these had
been the days of the great Cardinal de Richelieu, my brother assured
me, I should probably have been by this time in the Bastille, and my son
would have been taken from me for ever!’

However, my half-brother heard of it in time, and my mother had flown to
Queen Henrietta, who took her to the Queen-Regent, and together they had
made such representations of my youth, folly, and inexperience that the
Queen-Mother, who had a fellow-feeling for a young widow and her son,
and at last consented to do nothing worse than summon me and my child to
Paris, where my mother and her Queen answered for me that I should live
quietly, and give no more umbrage to the authorities; and my brother De
Solivet had been sent off to fetch me!

I am afraid I was much more angry than grateful, and I said such hot
things about tyranny, cruelty, and oppression that Solivet looked about
in alarm, lest walls should have ears, and told me he feared he had done
wrong in answering for me. He was really a good man, but he could not in
the least understand why I should weep hot tears for my poor people
whom I was just hoping to benefit. He could not enter into feeling for
Jacques Bonhomme so much as for his horse or his dog; and I might have
argued for years without making him see anything but childish folly in
my wishing for any mode of relief better than doles of soup, dressing
wounds, and dowries for maidens.

However, there was no choice; I was helpless, and resistance would have
done my people no good, but rather harm, and would only have led to my
son being separated from me. Indeed, I cherished a hope that when the
good Queen Anne heard the facts she might understand better than
my half-brother did, and that I might become an example and public
benefactor. My brother must have smiled at me in secret, but he did not
contradict me.

My poor mother and the rest would not have been flattered by my
reluctance to come to Paris; but in truth the thought of them was my
drop of comfort, and if Eustace could not come to me I must have gone to
him. And Cecile--what was to become of Cecile?

To come with me of course. Here at least Solivet agreed with me, for he
had as great a horror of Mademoiselle de Gringrimeau as I had, and knew,
moreover, that she wrote spiteful letters to the Count d’Aubepine
about his poor little wife, which happily were treated with the young
gentleman’s usual insouciance. Solivet was of my opinion that the old
demoiselle had instigated this attack. He thought so all the more when
he heard that she was actually condescending to wed the intendant of
Chateau d’Aubepine. But he said he had no doubt that my proceedings
would have been stopped sooner or later, and that it was well that it
should be done before I committed myself unpardonably.

Madame d’Aubepine had been placed in my charge by her husband, so that
I was justified in taking her with me. Her husband had spent the last
winter at Paris, but was now with the army in the Low Countries, and
the compliments Solivet paid me on my dear friend’s improvement in
appearance and manner inspired us with strong hopes that she might not
attract her husband; for though still small, pale, and timid, she was
very unlike the frightened sickly child he had left.

I believe she was the one truly happy person when we left the Chateau
de Nid de Merle. She was all radiant with hope and joy, and my brother
could not but confess she was almost beautiful, and a creature whom any
man with a heart must love.



CHAPTER X. -- OLD THREADS TAKEN UP.



I think M. de Solivet realised a little better what the sacrifice was to
me, or rather how cruel the parting was to my poor people, when we set
forth on our journey. We had tried to keep the time of our departure a
secret, but it had not been possible to do so, and the whole court was
filled with people weeping and crying out to their young lord and their
good lady, as they called me, not to abandon them, kissing our dresses
as we walked along, and crowding so that we could hardly pass.

Indeed, a lame man, whom I had taught to make mats, threw himself before
the horses of our carriage, crying out that we might as well drive over
him and kill him at once; and an old woman stood up almost like a witch
or prophetess, crying out: ‘Ah! that is the way with you all. You are
like all the rest! You gave us hope once, and now you are gone to your
pleasure which you squeeze out of our heart’s blood.’

‘Ah, good mother,’ I said; ‘believe me, it is not by my own will that I
leave you; I will never forget you.’

‘I trust,’ muttered Solivet, ‘that no one is here to report all this to
that intendant de Roi,’ and he hurried me into the carriage; but there
were tears running down his cheeks, and I believe he emptied his
purse among them, though not without being told by some of the poor
warm-hearted creatures that no money could repay them for the loss of
Madame la Comtesse.

‘I did not know how sweet it is to be beloved,’ he said to me. ‘It is
almost enough to tempt one to play the role de bon seigneur.’

‘Ah! brother, if you would. You are no foreigner, you are wiser and
would not make yourself suspected like me.’

He only laughed and shrugged his shoulders; but he was as good to our
poor as it is possible to be as we live here in France, where we are
often absolutely complelled to live at court, and our expenses there
force us to press heavily on our already hard-driven peasants. I
sometimes wonder whether a better time will come, when out good Duke of
Burgundy tries to carry out the maxims of Monseigneur the Archbishop
of Cambray; but I shall not live to see that day. [Footnote: No wonder
Madame de Bellaise’s descendants dust not publish these writings while
the ancien regime continued!]

In due time we arrived in Paris. It was pouring with rain, so no one
came to meet us, though I looked out at every turn, feeling that Eustace
must indeed be unwell, or no weather would have kept him from flying to
meet his Meg. Or had he in these six long years ceased to care for me,
and should I find him a politician and a soldier, with his heart given
to somebody else and no room for me?

My heart beat so fast that I could hardly attend to the cries of
wonder and questions of the two children, and indeed of Cecile, to whom
everything was as new and wonderful as to them, though in the wet,
with our windows splashed all over, the first view of Paris was not too
promising. However, at last we drove beneath our own porte cochere, and
upon the steps there were all the servants. And Eustace, my own dear
brother, was at the coach-door to meet us and hand me out.

I passed from his arms to those of my mother, and then to my sister’s.
Whatever might come and go, I could not but feel that there was
an indefinable bliss and bien-etre in their very presence! It was
home--coming home--more true content and rest than I had felt since that
fatal day at Nancy.

My mother was enchanted with her grandson, and knew how to welcome
Madame d’Aubepine as one of the family, since she was of course to
reside with us. The Abbe also was most welcome to my mother.

How we all looked at one another, to find the old beings we had loved,
and to learn the new ones we had become! My mother was of course the
least altered; indeed, to my surprise, she was more embonpoint than
before, instead of having the haggard worn air that I had expected, and
though she wept at first, she was soon again smiling.

Eustace, Baron Walwyn and Ribaumont, as he now unfortunately had become,
sat by me. He was much taller than when we had parted, for had not then
reached his full height, and he looked the taller from being very thin.
His moustache and pointed beard had likewise changed him, but there was
clear bright colour on his cheek, and his dear brown eyes shone upon me
with their old sweetness; so that it was not till we had been together
some little time that I found that the gay merry lad whom I had left had
become not only a man, but a very grave and thoughtful man.

Annora was a fine creature, well grown, and with the clearest, freshest
complexion, of the most perfect health, yet so pure and delicate, that
one looked at her like a beautiful flower; but it somehow struck me that
she had a discontented and almost defiant expression. She seemed to
look at me with a sort of distrust, and to be with difficulty polite to
Madame d’Aubepine, while she was almost rude to the Abbe. She scarcely
uttered a word of French, and made a little cry and gesture of disgust,
when Gaspard replied to her in his native tongue, poor child.

She was the chief disappointment to me. I had expected to find, not
indeed my little playfellow, but my own loving sister Nan; and this
young lady was like a stranger. I thought, too, my mother would have
been less lively, she seemed to me to have forgotten everything in the
satisfaction of being at Paris. At first I feared she was looking at me
with displeasure, but presently I observed that she had discarded her
widow’s veil, and looked annoyed that I still wore mine. Otherwise she
was agreeable surprised in me, and turned to M. de Solivet, saying:

‘Yes, my son, you are right, she is belle, assez belle; and when she is
dressed and has no more that provincial air, she will do very well.’

It was Eustace, my brother, who gave me unmixed delight that evening,
unmixed save for his look of delicate health, for that he should be
graver was only suitable to my feelings, and we knew that we were in
perfect sympathy with one another whenever our eyes met, as of old,
while we had hardly exchanged a word. And then, how gracious and gentle
he was with poor little Madame d’Aubepine, who looked up to him like a
little violet at the food of a poplar tree!

Supper passed in inquires after kinsfolk and old friends. Alas! of how
many the answer was--slain, missing since such a battle. In prison,
ruined, and brought to poverty, seemed to be the best I could hear of
any one I inquired after. That Walwyn was not yet utterly lost seemed to
be owing to Harry Merrycourt.

‘He on the wrong side!’ I exclaimed.

‘He looks on the question as a lawyer,’ said my brother; ‘holding the
duty of the nation to be rather to the law than to the sovereign.’

‘Base! Unworthy of a gentleman!’ cried my mother. ‘Who would believe him
the kinsman of the gallant Duc de Mericour?’

‘He would be ashamed to count kindred with tat effeminate petit maitre!’
cried Annora.

‘I think,’ said Eustace, ‘that the wrong and persecution that his
Huguenot grandfather suffered at the hands of his French family have
had much power in inspiring him with that which he declares is as much
loyalty as what I call by that honoured name.’

‘You can speak of him with patience!’ cried my mother.

‘In common gratitude he is bound to do so,’ said Annora.

For not only had Colonel Merrycourt preserved our brother’s life after
Naseby, but he had found a plea of service to the King which availed at
the trial that followed at Westminster. Harry had managed to secure
part of the estate, as he had likewise done for our other kindred the
Thistlewoods, by getting appointed their guardian when their father
was killed Chalgrove. But soldiers had been quartered on both families;
there had been a skirmish at Walwyn with Sir Ralph Hopton, much damage
had been done to the house and grounds, and there was no means of
repairing it; all the plate had been melted up, there was nothing to
show for it but a little oval token, with the King’s head on one side,
and the Queen’s on the other; and as to the chaplet of pearls--

There was a moment’s silence as I inquired for them. Annora said:

‘Gone, of course; more hatefully than all the rest.’

My brother added, with a smile that evidently cost him an effort:

‘You are the only pearl of Ribaumont left, Meg, except this one,’
showing me his ring of thin silver with one pearl set in it; ‘I kept
back this one in memory of my grandmother. So Nan will have to go to her
first ball without them.’

And had little Nan never been to a ball? No; she had never danced except
that Christmas when a troop of cavaliers had been quartered at Walwyn--a
merry young captain and his lieutenant, who had sent for the fiddles,
and made them have a dance in the hall, Berenger, and Nan, and all. And
not a week after, the young captain, ay, and our dear Berry, were
lying in their blood at Alresford. Had Nan’s heart been left there? I
wondered, when I saw how little she brightened at the mention of the
Court ball where she was to appear next week, and to which it seemed my
mother trusted that I should be invited in token of my being forgiven.

I tried to say that I had never meant to return to the world, and that I
still kept to my mourning; but my mother said with authority that I had
better be grateful for any token of favour that was vouchsafed to me.
She took me into her apartment after supper, and talked to me very
seriously; telling me that I must be very careful, for that I had been
so imprudent, that I should certainly have been deprived of the custody
of my son, if not imprisoned, unless my good godmother, Queen Henrietta,
and herself had made themselves responsible for me.

I told my mother that I had done nothing, absolutely nothing, but attend
to the wants of my son’s people, just as I had been used to see my
grandmother, and my aunt Thistlewood, or any English lady, do at home.

‘And to what had that brought England?’ cried my mother. ‘No, child,
those creatures have no gratitude nor proper feeling. There is nothing
to do but to keep them down. See how they are hampering and impeding
the Queen and the Cardinal here, refusing the registry of the taxes
forsooth, as if it were not honour enough to maintain the King’s wars
and the splendour of his Court, and enable the nobility to shine!’

‘Surely it is our duty to do something for them in return,’ I said; but
I was silenced with assurances that if I wished to preserve the wardship
of my child, I must conform in everything; nay, that my own liberty was
in danger.

Solivet had hinted as much, and the protection of my child was a
powerful engine; but--shall I confess it?--it galled and chafed me
terribly to feel myself taken once more into leading-strings. I, who
had for three years governed my house as a happy honoured wife, and for
three more had been a chatelaine, complimented by the old uncle, and
after his death, the sole ruler of my son’s domain; I was not at all
inclined to return into tutelage, and I could not look on my mother
after these six years, as quite the same conclusive authority as
I thought her when I left her. The spirit of self-assertion and
self-justification was strong within me, and though I hope I did not
reply with ingratitude or disrespect, I would make no absolute promise
till I had heard what my brother Walwyn said of my position in its
secular aspect, and the Abbe Bonchamps in its religious point of view.
So I bade my mother good-night, and went to see how Cecile fared in her
new quarters, which, to her grief, were in a wing separated from mine by
a long corridor.

My mother had arranged everything, ruling naturally as if she were the
mistress of the house. Thus she installed me in the great room where I
had seen the old Marquis, though I would rather she had retained it,
and given me that which I had occupied when I was there with my husband.
However, I made no objection, for I felt so much vexed that I was
extremely afraid of saying something to show that I thought she ought to
remember that this was my house, and that she was my guest. I would not
for the world have uttered anything so ungenerous and unfilial; and all
I could do that night was to pray that she might not drive me to lose my
self-command, and that I might both do right and keep my child.

I was too restless and unhappy to sleep much, for I knew my feelings
were wrong, and yet I was sure I was in the right in my wish to do
good to the poor; and the sense of being bridled, and put into
leading-strings, poisoned the pleasure I had at first felt in my return
to my own family. I cannot describe the weary tumult of thought
and doubt that tossed me, till, after a brief sleep, I heard the
church-bells. I rose and dressed for early mass, taking my boy, who
always awoke betimes, leaving the house quietly, and only calling my
trusty lackey Nicolas to take me to the nearest Church, which was not
many steps off. I do not think I found peace there: there was too much
SELF in me to reach that as yet; but at any rate I found the resolution
to try to bend my will in what might be indifferent, and to own it to be
wholesome for me to learn submission once more.

As I was about to enter our court, I heard a little cough, and looking
round I saw a gentleman and lady coming towards the house. They were my
brother and sister, who had been to the daily prayers at the house of
Sir Richard Browne, the English ambassador. I was struck at my first
glance with the lightsome free look of Annora’s face but it clouded ad
grew constrained in an instant when I spoke to her.

They said my mother would not be awake nor admit us for an hour or two,
and in the meantime Eustace was ready to come to my apartments, for
indeed we had hardly seen one another. Annora anxiously reminded him
that he must take his chocolate, and orders were given that this should
be served in my cabinet for us both.

There is no describing what that interview was to us. We, who had been
one throughout our childhood, but had been parted all through the change
to man and woman, now found ourselves united again, understanding one
another as no other being could do, and almost without words, entering
into full sympathy with one another. Yes, without words, for I was as
certain as if he had told me that Eustace had undergone some sorrow
deeper than even loss of health, home, and country. I felt it in the
chastened and sobered tone in which he talked to me of my cares, as if
he likewise had crossed the stream of tears that divides us from the
sunshine of our lives.

He did not think what I had attempted in Anjou foolish and
chimerical--he could look at the matter with the eyes of an English
lord of the manor, accustomed not to view the peasant as a sponge to be
squeezed for the benefit of the master, but to regard the landlord as
accountable for the welfare, bodily and spiritual, of his people. He
thought I had done right, though it might be ignorantly and imprudently
in the present state of things; but his heart had likewise burned within
him at the oppression of the peasantry, and, loyal cavalier as he was,
he declared that he should have doubted on which side to draw his sword
had things thus in England. He had striven to make my mother and Queen
Henrietta understand the meaning of what I had been doing, and he
said the complaints sent up had evidently been much exaggerated, and
envenomed by spite and distrust of me as a foreigner. He could well
enter into my grief at the desertion of my poor people, for how was it
with those at Walwyn, deprived of the family to whom they had been used
to look, with many widows and orphans made by the war, and the Church
invaded by a loud-voiced empty-headed fanatic, who had swept away all
that had been carefully preserved and honoured! Should he ever see the
old home more?

However, he took thought for my predicament. I had no choice, he said,
but to give way. To resist would only make me be treated as a suspected
person, and be relegated to a convent, out of reach of influencing my
son, whom I might bring up to be a real power for good.

Then my dear brother smiled his sweetest smile, the sweeter for the
sadness that had come into it, and kissed my fingers chivalrously, as he
said that after all he could not but be grateful to the edict that had
brought back to him the greatest delight that was left to him. ‘Ah,’ I
said, ‘if it had only been in Anjou!’

‘If it had only been in Dorset, let us say at once,’ he answered.

Then came the other question whether I might not stay at home with
the children, and give myself to devotion and good works, instead of
throwing off my mourning and following my mother to all the gaieties of
the court.

‘My poor mother!’ said Eustace. ‘You would not wish to make your example
a standing condemnation of her?’

‘I cannot understand how she can find pleasure in these things,’ I
cried.

‘There is much in her that we find it hard to understand,’ Eustace said;
‘but you must remember that this is her own country, and that though she
gave it up for my father’s sake, England has always been a land of exile
to her, and we cannot wonder at her being glad to return to the society
of her old friends.’

‘She has Annora to be with her. Is not that enough?’

‘Ah, Meg, I trusted to you to soothe poor Annora and make her more
comfortable.’

‘She seems to have no intention of putting herself under my influence,’
I said, rather hurt.

‘She soon will, when she finds out your English heart,’ said Eustace.
‘The poor child is a most unwilling exile, and is acting like our old
friends the urchins, opposing the prickles to all. But if my mother has
Annora to watch over, you also have a charge. A boy of this little man’s
rank,’ he said, stroking the glossy curls of Gaspard, who was leaning on
my lap, staring up in wonder at the unknown tongue spoken by his uncle,
‘and so near the age of the king, will certainly be summoned to attend
at court, and if you shut yourself up, you will be unable to follow him
and guide him by your counsel.’

That was the chief of what my dear brother said to me on that morning.
I wrote it down at the moment because, though I trusted his wisdom and
goodness with all my heart, I thought his being a Protestant might bias
his view in some degree, and I wanted to know whether the Abbe thought
me bound by my plans of devotion, which happily had not been vows.

And he fully thought my brother in the right, and that it was my duty to
remain in the world, so long as my son needed me there; while, as to
any galling from coming under authority again, that was probably exactly
what my character wanted, and it would lessen the danger of dissipation.
Perhaps I might have been in more real danger in queening it at Nid de
Merle than in submitting at Paris.



CHAPTER XI. -- THE TWO QUEENS.



After all, I was put to shame by finding that I had done my poor mother
an injustice in supposing that she intended to assume the government of
the house, for no sooner was I admitted to her room than she gave me up
the keys, and indeed I believe she was not sorry to resign them, for she
had not loved housewifery in her prosperous days, and there had been a
hard struggle with absolute poverty during the last years in England.

She was delighted likewise that I was quite ready to accompany her to
thank Queen Henrietta for her intercession, and to take her advice for
the future, nor did she object for that day to my mourning costume, as
I was to appear in the character of a suppliant. When I caught Annora’s
almost contemptuous eyes, I was ready to have gone in diamonds and
feathers.

However, forth we set, attended by both my brothers. Lord Walwyn indeed
held some appointment at the little court, and in due time we were
ushered into the room where Queen Henrietta was seated with a pretty
little girl playing at her feet with a dog, and a youth of about
seventeen leaning over the elbow of her couch telling her something
with great animation, while a few ladies were at work, with gentlemen
scattered among them. How sociable and friendly it looked, and how
strangely yet pleasantly the English tones fell on my ear! And I was
received most kindly too. ‘Madame has brought her--our little--nay, our
great conspirator, the Firebrand of the Bocage. Come, little Firebrand,’
exclaimed the Queen, and as I knelt to kiss her hand she threw her arms
round me in an affectionate embrace, and the Prince of Wales claimed me
as an old acquaintance, saluted me, and laughed, as he welcomed me to
their court of waifs and strays, cast up one by one by the tide.

His little sister, brought by the faithful Lady Morton in the disguise
of a beggar boy, had been the last thus to arrive. A very lovely child
she was, and Prince Charles made every one laugh by taking her on his
knee and calling her Piers the beggar boy, when she pointed to her white
frock, called herself ‘Pincess, pincess, not beggar boy,’ and when he
persisted, went into a little rage and pulled his black curls.

My poor Queen, whom I had left in the pride and mature bloom of beauty,
was sadly changed; she looked thin and worn, and was altogether the
brown old French-woman; but she was still as lively and vivacious, and
full of arch kindness as ever, a true daughter of the Grand Monarque,
whose spirits no disasters could break. When the little one became too
noisy, she playfully ordered off both the children, as she called them,
and bade me sit down on the footstool before her couch, and tell her
what I had been doing to put intendants, cardinals and Queens themselves
into commotion. The little Lady Henrietta was carried off by one of the
attendants, but the Prince would not go; he resumed his former position,
saying that he was quite sure that Madame de Bellaise was in need of an
English counsel to plead her cause. He had grown up from a mischievous
imp of a boy to a graceful elegant-looking youth. His figure, air, and
address were charming, I never saw them equaled; but his face was as
ugly as ever, though with a droll ugliness that was more winning than
most men’s beauty, lighted up as it was by the most brilliant of black
eyes and the most engaging of smiles. You remember that I am speaking
of him as he was when he had lately arrived from Jersey, before his
expedition to Scotland. He became a very different person after his
return, but he was now a simple-hearted, innocent lad, and I met him
again as an old friend and playfellow, whose sympathy was a great
satisfaction in the story I had to tell, though I was given in a
half-mocking way. My mother began by saying:

‘The poor child, it is as I told your Majesty; she has only been a
little too charitable.’

‘Permit me, Madame,’ I said, ‘I did not give half so much as most
charitable ladies.’

Then the explanation came, and the Queen shook her head and told me such
things would not do here, that my inexperience might be pardonable, but
that the only way to treat such creatures was to feed them and clothe
them for the sake of our own souls.

Here the Prince made his eyes first flash and then wink at me.

‘But as to teach them or elevating them, my dear, it is as bad for them
as for ourselves. You must renounce all such chimeras, and if you had
a passion for charity there is good Father Vincent to teach you safe
methods.’

I brightened up when I heard of Father Vincent, and my mother engaged
for me that I should do all that was right, and appealed to my brother
De Solivet to assure the Queen that there had been much malignant
exaggeration about the presumption of my measures and the discontent of
other people’s peasants.

Queen Henrietta was quite satisfied, and declared that she would at once
conduct me to her sister-in-law, the Queen-Regent, at the Tuileries,
since she had of course the ‘petites entrees,’ take her by storm as it
were, and it was exactly the right hour when the Queen would be resting
after holding council.

She called for a looking-glass, and made one of her women touch up her
dress and bring her a fan, asking whether I had ever been presented. No,
my first stay in Paris had been too short; besides, my rank did not make
it needful, as my husband was only Viscount by favour of his uncle, who
let him hold the estate.

‘Then,’ said the Prince, ‘you little know what court is!’

‘Can you make a curtsey?’ asked the Queen anxiously.

I repeated the one I had lately made to her Majesty, and they all cried
out:

‘Oh, oh! that was all very well at home.’

‘Or here before I married,’ added Queen Henrietta. ‘Since Spanish
etiquette has come in, we have all been on our good behaviour.’

‘Having come from a barbarous isle,’ added the Prince.

The Queen therewith made the reverence which you all know, my
grand-daughters, but which seemed to me unnatural, and the Prince’s face
twinkled at the incredulity he saw in mine; but at the moment a private
door was opening to give admission to a figure, not in itself very tall,
but looking twice its height from its upright, haughty bearing. There
was the Bourbon face fully marked, with a good deal of fair hair in
curls round it, and a wonderful air of complete self-complacency.

This was la grande Mademoiselle, daughter of Gaston Duke of Orleans,
and heiress through her mother of the great old Montpensier family, who
lived at the Palais Royal with her father, but was often at the Louvre.
She stood aghast, as well she might, thinking how little dignity her
aunt, the Queen of England, had to be acting as mistress of deportment
to a little homely widow. The Prince turned at once.

‘There is my cousin,’ said he, ‘standing amazed to see how we have
caught a barbarous islander of our own, and are trying to train her to
civilization. Here--let her represent the Queen-Regent. Now, Meg--Madame
de Bellaise, I mean--imitate me while my mother presents me,’ he ran
on in English, making such a grotesque reverence that nobody except
Mademoiselle could help laughing, and his mother made a feint of laying
her fan about his ears, while she pronounced him a madcap and begged her
niece to excuse him.

‘For profaning the outskirts of the majesty of the Most Christian King,’
muttered the Prince, while his mother explained the matter to her niece,
adding that her son could not help availing himself of the opportunity
of paying her his homage.

Mademoiselle was pacified, and was graciously pleased to permit me to
be presented to her, also to criticize the curtsey which I had now to
perform, my good Queen being so kind in training me that I almost lost
the sense of the incongruity of such a lesson at my age and in my weeds.
In fact, with my mother and my godmother commanding me, and Eustace and
the Prince of Wales looking on, it was like a return to one’s childhood.
At last I satisfied my royal instructress, and as she agreed with my
mother that my mourning befitted the occasion off we set en grande tenue
to cross the court to the Tuileries in a little procession, the Queen,
attended by my mother and Lady Morton as her ladies, and by Lord Jermyn
and Eustace as her gentlemen-in-waiting.

Mademoiselle also came, out of a sort of good-natured curiosity, but the
Prince of Wales shook his head.

‘I have no mind to show Madame the value of a tabouret,’ he said.
‘Believe me, Meg, I may sit on such an eminence in the august presence
of my mother and my regent aunt, but if my small cousin, the Most
Christian King, should enter, I must be dethroned, and a succession of
bows must ensue before we can either of us be seated. I always fear that
I shall some day break out with the speech of King Lear’s fool: ‘Cry you
mercy, I took you for a joint stool.’’

This passed while I, who came in the rear of the procession, was waiting
to move on, and I believe Queen Henrietta was descanting to her niece
on the blessing that her son’s high spirits never failed him through all
their misfortunes.

However, in due time we reached the apartments of the Queen-Regent, the
way lined with guards, servants, and splendid gentlemen, who all either
presented arms or bowed as our English Queen passed along, with an easy,
frank majesty about her that bespoke her a daughter of the place, and
at home there. But what gave me the most courage was that as the door
of her bedroom was opened to admit Queen Henrietta, Mademoiselle, my
mother, and myself, I saw a black cassock, and a face I knew again as
that of the Holy Father Vincent de Paul, who had so much impressed me,
and had first given me comfort.

It was a magnificent room, and more magnificent bed, and sitting up
among her lace and cambric pillows and coverlets was Queen Anne of
Austria, in a rich white lace cap and bedgown that set off her smooth,
fair, plump beauty, and exquisite hands and arms. Ladies stood round the
bed. I did not then see who any of them were, for this was the crisis
of my fate, and my heart beat and my eyes swam with anxiety. Queen
Henrietta made her low reverence, as of course we did, and some words of
sisterly greeting ensued, after which the English queen said:

‘My sister, I have made you this early visit to bring you my little
suppliant. Allow me to present to your Majesty, Madame la Vicomtesse de
Bellaise, who is sincerely sorry to have offended you.’

(That was true; I was sincerely sorry that what I had done could
offend.)

My kind godmother went on to that I had offended only out of ignorance
of the rights of seigneurs, and from my charitable impulses, of which
she knew that her Majesty would approve, glancing significantly
towards Father Vincent as she did so. She was sure, she added, that Her
Majesty’s tenderness of heart must sympathise with a young widow, whose
husband had fallen in the service of the King, and who had an only son
to bring up. I felt the Regent’s beautiful blue eyes scanning me, but it
was not unkindly, though she said:

‘How is this, Madame? I hear that you have taught the peasants to
complain of the seigniorial rights, and to expect to have the corvee and
all other dues remitted.’

I made answer that in truth all I had done was to remit those claims
here and there which had seemed to me to press hard upon the tenants of
our own estate; and I think the Regent was moved by a look from Father
Vincent to demand an example, so I mentioned that I would not have the
poor forced to carry our crops on the only fine day in a wet season.

‘Ah, bah!’ said Queen Anne; ‘that was an over-refinement, Madame. It
does not hurt those creatures to get wet.’

She really had not the least notion that a wetting ruined their crops;
and when I would have answered, my godmother and mother made me a sign
to hold my tongue, while Queen Henrietta spoke:

‘Your Majesty sees how it is; my godchild has the enthusiasm of charity,
and you, my sister, with your surroundings, will not blame her if she
has carried it a little into excess.’

‘Your Majesty will pardon me for asking if there can be excess?’ said
Father Vincent. ‘I think I recognize this lady. Did I not meet Madame at
the little village of St. Felix?’

‘Oh yes, my father,’ I replied. ‘I have ever since blessed the day, when
you comforted me and gave me the key of life.’

‘There, father,’ said the Regent, ‘it is your doing; it is you that have
made her a firebrand. You must henceforth take the responsibility.’

‘I ask no better of your Majesty,’ said the holy man.

‘Ah! your Majesty, I can ask no better,’ I said fervently; and I knelt
to kiss the beautiful hand which Anne of Austria extended to me in token
of pardon.

‘It is understood, then,’ said she, in a gracious though languid way,
as if weary of the subject, ‘that your Majesty undertakes that Madame
becomes more prudent in the future, and puts her benevolence under the
rule of our good father, who will never let her go beyond what is wise
in the bounds of a young woman’s discretion.’

It might be hard to believe that I had been indiscreet, but the
grand stately self-possession of that Spanish lady, and the evident
gratification of my mother and Queen Henrietta, quite overpowered me
into feeling like a criminal received to mercy, and I returned thanks
with all the genuine humility they could desire; after which the regent
overpowered my mother with wonder at her graciousness by inquiring a day
for him to kiss the King’s hand in the Tuileries gardens.

By this time her breakfast was being brought in (it was about one
o’clock), and Queen Henrietta carried us off without waiting for the
ceremony of the breakfast, or of the toilet, which began with the
little King presenting his mother with her chemise, with a tender kiss.
Mademoiselle remained, and so did Father Vincent, whom the regent was
wont to consult at her breakfast, both on matters of charity and of
Church patronage.

My mother was delighted that I had come off so well; she only regretted
my being put under Father Vincent, who would, she feared, render me too
devout.

The next afternoon, which was Sunday, we went, all except my brother and
sister, who had what my mother called Puritan notions as to Sunday, to
see royalty walk in the Tuileries gardens. The Queen was there, slowly
pacing along with one of her sons on each side, and beautiful boys they
were, in their rich dresses of blue velvet and white satin, with rich
lace garnishings, their long fair hair on their shoulders, and their
plumed hats less often on their heads than in their hands, as they
gracefully acknowledged the homage that met them at each step. Perhaps I
thought my Gaspard quite as beautiful, but every widow’s only son is THE
king of her heart; and we had so trained the boy that he did his part
to perfection kneeling and kissing the hand which King Louis extended
to him. Yet it had--to me who was fresh to such scenes--something of the
air of a little comedy, to see such gestures of respect between the two
children so splendidly dressed, and neither of them yet nine years old.

The little King did his part well, presented M. le Marquis de Nidemerle
to his brother the Duke of Anjou, asked graciously whether he could ride
and what games he loved best, and expressed a courteous desire that they
might often meet.

My sister-in-law was also presented to the Queen, who filled her with
ecstasy by making her some compliment on the services of M. la Comte
d’Aubepine, and thus began our career at court. We were in favour, and
my mother breathed freely.



CHAPTER XII. -- CAVALIERS IN EXILE.



My safety and freedom being thus secure, I was asked, as mistress of
the house, whether I would continue the custom my mother had begun of
receiving on a Monday, chiefly for the sake of our exiled countryfolk at
Paris.

It had been left in doubt, till my fate and my wishes should be known,
whether the reunion should take place on the Monday or not; but all
lived so simply and within so short a distance that it was very easy to
make it known that Lady Walwyn and Madame de Bellaise would receive as
usual.

The rule in ordinary French society was then as now, to offer only
eau-sucree, sherbets, and light cakes as refreshments, but my mother
told me with some disgust that it was necessary to have something more
substantial on the buffet for these great Englishmen.

‘Yes,’ said Annora, ‘I do believe it is often the only meal worth the
name that they get in a week, unless my brother invites them to supper.’

On learning this Tryphena and I resolved that though pies were the most
substantial dish at present prepared, we would do our best another time
to set before them such a round of salt beef as would rejoice their
appetites; and oh! the trouble we had in accomplishing it.

Meantime I submitted to be dressed as my mother wished, much indeed as I
am now, except that my hair was put into little curls, and I had no cap.
The Queen-Regent wore none, so why should I? Moreover, my mother said
that it would not be good taste to put on any jewels among the English.

Alas! I could see why, as the salon filled with gentlemen and ladies,
far fewer of the last than the first, for some wives had been left at
home with their children to keep possession of the estates, and send
what supplies they could to their lords in exile. Some, like brave
Lady Fanshawe, traveled backwards and forwards again and again on their
husbands’ affairs; and some who were at Paris could not afford a servant
nor leave their little children, and others had no dress fit to appear
in. And yet some of the dresses were shabby enough--frayed satin or
faded stained brocade, the singes and the creases telling of hard
service and rough usage. The gentlemen were not much better: some had
their velvet coats worn woefully at the elbows, and the lace of their
collars darned; indeed those were the best off, for there were some
who had no ladies to take care of them, whose fine Flanders lace was in
terrible holes.

Some gallants indeed there were to ruffle it as sprucely as ever, and
there were a few who had taken service as musketeers or archers of the
guard; but these were at that time few, for the King was still living,
and they did not despair of an accommodation which would soon bring them
home again. As my mother had predicted, the gentlemen with the ragged
lace tried in vain to affect indifference to the good things on the
buffet, till they had done their devoir by me as their hostess. Eustace
and Nan were on the watch and soon were caring for them, and heaping
their plates with food, and then it was that my sister’s face began to
light up, and I knew her for herself again, while there was a general
sound of full gruff English voices all round, harsh and cracking my
mother called it, but Nan said it was perfect music to her, and I think
she began to forgive me when she found that to me likewise it had a
sound of home.

But my mother was greatly gratified that evening, for there appeared in
our salon the dark bright face of the Prince of Wales, closely followed
by a tall handsome man in the prime of life, whom I had never seen
before.

‘Do not derange yourself,’ said Prince Charles, bending his black head,
bowing right and left, and signing with his hand to people to continue
their occupations. ‘I always escape to places where I can hear English
tongues, and I wanted to congratulate Madame on her reception yesterday,
also to present to her my cousin Prince Rupert, who arrived this
afternoon.’

Prince Rupert and some of the wiser and more politic gentlemen, Eustace
among them, drew apart in consultation, while the Prince of Wales stood
by me.

‘They are considering of a descent on the Isle of Wight to carry off my
father from Carisbrooke,’ he said.

‘And will not your Highness be with them?’ I asked.

‘Oh yes, I shall be with them, of course, as soon as there is anything
to be done; but as to the ways and means, they may arrange that as they
choose. Are you to be at Madame de Choisy’s ball’

I was quite provoked with him for being able to think of such matters
when his father’s rescue was at stake; but he bade me ask his mother and
mine whether it were not an important question, and then told me that he
must make me understand the little comedy in which he was an actor.

Prince as he was, I could not help saying that I cared more for the
tragedy in which we all might be actors; and he shrugged his shoulders,
and said that life would be insupportable if all were to be taken in the
grand serious way. However, Prince Rupert appealed to him, and he was
soon absorbed into the consultation.

My brother told us the next morning of the plan. It was that Prince
Rupert, with the ships which he had in waiting at Harfleur, should take
a trusty band of cavaliers from Paris, surprise Carisbrooke, and carry
off His Sacred Majesty. Eustace was eager to go with them, and would
listen to no representations from my mother of the danger his health
would incur in such an expedition in the month of November. She wept and
entreated in vain.

‘What was his life good for,’ he said, ‘but to be given for the King’s
service?’

Then she appealed to me to persuade him, but he looked at me with his
bright blue eyes and said:

‘Meg learned better in Lorraine;’ and I went up and kissed him with
tears in my eyes, and said: ‘Ah! Madame, we have all had to learn how
loyalty must come before life, and what is better than life.’

And then Annora cried out: ‘Well said, Margaret! I do believe that you
are an honest Englishwoman still.’

My brother went his way to consult with some of the other volunteers,
and my mother called for her sedan chair to go and see whether she could
get an order from Queen Henrietta to stop him, while Annora exclaimed:

‘Yes! I know how it is, and mother cannot see it. Eustace cares little
for his life now, and the only chance of his ever overgetting it is the
having something to do. How can he forget while he lives moping here
in banishment, with nothing better to do than to stroke the Queen’s
spaniels?’

Then of course I asked what he had to get over. I knew he had had
a boyish admiration for Millicent Wardour, a young lady in Lady
Northumberland’s household, but I had never dared inquire after her,
having heard nothing about her since I left England. My sister, whose
mistrust of me had quite given way, told me all she knew.

Eustace had prevailed on my father to make proposals of marriage for
her though not willingly, for my father did not like the politics of
her father, Sir James Wardour, and my mother did not think the young
gentlewoman a sufficient match for the heir of Walwyn and Ribaumont.
There was much haggling over the dowry and marriage portion, and in the
midst, Sir James himself took, for his second wife, a stern and sour
Puritan dame. My mother and she were so utterly alien to each other that
they affronted one another on their first introduction, and Sir James
entirely surrendered himself to his new wife; the match was broken off,
and Millicent was carried away into the country, having returned the
ring and all other tokens that Eustace had given her.

‘I never esteemed her much, said Nan. ‘She was a poor little white,
spiritless thing, with a skin that they called ivory, and great brown
eyes that looked at one like that young fawn with the broken leg. If I
had been Eustace, I would have had some one with a little more will of
her own, and then he would not have been served as he was.’ For the next
thing that was heard of her, and that by a mere chance, was that she
was marred to Mynheer van Hunker, ‘a rascallion of an old half-bred
Dutchman,’ as my hot-tongued sister called him, who had come over to
fatten on our misfortunes by buying up the cavaliers’ plate and jewels,
and lending them money on their estates. He was of noble birth, too, if
a Dutchman could be, and he had an English mother, so he pretended to be
doing people a favour while he was filling his own coffers; and, worst
of all, it was he who had bought the chaplet of pearls, the King’s gift
to the bravest of knights.

The tidings were heard in the midst of war and confusion, and so far as
Nan knew, Eustace had made no moan; but some months later, when he was
seeking a friend among the slain at Cropredy Bridge, he came upon Sir
James Wardour mortally wounded, to whom he gave some drink, and all
the succour that was possible. The dying man looked up and said: ‘Mr.
Rib’mont, I think. Ah! sir, you were scurvily used. My lady would have
her way. My love to my poor wench; I wish she were in your keeping,
but--’ Then he gave some message for them both, and, with wandering
senses, pained Eustace intensely by forgetting that he was not indeed
Millicent’s husband, and talking to him as such, giving the last
greeting; and so he died in my brother’s arms.

Eustace wrote all that needed to be said, and sent the letters, with the
purse and tokens that Sir James had given him for them, with a flag of
truce to the enemy’s camp.

Then came still darker days--my father’s death at Marston Moor, the
year of losses, and Eustace’s wound at Naseby, and his illness almost
to death. When he was recovering, Harry Merrycourt, to whom he had given
his parole, was bound to take him to London for his trial, riding by
easy stages as he could endure it, whilst Harry took as much care of him
as if he had been his brother. On the Saturday they were to halt over
the Sunday at the castle of my Lord Hartwell, who had always been a
notorious Roundhead, having been one of the first to take the Covenant.

Being very strong, and the neighbourhood being mostly of the Roundhead
mind, his castle had been used as a place of security by many of the
gentry of the Parliamentary party while the Royal forces were near, and
they had not yet entirely dispersed, so that the place overflowed with
guests; and when Harry and Eustace came down to supper, they found the
hall full of company. Lord Walwyn was received as if he were simply a
guest. While he was being presented to the hostess on coming down to
supper, there was a low cry, then a confusion among the ladies, round
some one who had fainted.

‘The foolish moppet,’ said my unmerciful sister, ‘to expose herself and
poor Walwyn in that way!’

I pitied her, and said that she could not help it.

‘I would have run my finger through with my bodkin sooner than have made
such a fool of myself,’ returned Nan. ‘And to make it worse, what should
come rolling to my poor brother’s feet but three or four of our pearls?
The pearls of Ribaumont! That was the way she kept them when she had
got them, letting the string break, so that they rolled about the floor
anyhow!’

She had heard all this from Harry Merrycourt, and also that my brother
had gathered up the pearls, and, with some other gentlemen, who had
picked them up while the poor lady was carried from the room, had given
them to my Lady Hartwell to be returned to Madame van Hunker, not of
course escaping the remark from some of the stricter sort that it was a
lesson against the being adorned with pearls and costly array.

Madame van Hunker’s swoon had not surprised any one, for she was known
to have been in very delicate health ever since a severe illness which
she had gone through in London. She had been too weak to accompany her
husband to Holland, and he had left her under the care of Lady Hartwell,
who was a kinswoman of her own. Harry had only seen her again at supper
time the next day, when he marveled at the suffering such a pale little
insignificant faded being could cause Eustace, who, though silent and
resolute, was, in the eyes of one who knew him well--evidently enduring
a great trial with difficulty.

I heard the rest from my brother himself.

He was in no condition to attend the service the next day, not being
able to walk to the Church, nor to sit and stand in the draughty
building through the prayer and preaching that were not easily
distinguished from on another. He was glad of such a dispensation
without offence, for, children, though you suppose all Protestants to
be alike, such members of the English Church as my family, stand as
far apart from the sects that distracted England as we do from the
Huguenots; and it was almost as much against my brother’s conscience
to join in their worship, as it would be against our own. The English
Church claims to be a branch of the true Catholic Church, and there are
those among the Gallicans who are ready to admit her claim.

Harry Merrycourt, who was altogether a political, not a religious rebel,
would gladly have kept Lord Walwyn company; but it was needful not to
expose himself to the suspicion of his hosts, who would have bestowed
numerous strange names on him had he absented himself.

And thus Eustace was left alone in the great hall, lord and lady, guests
and soldiers, men and maids, all going off in procession across the
fields; while he had his choice of the cushions in the sunny window, or
of the large arm-chair by the wood fire on the hearth.

All alone there he had taken out his Prayer-book, a little black clasped
book with my father’s coat-of-arms and one blood-stain on it--he loved
it as we love our Book of the Hours, and indeed, it is much the very
same, for which reason it was then forbidden in England--and was
kneeling in prayer, joining in spirit with the rest of his Church, when
a soft step and a rustle of garments made him look up, and he beheld the
white face and trembling figure of poor Millicent.

‘Sir,’ she said, as he rose, ‘I ask your pardon. I should not have
interrupted your devotions, but now is your time. My servant’s
riding-dress is in a closet by the buttery hatch, his horse is in the
stable, there is no sentry in the way, for I have looked all about. No
one will return to the house for at least two hours longer; you will
have full time to escape.’

I can see the smile of sadness with which my brother looked into her
face as he thanked her, and told her that he was on his parole of
honour. At that answer she sank down into a chair, hiding her face and
weeping--weeping with such an agony of self-abandonment and grief as
rent my brother’s very heart, while he stood in grievous perplexity,
unable to leave her alone in her sorrow, yet loving her too well and
truly to dare to console her. One or two broken words made him think she
feared for his life, and he made haste to assure her that it was in no
danger, since Mr. Merrycourt was assured of bearing him safely through.
She only moaned in answer, and said presently something about living
with such a sort of people as made her forget what a cavalier’s truth
and honour were.

He were sorely shaken, but he thought the best and kindest mode of
helping her to recover herself would be to go on where he was in the
morning prayer, and, being just in the midst of their Litany, he told
her so, and read it aloud. She knelt with her head on the cushions and
presently sobbed out a response, growing calmer as he went on.

When it was ended she had ceased weeping, though Eustace said it was
piteous to see how changed she was, and the startled pleading look in
the dark eyes that used to look at him with such confiding love.

She said she had not heard those prayers since one day in the spring,
when she had stolen out to a house in town where there was a gathering
round one of the persecuted minister, and alas! her stepdaughters had
suspected her, and accused her to their father. He pursued her, caused
the train-bands to break in on the congregation and the minister to be
carried off to prison. It was this that had brought on the sickness of
which she declared that she hoped to have died.

When Eustace would have argued against this wish, it brought out all
that he would fain never have heard nor known.

The poor young thing wished him to understand that she had never been
untrue to him in heart, as indeed was but too plain, and she had only
withdrawn her helpless passive resistance to the marriage with Mr. van
Hunker when Berenger’s death had (perhaps willfully) been reported to
her as that of Eustace de Ribaumont. She had not known him to be alive
till she had seen him the day before. Deaths in her own family had
made her an heiress sufficiently well endowed to excite Van Hunker’s
cupidity, but he had never affected much tenderness for her. He
was greatly her elder, she was his second wife, and he had grown-up
daughters who made no secret of their dislike and scorn. Her timid
drooping ways and her Majesty sympathies offended her husband, shown up
before him as they were by his daughters, and, in short, her life had
been utterly miserable. Probably, as Annora said, she had been wanting
in spirit to rise to her situation, but of course that was not as my
brother saw it. He only beheld what he would have cherished torn from
him only to be crushed and flung aside at his very feet, yet so that
honour and duty forbade him to do anything for her.

What he said, or what comfort he gave her, I do not fully know, for when
he confided to me what grief it was that lay so heavily on his heart and
spirits, he dwelt more on her sad situation than on anything else. The
belief in her weakness and inconstancy had evoked in him a spirit of
defiance and resistance; but when she was proved guiltless and unhappy,
the burden, though less bitter, was far heavier. I only gathered that
he, as the only like-minded adviser she had seen for so long, had felt
it his duty to force himself to seem almost hard, cold, and pitiless in
the counsel he gave her.

I remember his very words as he writhed himself with the pain of
remembrance: ‘And then, Meg, I had to treat the poor child as if I were
stone of adamant, and chide her when my very heart was breaking for her.
One moment’s softening, and where should we have been? And now I have
added to her troubles that fancy that I was obdurate in my anger and
implacability.’ I assured him that she would honour and thank him in her
heart for not having been weak, and he began to repent of what he had
left to be inferred, and to assure me of his having neither said nor
done anything that could be censured, with vehement laudation of her
sweetness and modesty.

The interview had been broken up by the sight of the return from Church.
Mrs. Van Hunker had had full time to retire to her room and Eustace to
arrange himself, so that no one guessed at the visitor he had had. She
came down to supper, and a few words and civilities had passed between
them, but he had never either seen or heard of her since.

Harry Merrycourt, who had known of the early passages between them,
had never guessed that there was more than the encounter in the hall
to cause the melancholy which he kindly watched and bore with in my
brother, who was seriously ill again after he reached their lodgings in
London, and indeed I thought at the time when he was with me in Paris,
that his decay of health chiefly proceeded from sorrow of heart.



CHAPTER XIII. -- MADEMOISELLE’S TOILETTE.



We were to go to Madame de Choisy’s assembly. She was the wife of the
Chanceller of the Duke of Orleans, and gave a fete every year, to
which all the court went; and, by way of disarming suspicion, all the
cavaliers who were in the great world were to attend to order that their
plans might not be suspected.

Our kind Queen Henrietta insisted on inspecting Nan and me before we
went. She was delighted with the way in which my mother had dressed our
hair, made her show how it was done, and declared it was exactly what
was suited to her niece, Mademoiselle, none of whose women had the least
notion of hair-dressing. She was going herself to the Luxembourg to put
the finishing touches, and Nan and I must come with her. I privately
thought my mother would have been more to the purpose, but the Queen
wanted to show the effect of the handi-work. However, Nan disliked the
notion very much, and showed it so plainly in her face that the Queen
exclaimed: ‘You are no courtier, Mademoiselle de Ribaumont. Why did you
not marry her to her Roundhead cousin, and leave her in England, Madame?
Come, my god-daughter, you at least have learnt the art of commanding
your looks.’

Poor Annora must have had a sad time of it with my mother when we were
gone. She was a good girl, but she had grown up in rough times, and had
a proud independent nature that chafed and checked at trifles, and could
not brood being treated like a hairdresser’s block, even by Queens or
Princesses. She was likewise very young, and she would have been angered
instead of amused at the scene which followed, which makes me laugh
whenever I think of it.

The Queen sent messages to know whether the Prince of Wales were ready,
and presently he came down in a black velvet suits slashed with white
and carnation ribbons, and a little enameled jewel on his gold chain,
representing a goose of these three colours. His mother turned him all
round, smoothed his hair, fresh buckled his plume, and admonished him
with earnest entreaties to do himself credit.

‘I will, Madame,’ he said. ‘I will do my very utmost to be worthy of my
badge.’

‘Now, Charles, if you play the fool and lose her, I will never forgive
you.’

I understood it soon. The Queen was bent on winning for her son the hand
of Mademoiselle, a granddaughter of France, and the greatest heiress
there. If all were indeed lost in England, he would thus be far from a
landless Prince, and her wealth might become a great assistance to the
royal cause in England. But Mademoiselle was several years older than
the Prince, and was besides stiff, haughty, conceited, and not much
to his taste, so he answered rather sullenly that he could not speak
French.

‘So much the better,’ said his mother; ‘you would only be uttering
follies. When I am not there, Rupert must speak for you.’

‘Rupert is too High-Dutch to be much of a courtier,’ said the Prince.

‘Rupert is old enough to know what is for your good, and not sacrifice
all to a jest,’ returned his mother.

By this time the carriage had reached the Palais Royal. We were told
that Mademoiselle was still at her toilette, and up we all went,
through ranks of Swiss and lackeys, to her apartments, to a splendid
dressing-room, where the Princess sat in a carnation dress, richly
ornamented with black and white, all complete except the fastening the
feather in her hair. The friseur was engaged in this critical operation,
and whole ranks of ladies stood round, one of them reading aloud one of
Plutarch’s Lives. The Queen came forward, with the most perfect grace,
crying: ‘Oh, it is ravishing! What a coincidence!’ and pointing to her
son, as if the similarity in colours had been a mere chance instead of a
contrivance of hers.

Then, with the most gracious deference in the world, so as not to hurt
the hairdresser’s feelings, she showed my head, and begged permission to
touch up her niece’s, kissing her as she did so. Then she signed to the
Prince to hold her little hand-mirror, and he obeyed, kneeling on one
knee before Mademoiselle; while the Queen, with hands that really were
more dexterous than those of any one I ever saw, excepting my mother,
dealt with her niece’s hair, paying compliments in her son’s name all
the time, and keeping him in check with her eye. She contrived to work
in some of her own jewels, rubies and diamonds, to match the
scarlet, black and white. I have since found the scene mentioned in
Mademoiselle’s own memoirs, but she did not see a quarter of the humour
of it. She was serene in the certainty that her aunt was paying court
to her, and the assurance that her cousin was doing the same, though she
explains that, having hopes of the Emperor, and thinking the Prince a
mere landless exile, she only pitied him. Little did she guess how he
laughed at her, his mother, and himself, most of all at her airs, while
his mother, scolding him all the time, joined in the laugh, though she
always maintained that Mademoiselle, in spite of her overweening conceit
and vanity, would become an excellent and faithful wife, and make her
husband’s interests her own.

‘Rather too much so,’ said the Prince, shrugging his shoulders; ‘we know
what the Margaret of Anjou style of wife can do for a King of England.’

However, as he always did what any one teased him about, if it were not
too unpleasant, and as he was passionately fond of his mother, and as
amused by playing on the vanity of la grande Mademoiselle, he acted his
part capitally. It was all in dumb show, for he really could not speak
French at that time, though he could understand what was said to
him. He, like a good many other Englishmen, held that the less they
assimilated themselves to their French hosts, the more they showed their
hopes of returning home, and it was not till after his expedition to
Scotland that he set himself to learn the language.

Queen Henrietta’s skill in the toilette was noted. She laughingly said
that if everything else failed her she should go into business as a
hairdresser, and she had hardly completed her work, before a message was
brought from Queen Anne to desire to see Mademoiselle in her full dress.

I do not know what would have become of me, if my good-natured royal
godmother, who never forgot anybody, had not packed me into a carriage
with some of the ladies who were accompanying Mademoiselle. That lady
had a suit of her own, and went about quite independently of her father
and her stepmother, who, though a Princess of Lorraine, was greatly
contemned and slighted by the proud heiress.

I was put au courant with all this by the chatter of the ladies in the
coach. I did no know them, and in the dark they hardly knew who was
there. Men with flambeaux ran by the side of the carriage, and now and
then the glare fell across a smiling face, glanced on a satin dress, or
gleamed back from some jewels; and then we had a long halt in the court
of the Tuileries, while Mademoiselle went to the Queen-Regent to be
inspected. We waited a long time, and I heard a great deal of gossip
before we were again set in motion, and when once off we soon found
ourselves in the court of the Hotel de Choisy, where we mounted the
stairs in the rear of Mademoiselle, pausing on the way through the
anteroom, in order to give a final adjustment to her head-dress before
a large mirror, the Prince of Wales standing obediently beside her,
waiting to hand her into the room, so that the two black, white, and
carnation figures were reflected side by side, which was, I verily
believe, the true reason of her stopping there, for Queen Henrietta’s
handiwork was too skilful to require retouching. Prince Rupert was close
by, to act as interpreter, his tall, powerful figure towering above them
both, and his dark eyes looking as if his thoughts were far off, yet
keeping in control the young Prince’s great inclination to grimace
and otherwise make game of Mademoiselle’s magnificent affectations and
condescensions.

I was rather at a loss, for the grand salon was one sea of feathers,
bright satins and velvets, and curled heads, and though I tried to come
in with Mademoiselle’s suite I did not properly belong to it, and my
own party were entirely lost to me. I knew hardly any one, and was quite
unaccustomed to the great world, so that, though the Prince’s dame de
compagnie was very kind, I seemed to belong to no one in that great
room, where the ladies were sitting in long rows, and the gentlemen
parading before them, paying their court to one after another, while the
space in the middle was left free for some distinguished pair to dance
the menuet de la cour.

The first person I saw, whom I knew, was the Duchess of Longueville,
more beautiful than when I had met her before as Mademoiselle de
Bourbon, perfectly dazzling, indeed, with her majestic bearing and
exquisite complexion, but the face had entirely lost that innocent,
wistful expression that had so much enchanted me before. Half a dozen
gentlemen were buzzing round her, and though I once caught her eye she
did not know me, and no wonder, for I was much more changed than she
was. However, there I stood forlorn, in an access of English shyness,
not daring to take a chair near any of the strangers, and looking in
vain for my mother or one of my brothers.

‘Will not Madame take a seat beside me?’ said a kind voice. ‘I think I
have had the honour of making her acquaintance,’ she added, as our eyes
met; ‘it is the Gildippe of happier times.’

Then I knew her for Mademoiselle d’Argennes, now duchess of Montausieur,
the same who had been so kind to me at the Hotel de Rambouillet on my
first arrival at Paris. Most gladly did I take my seat by her as an old
friend, and I learned from her that her mother was not present, and
she engaged me to go and see her at the Hotel de Rambouillet the next
morning, telling me that M. de Solivet had spoken of me, and that Madame
de Rambouillet much wished to see me. Then she kindly told me the names
of many of the persons present, among whom were more gens de la robe
than it was usual for us of the old nobility to meet. They were indeed
ennobled, and thus had no imposts to pay, but that did not put them on a
level with the children of crusaders. So said my mother and her friends,
but I could not but be struck with the fine countenance and grave
collected air of the President Matthieu de Mole, who was making his how
to the hostess.

Presently, in the violet robes of a Bishop, for which he looked much
too young, there strolled up a keen-faced man with satirical eyes, whom
Madame de Montausieur presented as ‘Monseigneur le Coadjuteur.’ This was
the Archbishop of Corinth, Paul de Gondi, Coadjutor to his uncle, the
Archbishop of Paris. I think he was the most amusing talker I ever
heard, only there was a great spice of malice in all that he said--or
did not say; and Madame de Montausier kept him in check, as she well
knew how to do.

At last, to my great joy, I saw my brother walking with a young man in
the black dress of an advocate. He came up to me and the Duchess bade me
present him, declaring herself delighted to make the acquaintance of a
brave English cavalier, and at the same time greeting his companion as
Monsieur Darpent. Eustace presently said that my mother had sent him in
quest of me, and he conducted me through the salon to another apartment,
where the ladies, as before, sat with their backs to the wall, excepting
those who were at card-tables, a party having been made up for Monsieur.
On my way I was struck both with the good mien and good sense of the
young lawyer, who still stood conversing with my brother after I had
been restored to my mother. The cloud cleared up from Annora’s face as
she listened, making her look as lovely and as animated as when she
was in English company. The conversation was not by any means equally
pleasing to my mother, who, on the first opportunity, broke in with ‘My
son,’ and sent my brother off in search of some distinguished person
to whom she wished to speak, and she most expressingly frowned off his
former companion, who would have continued the conversation with my
sister and me, where upon Nan’s face, which was always far too like a
window, became once more gloomy.

When we went home, it appeared that my mother was will satisfied that
I should be invited to the Hotel de Rambouillet. It was a distinguished
thing to have the entree there, though for her part she thought it very
wearisome to have to listen to declamations about she knew not what; and
there was no proper distinction of ranks kept up, any more than at the
Hotel de Choisy, where one expected it. And, after all, neither Monsieur
nor Madame de Rambouillet were of the old noblesse. The Argennes, like
the Rambouillets, only dated from the time of the League, when they had
in private confirmed the sentence of death on the Duke of Guise, which
had been carried out by his assassination. Strange to look at the
beautiful and gentle Julie, and know her to be sprung from such a stem!

Then my mother censured Eustace for bad taste in talking over his case
with his lawyer in public. He laughed, and assured her that he had never
even thought of his suit, but had been discussing one of the pictures on
the walls, a fine Veronese--appealing to me if it were not so; but
she was not satisfied; she said he should not have encouraged the
presumption of that little advocate by presenting him to his sisters.

Eustace never attempted argument with her, but went his own way; and
when Annora broke out with something about Mr. Hyde and other lawyers,
such as Harry Merrycourt, being company for any one in London, she was
instantly silenced or presuming to argue with her elders.

I had a happy morning with Mesdames de Rambouillet and De Montausier,
who showed the perfect union of mother and daughter.

In the little cabinet where Madame de Rambouillet read and studied so
much in order to be able to fill her eminent position, she drew out
from me all my story and all my perplexities, giving me advice as a wise
woman of my own church alone could do, and showing me how much I might
still do in my life at Paris. She advised me, as I had been put under
Father Vincent’s guidance, to seek him at the Church of St. Sulpice,
where, on certain days of the week, he was accessible to ladies
wishing to undertake pious works. For the rest, she said that a little
resolution on my part would enable me to reserve the early part of the
day for study and the education of my son; and she fully approved of my
giving the evenings to society, and gave me at once the entree to her
circle. She insisted that I should remain on that day and dine with her,
and Madame de Montausier indited two charming billets, which were sent
to invite our family to join us there in the evening.

‘It will not be a full circle,’ she said; ‘but I think your brother
treats as a friend a young man who is there to make his first essai.’

‘M. Darpent?’ I asked; and I was told that I was right, and that the
young advocate had been writing a discourse upon Cicero which he was to
read aloud to the fair critics and their friends. Madame de Montausier
added that his father was a counselor in the Parliament, who had
originally been a Huguenot, but had converted himself with all his
family, and had since held several good appointments. She thought the
young man, Clement Darpent, likely to become a man of mark, and she
did not like him the less for having retained something of the Huguenot
gravity.

The dinner was extremely pleasant; we followed it up by a walk in the
beautifully laid out gardens; and after we had rested, the reception
began, but only in the little green cabinet, as it was merely a select
few who were to be admitted to hear the young aspirant. I watched
anxiously for the appearance of my family, and presently in came Eustace
and Annora. My mother had the migraine, and my brother had taken upon
him, without asking leave, to carry off my sister!

I had never seen her look so well as she did, with that little spirit of
mischief upon her, lighting her beautiful eyes and colouring her cheeks.
Madame de Rambouillet whispered to me that she was a perfect nymph, with
her look of health and freshness. Then M. Darpent came in, and his grave
face blushed with satisfaction as he saw his friend, my Lord Walwyn,
present.

His was a fine face, though too serious for so young a man. It was a
complete oval, the hair growing back on the forehead, and the beard
being dark and pointed, the complexion a clear pale brown, the eyes with
something of Italian softness in them, rather than of French vivacity,
the brows almost as if drawn with a pencil, the mouth very grave and
thoughtful except when lighted by a smile of unusual sweetness. As a
lawyer, his dress was of plain black with a little white collar fastened
by two silken tassels (such as I remember my Lord Falkland used to
wear). It became him better than the gay coats of some of our nobles.

The circle being complete by this time, the young orator was placed in
the midst, and began to read aloud his manuscript, or rather to recite
it, for after the fire of his subject began to animate him, he seldom
looked at the paper.

It was altogether grand and eloquent discourse upon the loyalty
and nobility of holding with unswerving faith to the old laws and
constitutions of one’s country against all fraud, oppression, and wrong,
tracing how Cicero’s weak and vain character grew stronger at the call
of patriotism, and how eagerly and bravely the once timid man finally
held out his throat for the knife. It might be taken as the very highest
witness to the manner in which he had used his divine gift of rhetoric,
that Fulvia’s first thought was to show her bitter hatred by piercing
his eloquent tongue! ‘Yes, my friends,’ he concluded, with his eyes
glancing round, ‘that insult to the dead was the tribute of tyranny to
virtue!’

Annora’s hands were clasped, her cheeks were flushed, her eyes glanced
with the dew of admiration, and there were others who were carried along
by the charm of the young orator’s voice and enthusiasm; but there were
also anxious glances passing, especially between the divine Arthenice
and her son-in-law, M. de Montausier, and when there had been time for
the compliments the discourse merited to be freely given, Madame
de Rambouillet said: ‘My dear friend, the tribute may be indeed the
highest, but it can scarcely be the most appreciable either by the
fortunate individual or his friends. I therefore entreat that the most
eloquent discourse of our youthful Cicero of admires who have listened
to it.’

Everybody bowed assent, but the young man himself began, with some
impetuosity: ‘Madame will believe me that I had not the slightest
political intention. I spoke simply as a matter of history.’

‘I am perfectly aware of it, Monsieur,’ returned the Marquise; ‘but all
the world does not understand as well as I do how one may be carried
away by the fervour of imagination to identify oneself and one’s
surroundings with those of which one speaks.’

‘Madame is very severe on the absent,’ said M. Darpent.

‘Monsieur thinks I have inferred more treason than he has spoken,’ said
Madame de Rambouillet gaily. ‘Well, be it so; I am an old woman, and
you, my friend, have your career yet to come, and I would have you
remember that though the great Cesar be dead, yet the bodkin was not in
his time.’

‘I understand, Madame, after the lion comes the fox. I thank you for
your warning until the time--’

‘Come, come, we do not intend to be all undone in the meantime,’
exclaimed Madame de Rambouillet. ‘Come, who will give us a vaudeville or
something joyous to put out the grand serious, and send us home gay. My
dear Countess,’ and she turned to a bright-looking young lady, ‘relate
to us, I entreat of you, one of your charming fairy tales.’

And the Countess d’Aulnoy, at her request, seated herself in a large
arm-chair, and told us with infinite grace the story I have so often
told you, my grandchildren, of the White Cat and the three princes.



CHAPTER XIV. -- COURT APPOINTMENT



The expected descent on the Isle of Wight did not take place, for though
Prince Rupert was High Admiral, so large a portion of the fleet was
disaffected that it was not possible to effect anything. Before long,
he went back to the ships he had at Helvoetsluys, taking the Prince of
Wales with him. My brother Walwyn yielded to an earnest entreaty that he
would let us take care of him at Paris till there was some undertaking
really in hand. Besides, he was awaiting the issue of his cause
respecting the Ribaumont property in Picardy, to which the Count de
Poligny set up a claim in right of a grant by King Henry III. in the
time of the League. It must be confessed that the suit lingered a
good deal, in spite of the zeal of the young advocate, M. Clement
Darpent,--nay, my mother ad my brother De Solivet sometimes declared,
because of his zeal; for the Darpent family were well known as inclined
to the Fronde party.

They had been Huguenots, but had joined the Church some twenty years
before, as it was said, because of the increased disabilities of
Huguenots in the legal profession, and it was averred that much of the
factious Calvinist leaven still hung about them. At this time I never
saw the parents, but Eustace had contracted a warm friendship with
the son, and often went to their house. My mother fretted over this
friendship far more, as Annora used to declare, than if he had been
intimate with the wildest of the roistering cavaliers, or the most
dissipated of the petits maitres of Paris. But Eustace was a man now,
made older than his twenty-five years by what he had undergone, and
though always most respectful to my mother, he could not but follow his
own judgment and form his own friendships. And my mother’s dislike to
having Clement Darpent at the Hotel de Nidemerle only led to Walwyn’s
frequenting the Maison Darpent more than he might have done if he could
have seen his friend at home without vexing her.

I do not think that he much liked the old Counsellor, but he used to say
that Madame Darpent was one of the most saintly beings he had ever seen.
She had one married daughter, and two more, nuns at Port Royal, and she
was with them in heart, the element of Augustinianism in the Jansenist
teaching having found a responsive chord in her soul from her Calvinist
education. She spent her whole time, even while living in the world, in
prayers, pious exercises, and works of charity, and she would fain have
induced her son to quit secular life and become one of those recluses
who inhabited the environs of Port Royal, and gave themselves to labour
of mind and of hand, producing works of devotion and sacred research,
and likewise making a paradise of the dreary unwholesome swamp in which
stood Port Royal des Champs. Clement Darpent had, however, no vocation
for such a life, or rather he was not convinced in his own mind that
it was expedient for him. He was eight or nine years old when the
conversion of his family had taken place, and his mother had taught him
carefully her original faith. Her conversation had been, no one could
doubt, most hearty and sincere, and her children had gone with her in
all simplicity; but the seeds she had previously sown in her son’s mind
sprang up as he grew older, and when Eustace became his friend, he was,
though outwardly conforming, restless and dissatisfied, by no means
disposed to return to Calvinism, and yet with too much of the old leaven
in him to remain contented in the Church. He was in danger of throwing
off all thought of faith and of Divine things in his perplexity, and I
know many of our advisers would say this was best, provided he died at
last in the bosom of the Catholic Church; but I can never think so, and,
as things stood, Eustace’s advice aided him in remaining at that time
where he was, a member of the Church. My brother himself was, my mother
ardently hoped, likely to join our communion. The Abbe Walter Montagu
who had himself been a convert, strove hard to win him over, trying to
prove to him that the English Church was extinct, stifled by her own
rebellious heretic children, so soon as the grace that was left in her
began to work so as to bring her back to Catholic doctrine and practice.
His argument was effectual with many of our fugitives, but not with my
brother. He continued still to declare that he believed that his Church
was in the course of being purified, and would raised up again at last;
and his heart was too loyal to desert her, any more than his King,
because of her misfortunes. No one shall ever make me believe that he
was wrong. As to Annora, I believe she would rather have been a Huguenot
outright than one of us, and she only half trusted me for a long time.

We had begun to settle down into regular habits; indeed, except for the
evenings, our days were almost more alike than when in the country. I
had gone, as Madame de Rambouillet had advised me, to Father Vincent,
and he introduced me to the excellent Madame Goussault, who had the
sweetest old face I ever saw. She made me a member of the society for
attending the poor in the Hotel Dieu, and my regular days were set
apart, twice a week, for waiting on the sick. We all wore a uniform
dress of dark stuff, with a white apron and tight white cap, and, unless
we were very intimate, were not supposed to recognize one another.

There was good reason for this. At the next bed to that of my patient
there was a lady most tenderly, if a little awkwardly, bathing a poor
man’s face with essences. Her plump form, beautiful hands, and slightly
Spanish accent, could only belong to one person, I thought, but I
could hardly believe it, and I turned my eyes away, and tried the more
diligently to teach my poor ignorant patient the meaning of his Pater
and Ave, when suddenly there was a burst of scolding and imprecation
from the other bed. The essence had gone into the man’s eye, and he,
a great rough bucheron, was reviling the awkwardness and meddling of
ladies in no measured terms, while his nurse stood helplessly wringing
her white hands, imploring his pardon, but quite unaware of what was to
be done. Happily, I had a sponge and some warm water near, and I ran up
with it and washed the man’s eyes, while the lady thanked me fervently,
but the man growled out:

‘That is better; if women will come fussing over us with what they don’t
understand--You are the right sort; but for her--’

‘Do not stop him,’ hastily said the lady, with her hand on my arm. ‘I
love it! I rejoice in it! Do not deprive me, for the love of Heaven!’

I knew who she was then, and Madame de Montausier told me I was right;
but that I must keep the secret; and so I did, till after Queen Anne
of Austria was dead. She would not let her rank deprive her of the
privilege of waiting on the poor, unknown and unthanked; and many hours,
when those who blamed her for indolence supposed her to be in bed, she
was attending the hospital.

Cecile was never strong enough to give her attendance there, but she
made clothes which were given to the patients when they came out. We
spent our mornings much as of old; the two elder children generally went
to mass with me at St. Germain l’Auxerrois, and if the day were fine,
I would take them for a few turns in the Tuileries Gardens afterwards
before I taught them their little lessons, and gave my orders to the
servants.

Then all the family met a breakfast, after which Gaspard had half an
hour more of study with the Abbe, for he was beginning Latin, and was a
very promising scholar. He prepared his tasks with me before breakfast,
and got on admirably.

Then, unless I had to be at the hospital, we sat together at our
embroidery--Cecile, Annora, and I--while the Abbe read to us. It was
very hard to poor Nan to sit still, work, and listen. She had been used
to such an active unsettled life during the war, and had been put to so
many shifts, having at times for months together to do servant’s work,
that she knew not how to be quiet. Embroidery seemed to her useless,
when she had cooked and washed, and made broths, and scraped lint for
the wounded, and she could not care for the history of the Romans, even
when Eustace had given her his word they were not Roman Catholics.

She used to say she had the cramp, or that her foot was asleep, and rush
off to play with the children, or to see if my mother wanted her. My
mother did not care for the reading, but she did want Nan to learn to
sit in her chair and embroider, like a demoiselle bien elevee, instead
of a wild maiden of the civil wars. However, my mother spent most of her
day in waiting on the Queen of England, who was very fond of her, and
liked to have her at her levee, so that we really saw very little of
her.

My brother, when not needed by his Queen, nor in consultation with
the cavaliers, or with his lawyers, would often join in our morning’s
employment. He was not strong, and he liked to recline in a lager chair
that I kept ready for him, and listen while the Abbe read, or sometimes
discuss with him questions that arose in the reading, and this was a
great relief to Nan, who seldom declared that her feet tingled when he
was there.

After our dinner we either walked in the garden where the children
played, or went out to make visits. In the evening there were
receptions. We had one evening to which, as I said, came our poor exiled
countrymen, and there were other assemblies, to some of which we went
by invitation; but at the Hotel de Rambouillet, and one or two others we
knew we were always welcome. There we heard M. Corneille read the
Cid, on of his finest pieces, before it was put on the stage. I cannot
describe how those noble verses thrilled in our ears and heart, how
tears were shed and hands clasped, and how even Annora let herself be
carried along by the tide. Clement Darpent was often there, and once or
twice recited again, but Madame de Rambouillet always took care first
to know what he was going to say. A poem upon St. Monica was the work
of his that I liked bets, but it was not so much admired as verses more
concerned with the present.

The Prince of Conde came back to Paris for a few weeks, and my poor
Cecile was greatly disappointed that her husband remained in garrison
and did not come with him. ‘But then,’ as she said to console herself,
‘every month made the children prettier, and she was trying to be a
little more nice and agreeable.’

Two appointments were made for which I was less grateful than was
my mother. My little son was made one of the King’s gentlemen of
the bedchamber, and Mademoiselle requested me to be one of her
ladies-in-waiting. She was very good-natured, provided she thought
herself obeyed, and she promised that my turn should always come at
the same time as my son’s, so that I might be at home with him. I was a
little laughed at, and my former name of Gildippe was made to alternate
with that of Cornelia; but French mothers have always been devoted to
their sons, and there was some sympathy with me among the ladies.

I owned that my presence was required at home, for Gaspard generally
came back a much naughtier boy than he went, and with a collection of
bad words that I had to proscribe. Before the Queen-Regent, the little
King and the Duke of Anjou were the best boys in the world, and as
stately and well-mannered as become the first gentlemen of France; but
when once out of her sight they were the most riotous and mischievous
children in the world, since nobody durst restrain, far less punish
them. They made attacks on the departments of the stewards and cooks,
kicking and biting any one who tried to stop them, and devouring fruit
and sweetmeats till their fine clothes were all bedaubed, and they
themselves indisposed, and then their poor valets suffered for it. The
first time this happened my poor Gaspard was so much shocked that he
actually told the King that it was dishonourable to let another suffer
for his fault.

‘I would have you to know, Monsieur le Marquis,’ said Louis XIV.,
drawing himself up, ‘that the King of France is never in fault.’

However, I will say for His Majesty that it was the Duke of Anjou who
told the Queen that the little Nidemerle had been disrespectful, and
thus caused the poor child to be sent home, severely beaten, and with a
reprimand to me for not bringing him up better.

I leave you to guess how furious I was, and how I raged about the house
till I frightened my mother, Annora backing me up with all her might.
We were almost ready to take Gaspard in our hands and escape at once
to England. Even in its present sad state I should at least be able to
bring up my boy without having him punished for honourable sentiments
and brave speeches. Of course it was the Abbe on the one hand, and
Eustace on the other, who moderated me, and tried to show me, as well as
my son, that though the little Louis might be a naughty boy, the kingly
dignity was to be respected in him.

‘Thou wouldst not blame thy mother even if she were in fault,’ argued
Eustace.

‘But my mother never is in fault,’ said Gaspard, throwing himself into
my arms.

‘Ah, there spoke thy loyal heart, and a Frenchman should have the same
spirit towards his King.’

‘Yes,’ broke out Annora; ‘that is what you are all trying to force on
your children, setting up an idol to fall down and crush yourselves! For
shame, Walwyn, that you, an Englishman, should preach such a doctrine to
the poor child!’

‘Nay, you little Frondeuse, there is right and safety in making a
child’s tongue pay respect to dignities. He must separate the office
from the man, or the child.’

All that could be done was that I should write a humble apology for
my son. Otherwise they told me he would certainly be taken from so
dangerous a person, and such a dread always made me submissive to the
bondage in which we were all held.

Was it not strange that a Queen who would with her own hands minister to
the suffered in the hospital should be so utterly ignorant of her duties
in bringing up the heir of the great kingdom? Gaspard, who was much
younger, could read well, write, and knew a little Latin and English,
while the King and his brother were as untaught as peasants in the
fields. They could make the sign of the cross and say their prayers,
and their manners COULD be perfect, but that was all. They had no
instruction, and their education was not begun. I have the less
hesitation in recording this, as the King has evidently regretted it,
and has given first his son, then his grandsons, the most admirable
masters, besides having taken great pains with himself.

I suppose the Spanish dislike to instruction dominated the Queen, and
made her slow to inflict on her sons what she so much disliked, and she
was of course perfectly ignorant of their misbehaviour.

I am sorry to say that Gaspard soon ceased to be shocked. His aunt
declared that he was becoming a loyal Frenchman who he showed off his
Louvre manners by kicking the lackeys, pinching Armantine, and utterly
refusing to learn his lessons for the Abbe, declaring that he was
Monsieur le Marquis, and no one should interfere with him. Once when he
came home a day or two before me, he made himself quite intolerable to
the whole house, by insisting on making Armantine and her little brother
defend a fortress on the top of the stairs, which he attacked with the
hard balls of silk and wool out of our work-baskets. Annora tried to
stop him, but only was kicked for her pains. It was his HOTEL he said,
and he was master there, and so he went on, though he had given poor
Armantine a black eye, and broken two panes of glass, till his uncle
came home, and came upon him with a stern ‘Gaspard.’ The boy began again
with his being the Marquis and the master, but Eustace put him down at
once.

‘Thou mayst be Marquis, but thou art not master of this house, nor of
thyself. Thou art not even a gentleman while thou actest thus. Go to thy
room. We will see what thy mother says to this.’

Gaspard durst not struggle with his uncle, and went off silent and
sulky; but Eustace had subdued him into penitence before I came home.
And I can hardly tell how, but from that time the principle of loyalty
to the sovereign, without imitation of the person, seemed to have been
instilled into the child, so that I feel, and I am sure he will agree
with me, that I owe my son, and he owes himself, to the influence of my
dear brother.

Had it not been for leaving him, my service to Mademoiselle would have
been altogether amusing. True, she was marvelously egotistical and
conceited, but she was very good-natured, and liked to make those about
her happy. Even to her stepmother and little sisters, whom she did not
love, she was never unkind, though she lived entirely apart, and kept
her own little court separately at the Louvre, and very odd things we
did there.

Sometimes we were all dressed up as the gods and goddesses, she being
always Minerva--unless as Diana she conducted us as her nymphs to
the chase in the park at Versailles. Sometimes we were Mademoiselle
Scudery’s heroines, and we wrote descriptions of each other by these
feigned names, some of which appear in her memoirs. And all the time
she was hoping to marry the Emperor, and despising the suit of Queen
Henrietta for our Prince of Wales, who, for his part, never laughed so
much in secret as when he attended this wonderful and classical Court.



CHAPTER XV. -- A STRANGER THANKSGIVING DAY.



There was a curious scene in our salon the day after the news had come
of the great victory of Lens. Clement Darpent had been brought in by my
brother, who wished him to hear some English songs which my sister and
I had been practicing. He had been trying to learn English, and perhaps
understood it better than he could speak it, but he was somewhat
perplexed by those two gallant lines--


          ‘I could not love thee, dear, so much,
            Loved I not honour more.’


Annora’s eyes flashed with disappointed anger as she said, ‘You enter
not into the sentiment, Monsieur. I should have hoped that if any
Frenchman could, it would be you!’

‘For my part,’ observed my mother, ‘I am not surprised at the question
not being appreciated by the gens de la robe.’

I saw Eustace look infinitely annoyed at this insult to his friend’s
profession, and to make it worse, Gaspard, who had come home that
morning from the palace, exclaimed, having merely caught the word
‘honour’--

‘Yes, the gens de la robe hate our honour. That is why the King said,
when news of our great victory came, ‘Oh, how sorry the Parliament will
be!’

‘Did he?’ exclaimed my mother. ‘Is it true, my grandson?’

‘True; yes indeed, Madame ma Grandmere,’ replied Gaspard. ‘And you
should have seen how all the world applauded him.’

‘I would not have applauded him,’ said Eustace sadly. ‘I would have
tried to teach him that nothing can be of more sad omen for a king than
to regard his Parliament as his enemy.’

‘My son,’ returned my mother, ‘if you must utter such absurdities, let
it not be before this child. Imagine the consequence of his repeating
them!’

‘Ah! sighed Darpent, ‘it would be well if only, through child lips or
any others, the King and his mother could learn that the Parliament can
heartily rejoice in all that is for the true glory and honour in justice
and in the well-being of her people, and that we love above all!’

‘There,’ said I, glad to turn the conversation from the dangerous
political turn it was taking, ‘I knew it was merely the language and not
the sentiment of our song that Monsieur Darpent did not comprehend.’

And when it was translated and paraphrased, he exclaimed, ‘Ah! truly
Mademoiselle may trust me that such sentiments are the breath of life
to those who are both French and of the robe. May ONE at least live to
prove it to her!’

The times were threatening in France as well as in England, for if in
the latter realm, the thunderbolt had fallen, in the former, the tempest
seemed to be gathering. They say that it dispersed after a few showers,
but there are others who say that it is only stored up to fall with
greater fury in later times. Ah, well! if it be so, I pray that none
of mine may be living to see it, for I cannot conceal from myself that
there is much among us that may well call down the vengeance of Heaven.
Yet, if our good Duke of Burgundy fulfil the promise of his youth, the
evil may yet be averted.

The Parliament of Paris had made an attempt to check the reckless
exactions of the Court by refusing to register the recent edicts for
taxation, and it was this that made the Queen so angry with them.
Eustace began to explain that it had been the unfortunate endeavour
to raise money without the consent of Parliament that had been the
immediate cause of the troubles in England for which they were still
suffering. This implied censure of King Charles so displeased my mother
that she declared that she would listen to such treason no longer,
started up and quitted the room, calling Annora with her. Poor Annora
gave one of her grim looks, but was obliged to obey; I did not feel
bound to do the same, as indeed I stood in the position of hostess: so
I remained, with Gaspard leaning on my lap, while my brother and M.
Darpent continued their conversation, and the latter began to describe
the actual matter in debate, the Paulette, namely, the right of
magistrates to purchase the succession to their offices for their sons,
provided a certain annual amount was paid to the Crown. The right had to
be continually renewed by fresh edicts for a certain term. This term was
now over, and the Crown refused to renew it except on condition that all
that salaries should be forfeited for four years. To our English notions
the whole system was a corruption, but the horrible ill faith of the
Court, which ruined and cheated so many families, was nevertheless
shocking to us. Clement Darpent, who had always looked on the Paulette
as a useful guarantee, and expected to succeed to his father’s office as
naturally as Eustace had done to the baronies of Walwyn and Ribaumont,
could not then see it in the same light, and expatiated on the speeches
made by the Councillors Broussel, Blancmesnil, and others, on the
injustice of such a measure.

Gaspard caught the name of Blancmesnil, and looking up, he said
‘Blancmesnil! It is he that the King says is a scoundrel to resist his
will; but he will soon be shut up. They are going to arrest him.’

‘Pray how long have they taken little imps like thee into their
counsels?’ demanded Eustace, as we all sat petrified at this
announcement.

‘It was the Duke of Anjou who told me,’ said Gaspard. ‘He was sitting at
the foot of the Queen’s bed when she settled it all with M. le Cardinal.
They will send to have coup de main made of all those rogues as soon as
the Te Deum is over tomorrow at Notre Dame, and then there will be no
more refusing of money for M. le Prince to beat the Spaniards with.’

‘The Duke should choose his confidants better,’ said Eustace. ‘Look
here, my nephew. Remember from henceforth that whatever passes in secret
council is sacred, and even if told to thee inadvertently should never
be repeated. Now leave us; your mother needs you no longer.’

My little boy made his graceful bow at the door, looking much perplexed,
and departed. I rose likewise, saying I would forbid him to repeat his
dangerous communication, and I trusted that it would do him no harm.

‘Madame,’ said M. Darpent, ‘I will not conceal from you that I shall
take advantage of what I have heard to warn these friends of my father.’

‘You cannot be expected to do otherwise,’ said Eustace; ‘and truly the
design is so arbitrary and unjust that, Cavalier as I am, I cannot but
rejoice that it should be baffled.’

‘And,’ added Darpent, before I could speak, ‘Madame may be secure that
no word shall pass my lips respecting the manner in which I received the
warning.’

I answered that I could trust him for that. I could not expect any more
from him, and indeed none of us were bound in honour. The fault was with
the Duke of Anjou, who, as we all know, was an incorrigible chatter-box
all his life, and never was trusted with any State secrets at all; but
his mother must have supposed him not old enough to understand what she
was talking about, when she let him overhear such a conversation.

Gaspard had, however, a private lecture from both of us on the need of
holding his tongue, both on this matter and all other palace gossip.
He was no longer in waiting, and I trusted that all would be forgotten
before his turn came again; but he was to join in the state procession
on the following day, a Sunday, when the King and Queen-Regent were
return thanks at Notre Dame for the victory at Lens.

Ah, children! we had victories then. Our Te Deums were not sung with
doubting hearts, to make the populace believe a defeat a victory--a
delusion to which this French nation of ours is only too prone. My
countryman, Marlborough, and the little truant Abbe, Eugene of Savoy,
were not then the leaders of the opposite armies; but at the head of
our own, we had M. le Prince and the Vicomte de Turenne in the flower
of their age, and our triumphs were such that they might well intoxicate
the King, who was, so to speak, brought up upon them. It was a
magnificent sight, which we all saw from different quarters--my mother
in the suite of the Queen of England, Gaspard among the little noblemen
who attended the King, I among the ladies who followed Mademoiselle,
while my brother and sister, though they might have gone among their own
Queen’s train, chose to shift for themselves. They said they should see
more than if, like us, they formed part of the pageant; but I believe
the real reason was, that if they had one early to Queen Henrietta’s
apartments in full dress, they must have missed their English prayers at
the Ambassador’s, which they never chose to do on a Sunday.

The choir part of the nave was filled with tribunes for the royal
family and their suites; and as the most exalted in rank went the last,
Mademoiselle, and we ladies behind her, came to our places early enough
to see a great deal of the rest of the procession. The whole choir was
already a field of clergy and choristers, the white robes of the latter
giving relief to the richly-embroidered purple and lace-covered robes
of the Bishops, who wore their gold and jeweled mitres, while their
richly-gilded pastoral staves and crosses were borne before them. The
Coadjutor of Paris, who was to be the Celebrant, was already by the
Altar, his robes absolutely encrusted with gold; and just after we had
taken our places there passed up the Cardinal, with his pillars borne
before him, in his scarlet hat and his robes.

Every lady was, according to the Spanish fashion, which Queen Anne had
introduced, in black or in white--the demoiselles in white, the married
in black--and all with the black lace veil on their heads. The French
ladies had murmured much at this, but there is no denying that the
general effect was much better for the long lines of black above and
white below, and as there was no restriction upon their jewellery,
emeralds, rubies, and diamonds flashed wherever the light fell on them.

Beyond, a lane was preserved all down the length of the nave by
the tall, towering forms of the Scottish archers, in their rich
accoutrements, many of them gallant gentlemen, who had served under the
Marquess of Montrose; and in the aisles behind them surged the whole
multitude--gentlemen, ladies, bourgeois, fishwives, artisans, all sorts
of people, mixed up together, and treating one another with a civility
and forbearance of which my brother and sister confessed and English
crowd would have been incapable, though they showed absolutely no
reverence to the sacred place; and I must own the ladies showed as
little, for every one was talking, laughing, bowing to acquaintance,
or pointing out notorieties, and low whispers were going about of some
great and secret undertaking of the Queen-Regent. Low, did I say! Nay, I
heard the words ‘Blancmesnil and Broussel’ quite loud enough to satisfy
me that if the attempt had been disclosed, it would not be possible
to fix the blame of betraying it on my little son more than on twenty
others. Indeed the Queen of England observed to her niece, loud enough
for me to hear her, that it was only too like what she remembered only
seven years ago in England, when her dear King had gone down to arrest
those five rogues of members, and all had failed because of that vile
gossip Lady Carlisle.

‘And who told my Lady Carlisle?’ demanded Mademoiselle with some
archness; whereupon Queen Henrietta became very curious to know whether
the handsome Duke of Beaufort were, after his foolish fashion, in the
crowd, making himself agreeable to the ladies of the market-place.

Trumpets, however, sounded, and all rose from their seats, as up the
nave swept Queen Anne, her black mantilla descending over her fair hair
from a little diamond crown, her dress--white satin--with a huge long
blue velvet train worked with gold fleurs-de-lys, supported by four pair
of little pages in white satin. Most regal did she look, leading by the
hand the little Duke of Anjou; while the young King, who was now old
enough to form the climax of the procession, marched next after in blue
and gold, holding his plumed hat in his hand, and bowing right and left
with all his royal courtesy and grace, his beautiful fair hair on his
shoulders, shining with the sun. And there was my little Marquis among
the boys, who immediately followed him in all his bright beauty and
grace.

Most glorious was the High Mass that followed. Officer after officer
marched up and laid standard after standard before the Altar, heavy
with German blazonry, or with the red and gold stripes of Aragon, the
embattled castles of Castille, till they amounted to seventy-three. It
must have been strange to the Spanish Queen to rejoice over these as
they lay piled in a gorgeous heap before the high Altar, here and there
one dim with weather or stained with blood. The peals of the Te Deum
from a thousand voices were unspeakably magnificent, and yet through
them all it seemed to me that I heard the wail not only of the
multitudes of widowed wives and sonless parents, but of the poor
peasants of all the nation, crying aloud to Heaven for the bread which
they were forbidden to eat, when they had toiled for it in the sweat of
their brow. Yes, and which I was not permitted to let them enjoy!

Ah! which did the Almighty listen to? To the praise, or to the mourning,
lamentation, and woe? You have often wondered, my children, that I
absented myself from the Te Deums of victory while we had them. Now you
know the reason.

And then I knew that all this display was only an excuse under which the
Queen hid her real design of crushing all opposition to her will. She
wanted to commit an injustice, and silence all appeals against it, so
that the poor might be more and more ground down! How strange in the
woman whom I had seen bearing patiently, nay, joyfully, with the murmurs
of the faggot-seller in the hospital! Truly she knew not what she did!

As she left the Cathedral, and passed M. de Comminges, a lieutenant of
her Guards, she said: ‘Go, and Heaven be with you.’

I was soon at home safely with my boys, to carry an account of our
doings to my dear little M. d’Aubepine, who, unable to bear the fatigue
and the crush of Notre Dame, had taken her little children to a Mass of
thanksgiving celebrated by our good Abbe at the nearest Church.

We waited long and long for the others to come. I was not uneasy for my
mother, who was with the Queen; but the servants brought reports that
the canaille had risen, and that the streets were in wild confusion. We
could see nothing, and only heard wild shouts from time to time. What
could have become of Eustace and Annora? My mother would have been
afraid that with their wild English notions they had rushed into
something most unsuitable to a French demoiselle, and I was afraid
for Eustace, if they were involved in any crowd or confusion, for his
strength was far from being equal to his spirit. We watched, sure that
we heard cries and shouts in the distance, the roar of the populace,
such as I remembered on that wedding day, but sharper and shriller, as
French voices are in a different key from the English roar and growl.

It passed, however, and there was long silence. Gaspard and Armantine
stood at the window, and at last, as evening twilight fell, cried out
that a carriage was coming in at the porte cochere. Presently Annora ran
into the room, all in a glow, and Eustace followed more slowly.

‘Have you been frightened?’ she cried. ‘Oh, we have had such an
adventure! If they had not screamed and shrieked like peacocks, or
furies, I could have thought myself in England.’

‘Alack! that a tumult should seem like home to you, sister,’ said
Eustace gravely.

Then they told how at the ambassador’s chapel they had heard that good
Lady Fanshawe, whom they had known in England, had arrived sick and sad,
after the loss of a young child. They determined, therefore, to steal
away from Notre Dame before the ceremony was over, and go to see whether
anything could be done for her. They could not, however, get out so
quickly as they expected, and they were in the Rue de Marmousets when
they saw surging towards them a tremendous crowd, shouting, screeching,
shrieking, roaring, trying to stop a carriage which was being urged
on with six horses, with the royal guards trying to force their way.
Eustace, afraid of his sister being swept from him, looked for some
escape, but the mob went faster than they could do; and they might soon
have been involved in it and trampled down. There seemed no opening in
the tall houses, when suddenly a little door opened close to them, and
there was a cry of surprise; a hand was put out.

‘You here! Nay, pardon me, Mademoiselle; take my arm.’

Clement Darpent was there. A few steps more, and taking out a small
key, he fitted it into the same little door, and led them into a dark
passage, then up a stair, into a large room, simply furnished, and one
end almost like an oratory. Here, looking anxiously from the window,
was an old lady in a plain black dress and black silk hood, with a white
apron and keys at her girdle.

‘My mother,’ said Clement, ‘this gentleman and lady, M. le Baron de
Ribaumont and Mademoiselle sa soeur, have become involved in this crowd.
They will do us the favour of taking shelter here till the uproar is
over.’

Madame Darpent welcomed them kindly, but with anxious inquiries. Her son
only threw her a word in answer, prayed to be excused, and dashed off
again.

‘Ah! there he is. May he be saved, the good old man,’ cried Madame
Darpent.

And they could see a carriage with four horses containing the
Lieutenant Comminges holding a white-haired old man, in a very shabby
dressing-gown; while soldiers, men, women, boys, all struggled, fought,
and shrieked round it, like the furies let loose. The carriage passed
on, but the noise and struggle continued, and Madame Darpent was soon
intensely anxious about her son.

It seemed that Clement had carried his warnings, and that four or five
of the councillors had taken care to be beyond the walls of Paris; among
them his own father, the Councillor Darpent, who was a prudent man,
and thought it best to be on the right side. The President Broussel, a
good-humoured, simple, hearty old man, was not quite well, and though
he thanked his young friend, he would not believe any such harm was
intended against him as to make him derange his course of medicine.

Thus, when Comminges marched into the house to arrest him, he was
sitting at dinner, eating his bouillon, in dressing-gown and slippers.
His daughter cried out that he was not fit to leave the house. At the
same time, an old maid-servant put her head out at a window, screaming
that her master was going to be carried off.

He was much beloved, and a host of people ran together, trying to break
the carriage and cut the traces. Comminges, seeing that no time was to
be lost, forced the poor old lawyer down to the carriage just as he was,
in his dressing-gown and slippers, and drove off. But the mob thickened
every moment, in spite of the guards, and a very few yards beyond where
they had taken refuge at Madame Darpent’s, a large wooden bench had been
thrown across the street, and the uproar redoubled round it--the yells,
shrieks, and cries ringing all down the road. However, the carriage
passed that, and dashed on, throwing down and crushing people right and
left; so that Madame Darpent was first in terror for her son, and then
would fain have rushed out to help the limping, crying sufferers.

They heard another horrible outcry, but could see no more, except the
fluctuating heads of the throng below them, and loud yells, howls, and
maledictions came to their ears. By and by, however, Clement returned,
having lost his hat in the crowd; with blood on his collar, and with one
of his lace cuffs torn, though he said he was not hurt.

‘They have him!’ he said bitterly; ‘the tyranny has succeeded!’

‘Oh, hush, my son! Take care!’ cried his mother.

‘M. le Baron and I understand one another, Madame,’ he said, smiling.

He went on to tell that the carriage had been overturned on the Quai
des Orfevres, just opposite the hotel of the First President. Comminges
sprang out, sword in hand, drove back the crowd, who would have helped
out Broussel, and shouted for the soldiers, some of whom kept back those
who would have succoured the prisoner with their drawn swords. Clement
himself had been slightly touched, but was forced back in the scuffle;
while the good old man called out to him not to let any one be hurt on
his behalf.

Other soldiers were meantime seizing a passing carriage, and taking out
a poor lady who occupied it. Before it could be brought near, the
raging crowd had brought axes and hacked it to pieces. Comminges and his
soldiers, well-armed, still dragged their victim along till a troop of
the Queen’s guards came up with another carriage, in which the poor old
President was finally carried off.

‘And this is what we have to submit to from a Spaniard and an Italian!’
cried Clement Darpent.

He had come back to reassure his mother and his guests, but the tumult
was raging higher than ever. The crowd had surrounded the Tuileries,
filling the air with shouts of ‘Broussel! Broussel!’ and threatening to
tear down the doors and break in, overwhelming the guards. Eustace and
his host went out again, and presently reported that the Marshal de
Meileraye had been half killed, but had been rescued by the Coadjutor,
who was giving the people all manner of promises. This was verified by
shouts of ‘Vive le Roi!’ and by and by the crowd came past once more,
surrounding the carriage, on the top of which was seated the Coadjutor,
in his violet robes, but with his skull cap away, and his cheek bleeding
from the blow of a stone. He was haranguing, gesticulating, blessing,
doing all in his power to pacify the crowd, and with the hope of the
release of the councilors all was quieting down; and Clement, after
reconnoitering, thought it safe to order the carriage to take home his
guests.

‘No one can describe,’ said my sister, ‘how good and sweet Madame was,
though she looked so like a Puritan dame. Her face was so wonderfully
calm and noble, like some grand old saint in a picture; and it lighted
up so whenever her son came near her, I wanted to ask her blessing! And
I think she gave it inwardly. She curtsied, and would have kissed my
hand, as being only bourgeois, while I was noble; but I told her I would
have no such folly, and I made her give me a good motherly embrace!’

‘I hope she gave you something to eat,’ I said, laughing.

‘Oh, yes; we had an excellent meal. She made us eat before sending us
home, soup, and ragout, and chocolate--excellent chocolate. She had it
brought as soon as possible, because Eustace looked so pale and tired.
Oh, Meg! She is the very best creature I have seen in France. Your
Rambouillets are nothing to her! I hope I may see her often again!’

And while Eustace marveled if this were a passing tumult or the
beginning of a civil war, my most immediate wonder was what my mother
would say to this adventure.



CHAPTER XVI. -- THE BARRICADES



My mother did not come home till the evening, when the streets had
become tolerably quiet. She had a strange account to give, for she had
been at the palace all the time in attendance on Queen Henrietta, who
tried in vain to impress her sister-in-law with a sense that the matter
was serious. Queen Anne of Austria was too proud to believe that a
parliament and a mob could do any damage to the throne of France,
whatever they might effect in England.

There she sat in her grand cabinet, and with her were the Cardinal, the
Duke of Longueville, and many other gentlemen, especially Messieurs de
Nogent and de Beautru, who were the wits, if not the buffoons of the
Court, and who turned all the reports they heard into ridicule. The
Queen-Regent smiled in her haughty way, but the Queen of England laid
her hand sadly on my mother’s arm and said, ‘Alas, my dear friend, was
it not thus that once we laughed?’

Presently in came Marshal de la Meilleraye and the Coadjutor, and their
faces and gestures showed plainly that they were seriously alarmed; but
M. de Beautru, nothing daunted, turned to the Regent, saying, ‘How ill
Her Majesty must be, since M. le Coadjutor is come to bring her extreme
unction,’ whereupon there was another great burst of applause and
laughter.

The Coadjutor pretended not to hear, and addressing the Queen told her
that he had come to offer his services to her at a moment of pressing
danger. Anne of Austria only vouchsafed a little nod with her head, by
way at once of thanks, and showing how officious and superfluous she
thought him, while Nogent and Beautru continued to mimic the dismay of
poor Broussel, seized in his dressing-gown and slippers, and the shrieks
of his old housekeeper from the window. ‘Did no one silence them for
being so unmanly?’ cried Annora, as she heard this.

‘Child, thou art foolish!’ said my mother with dignity. ‘Why should
the resistance of canaille like that be observed at all, save to make
sport?’

For my poor mother, since she had been dipped again into the Court
atmosphere, had learned to look on whatever was not noble, as not of
the same nature with herself. However, she said that Marshal de la
Meilleraye, a thorough soldier, broke in by assuring the Queen that the
populace were in arms, howling for Broussel, and the Coadjutor began to
describe the fierce tumult through which he had made his way, but
the Cardinal only gave his dainty provoking Italian smile, and the
Queen-Regent proudly affirmed that there neither was nor could be a
revolt.

‘We know,’ added Mazarin, in his blandest tone of irony, ‘that M. le
Coadjuteur is so devoted to the Court, and so solicitous for his flock,
that a little over-anxiety must be pardoned to him!’

This was while shouts of ‘BROUSSEL! BROUSSEL!’ were echoing through the
palace, and in a few moments came the Lieutenant-Colonel of the Guards
to say that the populace were threatening to overpower the soldiers at
the gates; and next came the Chancellor, nearly frightened out of his
wits, saying that he had seen the people howling like a pack of wolves,
carrying all sorts of strange weapons, and ready to force their way in.
Then old Monsieur Guitauet, the Colonel of the Guards, declared ‘that
the old rogue Broussel must be surrendered, dead or alive.’

‘The former step would not be accordant with the Queen’s piety nor her
justice,’ broke in the Coadjutor; ‘the second might stop the tumult.’

‘I understand you, M. le Coadjuteur,’ broke out the Queen. ‘You want
me to set Broussel at liberty. I would rather strangle him with my own
hands, and those who--’

And she held those plump white hands of hers almost close to the
Archbishop’s face, as if she were ready to do it, but Cardinal Mazarin
whispered something in her ear which made her less violent, and the next
moment the lieutenant of police came in, with such a terrific account
of the fury of the mob and their numbers, that there was no more
incredulity; it was plain that there was really a most frightful uproar,
and both the Regent and the Cardinal entreated the Coadjutor to go down
and pacify the people by promises. He tried to obtain from the Queen
some written promise.

‘He was right,’ said Eustace.

‘Right!’ cried my mother. ‘What! to seek to bind Her Majesty down by
written words, like a base mechanical bourgeois? I am ashamed of you, my
son! No, indeed, we all cried out upon him, Archbishop though he were,
and told him that Her Majesty’s word was worth ten thousand bonds.’

‘May it be so proved!’ muttered Eustace, while my mother went on to
describe how the Coadjutor was pressed, pushed, and almost dragged down
the great stair-case to speak to the infuriated people who were yelling
and shrieking outside the court. Monsieur de Meilleraye went before him,
backed by all the light horse drawn up in the court, and mounting his
horse, drew his sword crying, ‘Vive le Roi! Liberty for Broussel!’ he
was met by a cry of ‘To arms, to arms!’ and there was a rush against
him, some trying to pull him off his horse, and one attacking him with a
rusty old sword. The Marshal fired at him and he fell, severely wounded,
just as the Coadjutor came down, and seeing him lying in the gutter like
one dead, knelt down by him, heard his confession, and absolved him.

(It was afterwards said that the man was a pick-lock, but we always
suspected that the Coadjutor had made the worst of him by way of
enhancing a good story.)

Just as the absolution was finished, some more of the mob came up, and
one threw a stone which hit the Archbishop on the cheek, and another
pointed a musket at him. ‘Unhappy man,’ he cried, ‘if your father saw
you!’ This seemed to touch the man; he cried: ‘Vive le Coadjuteur!’ And
so easily were the people swayed, that they all began to applaud him to
the skies, and he led them off to the market-place.

‘We thought ourselves rid of them,’ said my mother, ‘we began to breathe
again, and I was coming home, but, bah! No such thing! They are all
coming back, thirty or forty thousand of them, only without their
weapons. At least the gentlemen said so, but I am sure they had them
hidden. Up comes M. Le Coadjuteur again, the Marshal de Meileraye
leading him by the hand up the Queen, and saying: ‘Here, Madame, is one
to whom I owe my life, but to whom your Majesty owes the safety of the
State, nay, perhaps of the palace.’’

The Queen smiled, seeing through it all, said my mother, and the
Coadjutor broke in: ‘The matter is not myself, Madame, it is Paris, now
disarmed and submissive, at your Majesty’s feet.’

‘It is very guilty, and far from submissive,’ said the Queen angrily;
‘pray, if it were so furious, how can it have been so rapidly tamed?’
And then M. de Meilleraye must needs break in furiously: ‘Madame, an
honest man cannot dissemble the state of things. If Broussel is not set
at liberty, tomorrow there will not be one stone upon another at Paris.’

But the Queen was firm, and put them both down, only saying: ‘Go and
rest, Monsieur, you have worked hard.’

‘Was that all the thanks he had?’ exclaimed Annora.

‘Of course it was, child. The Queen and Cardinal knew very well that the
tumult was his work; or at least immensely exaggerated by him, just to
terrify her into releasing that factious old mischief-maker! Why,
he went off I know not where, haranguing them from the top of his
carriage!’

‘Ah! that was where we saw him,’ said Nan. ‘Madame, indeed there was
nothing exaggerated in the tumult. It was frightful. They made ten times
the noise our honest folk do in England, and did ten times less. If they
had been English, M. Broussel would be safe at home now!’

‘No the tumult was not over-painted, that I can testify,’ said my
brother.

But when my mother came to hear how he and Annora had witnessed the
scene from the windows of M. Darpent’s house, her indignation knew no
bounds. I never saw her so angry with Eustace as she now was, that he
should have taken his sister into the house of one of these councillors;
a bourgeois house was bad enough, but that it should have been actually
one of the disaffected, and that the Darpent carriage should have been
seen at our door, filled her with horror. It was enough to ruin us all
for ever with the Court.

‘What have we to do with the Court?’ cried my sister, and this, of
course, only added fuel to the flame, till at last my mother came to
declaring that she should never trust her daughter with my brother
again, for he was not fit to take care of her.

But we were all surprised by Eustace, when he bade my mother good-night,
quietly bending his dark curled head, ad saying: ‘My mother, I ask your
pardon, I am sorry I offended you.’

‘My son, my dear son,’ she cried, embracing him. ‘Never think of it
more, only if we never go home, I cannot have your sister made a mere
bourgeoise.’

‘How could you, brother!’ cried Annora, waiting outside the door. ‘Now
you have owned yourself in the wrong!’

‘I have not said so, Nan,’ he answered. ‘I have simply said I was sorry
to have offended my mother, and that is true; I could not sleep under
her displeasure.’

‘But you do not care about ruining yourself with this perfidious foreign
Court.’

‘Not a rush, so long as I do not bring Meg and her son into danger.’

Things were quiet that night, but every one knew that it was only a lull
in the storm.

I set off to morning mass with my son and little Armantine as usual,
thinking all would be quiet so early in our part of the city, but before
the service was over there was the dull roar of the populace in a
fury to be heard in the distance, and Nicole met me at the church door
entreating me to get home as quickly as possible.

To my dismay there was a large heavy chain across the end of the
street, not such as to stop foot passengers, but barring the way
against carriages, and the street was fast filling with shopkeepers,
apprentices, market-women, and all sorts of people. The children clung
to my hands, half frightened and half eager. Suddenly we saw a carriage
stopped by the chain, and the people crowding round it. Out of it sprang
two gentlemen and a lady, and began hurrying forward like people hunted.
I drew the children back into the church porch, and was shocked to
see that those who were then fleeing in haste and terror were the
Chancellor, M. Seguier, with his brother, the Bishop of Meaux, and his
daughter the beautiful young Duchess de Sully. I tried to attract their
attention and draw them into the church as a place of safety, but
they were in too much haste and terror to perceive me, and a man began
shouting after them:

‘To arms, friends, to arms! There’s the enemy. Kill him! and we shall
have vengeance for all we suffer!’

The mob rushed after, shouting horribly. Armantine began to cry, and I
took her in my arms, while Nicole held my son.

The whole crowd rushed past us, never heeding us, as we stood above
them, and as we were only thirty yards from home I hoped soon to reach
it, though I hesitated, as the screeches, yells, and howls were still
to be heard lower down the street, and fresh parties of men, women, and
children kept rushing down to join the throng. If it should surge back
again before we could get home, what would become of us?

Suddenly Gaspard cried out: ‘My uncle!’ And there was indeed my brother.
‘Good heavens!’ he cried, ‘you there, sister! They told me you were gone
to church, but I could hardly believe it! Come home before the mob comes
back.’

I asked anxiously for the Chancellor, and heard he had escaped into the
Hotel de Luynes, which was three doors beyond ours. He had set out at
six in the morning for the palace, it was believed to take orders
for breaking up the Parliament. His daughter, thinking there might be
danger, chose to go with him, and so did his brother the Bishop; but
the instant he was known to be entangled in the streets, the mob rose
on him, the chains were put up, he had to leave his carriage and flee on
foot to the Hotel de Luynes, where his brother-in-law lived. There the
door was open, but no one was up but an old servant, and, in the utmost
terror, the unhappy Chancellor rushed into a little wainscoted closet,
where he shut himself up, confessing his sins to the Bishop, believing
his last moments were come. In fact, the mob did search all over the
hotel, some meaning to make him a hostage for Broussel, and others
shouting that they would cut him to pieces to show what fate awaited the
instruments of tyranny. They did actually beat against the wainscot
of his secret chamber, but hearing nothing, they left the spot, but
continued to keep guard round the house, shouting out execrations
against him.

Meantime Eustace had brought us safely home, where the first thing we
did was to hurry up to the balcony, where Annora was already watching
anxiously.

Presently, Marshal de Meilleraye and his light horse came galloping
and clattering down the street, while the mob fled headlong, hither and
thither, before them. A carriage was brought out, and the Chancellor
with his brother and daughter was put into it, but as they were driving
off the mob rallied again and began to pursue them. A shot was fired,
and a poor woman, under a heavy basket, fell. There was another outburst
of curses, screams, howls, yells, shots; and carriage, guards, people,
all rushed past us, the coach going at the full speed of its six horses,
amid a shower of stones, and even bullets, the guards galloping after,
sometimes firing or cutting with their swords, the people keeping up
with them at a headlong pace, pelting them with stones and dirt, and
often firing at them, for, indeed, the poor young Duchess received a
wound before they could reach the palace. Meanwhile others of the mob
began ransacking the Hotel de Luynes in their rage at the Chancellor’s
escape, and they made dreadful havoc of the furniture, although they did
not pillage it.

My mother wept bitterly, declaring that the evil days she had seen in
England were pursuing her to France; and we could not persuade her that
we were in no danger, until the populace, having done their worst at
the Hotel de Luynes, drifted away from our street. Eustace could not
of course bear to stay shut up and knowing nothing, and he and the Abbe
both went out different ways, leaving us to devour our anxiety as best
we could, knowing nothing but that there was a chain across each end of
our street, with a double row of stakes on either side, banked up with
earth, stones, straw, all sorts of things, and guarded by men with all
manner of queer old weapons that had come down from the wars of the
League. Eustace even came upon one of the old-fashioned arquebuses
standing on three legs to be fired; and, what was worse, there was a
gorget with the portrait of the murderer of Henri III. enameled on it,
and the inscription ‘S. Jacques Clement,’ but the Coadjutor had the
horrible thing broken up publicly. My brother said things did indeed
remind him of the rusty old weapons that were taken down at the
beginning of the Rebellion. He had been to M. Darpent’s, and found him
exceedingly busy, and had learned from him that the Coadjutor was at the
bottom of all this day’s disturbance. Yes, Archbishop de Gondi himself.
He had been bitterly offended at the mocking, mistrustful way in which
his services had been treated, and besides, reports came to him that
Cardinal talked of sending him of Quimper Corentin, and Broussel to
Havre, and the Chancellor to dismiss the Parliament! He had taken
counsel with his friends, and determined to put himself and the head
of the popular movement and be revenged upon the Court, and one of his
familiar associates, M. d’Argenteuil, had disguised himself as a
mason, and led the attack with a rule in his hand, while a lady, Madame
Martineau, had beaten the drum and collected the throng to guard the
gates and attack the Chancellor. There were, it was computed, no less
than 1260 barricades all over Paris, and the Parliament was perfectly
amazed at the excitement produced by the capture of Broussel. Finding
that they had such supporters, the Parliament was more than ever
determined to make a stand for its rights--whatever they might be.

The Queen had sent to command the Coadjutor to appease the sedition, but
he had answered that he had made himself so odious by his exertions of
the previous day that he could not undertake what was desired of him.

The next thing we heard was that the First President, Mathieu Mole,
one of the very best men then living, had gone at the head of sixty-six
Counsellors of Parliament, two and two, to seek an audience of the
Queen. They were followed by a huge multitude, who supposed Broussel to
be still at the Palais Royal.

The Counsellors were admitted, but the Queen was as obdurate as ever.
She told them that they, their wives and children, should answer for
this day’s work, and that a hundred thousand armed men should not force
her to give up her will. Then she got up from her chair, went out of the
room, and slammed the door! It is even said that she talked of hanging
a few of the Counsellors from the windows to intimidate the mob; but
Mademoiselle assured me that this was not true; though M. de Meilleraye
actually proposed cutting off Broussel’s head and throwing it out into
the street.

The Counsellors were kept waiting two hours in the Great Gallery, while
the mob roared outside, and the Cardinal, the Dukes of Orleans and
Longueville, and other great nobles, argued the matter with the Queen.
The Cardinal was, it seems, in a terrible fright. The Queen, full of
Spanish pride and high courage, would really have rather perished than
yielded to the populace; but Mazarin was more and more terrified, and
at last she yielded, and consented to his going to the Counsellors to
promise the release of the prisoners. He was trembling all over, and
made quite an absurd appearance, and presently the Parliament men
appeared again, carrying huge sealed letters; Broussel’s was borne by
his nephew in triumph. We could hear the Vivas! With which the people
greeted them, as the promise of restoration was made known. At eleven at
night there was a fresh outcry, but this was of joy, for M. Blancmesnil
had actually come back from Vincennes; but the barricades were not taken
down. There was to be no laying down of arms till Broussel appeared, and
there were strange noises all night, preventing sleep.

At eight o’clock the next morning Broussel had not appeared; the people
were walking about in a sullen rage, and this was made worse by a
report that there were 10,000 soldiers in the Bois de Boulogne ready
to chastise the people. We could see from our house-top the glancing or
arms at every barricade where the sun could penetrate, and in the midst
came one of the servants announcing Monsieur Clement Darpent.

He had a sword by his side, and pistols at his belt, and he said that he
was come to assure the ladies that there would be no danger for them. If
any one tried to meddle with the house, we might say we were friends
of M. Darpent, and we should be secure. If the account of the soldiers
outside were true, the people were determined not to yield to such
perfidy; but he did not greatly credit it, only it was well to be
prepared.

‘Alas! my friend,’ said Eustace, ‘this has all too much the air of
rebellion.’

‘We stand on our rights and privileges,’ said Darpent. ‘We uphold them
in the King’s name against the treachery of a Spanish woman and an
Italian priest.’

‘You have been sorely tried,’ said Eustace; ‘but I doubt me whether
anything justifies taking arms against the Crown.’

‘Ah! I am talking to a Cavalier,’ said Clement. ‘But I must not argue
the point. I must to my barricade.’

Nan here came forward, and desired him to carry her commendations and
thanks to Madame sa mere, and he bowed, evidently much gratified. She
durst not go the length of offering her good wishes, and she told me I
ought to have been thankful to her for the forbearance, when, under a
strong sense of duty, I reproved her. Technically he was only Maitre
Darpent, and his mother only would have been called Mademoiselle.
Monsieur and Madame were much more jealously limited to nobility than
they are now becoming, and the Darpents would not purchase a patent of
nobility to shelter themselves from taxation. For, as Eustace said, the
bourgeoisie had its own chivalry of ideas.

There was no more fighting. By ten o’clock Broussel was in the city, the
chains were torn down, the barricades leveled, and he made a triumphal
progress. He was taken first to Notre Dame, and as he left the carriage
his old dressing-gown was almost torn to pieces, every one crowding
to kiss it, or his feet, calling him their father and protector, and
anxiously inquiring for his health. A Te Deum was sung--if not so
splendid, much more full of the ring of joy than the grand one two days
before! Engravings of his portrait were sold about the streets, bearing
the inscription ‘Pierre Broussel, father of his country;’ and the
good-natured old man seemed quite bewildered at the honours that had
befallen him.

There were a few more alarms that night and the next day, but at last
they subsided, the barricades were taken down, and things returned to
their usual state, at least to all outward appearance.



CHAPTER XVII. -- A PATIENT GRISEL



Matters seemed to be getting worse all round us both in France and
England. King Charles was in the hands of his enemies, and all the
good news that we could hear from England was that the Duke of York had
escaped in a girl’s dress, and was on board the fleet at helvoetsluys,
where his brother the Prince of Wales jointed him.

And my own dear brother, Lord Walwyn, declared that he could no longer
remain inactive at Paris, so far from intelligence, but that he must be
with the Princes, ready to assist in case anything should be attempted
on the King’s behalf. We much dreaded the effect of the Dutch climate on
his health. And while tumultuous assemblies were constantly taking place
in Parliament, and no one could guess what was coming next, we did not
like parting with our protector; but he said that he was an alien, and
could do nothing for us. The army was on its way home, and with it our
brother de Solivet, and M. d’Aubepine; and his clear duty was to be
ready to engage in the cause of his own King. We were in no danger at
Paris, our sex was sufficient protection, and if we were really alarmed,
there could be no reason against our fleeing to Nid de Merle. Nay,
perhaps, if the Court were made to take home the lesson, we might be
allowed to reside there, and be unmolested in making improvements. He
had another motive, which he only whispered to me.

‘I cannot, and will not, give up my friend Darpent; and it is not
fitting to live in continual resistance to my mother. It does much harm
to Annora, who is by no means inclined to submit, and if I am gone there
can be no further question of intercourse.’

I thought this was hard upon us all. Had we not met M. Darpent at the
Hotel Rambouillet, and was he not a fit companion for us?

‘Most assuredly,’ said Eustace; ‘but certain sentiments may arise from
companionship which in her case were better avoided.’

As you may imagine, my grandchildren, I cried out in horror at the
idea that if M. Darpent were capable of such presumption, my sister, a
descendant of the Ribaumonts, could stoop for a moment to favour a mere
bourgeois; but Eustace, Englishman as he was, laughed at my indignation,
and said Annora was more of the Ribmont than the de Ribaumont, and that
he would not be accessory either to the breaking of hearts or to letting
her become rebellious, and so that he should put temptation out of her
way. I knew far too well what was becoming to allow myself to suppose
for a moment that Eustace thought an inclination between the two already
could exist. I forgot how things had been broken up in England.

As to Annora, she thought Eustace’s right place was with the Prince,
and she would not stretch out a finger to hold him back, only she longed
earnestly that he would take us with him. Could he not persuade our
mother that France was becoming dangerous, and that she would be safe
in Holland? But of course he only laughed at that; and we all saw that
unless the Queen of England chose to follow her sons, there was no
chance of my mother leaving the Court.

‘No, my sister,’ said Eustace tenderly, ‘there is nothing for you to
do but to endure patiently. It is very hard for you to be both firm and
resolute, and at the same time dutiful; but it is a noble part in its
very difficulty, and my Nan will seek strength for it.’

Then the girl pressed up to him, and told him that one thing he must
promise her, namely, that he would prevent my mother from disposing of
her hand without his consent.

‘As long as you are here I am safe,’ said she; ‘but when you are gone I
do not know what she may attempt. And here is this Solivet son of hers
coming too!’

‘Solivet has no power over you,’ said Eustace. ‘You may make yourself
easy, Nan. Nobody can marry you without my consent, for my father
made me your guardian. And I doubt me if your portion, so long as I am
living, be such as to tempt any man to wed such a little fury, even were
we at home.’

‘Thanks for the hint, brother,’ said Annora. ‘I will take care that any
such suitor SHALL think me a fury.’

‘Nay, child, in moderation! Violence is not strength. Nay, rather it
exhausts the forces. Resolution and submission are our watchwords.’

How noble he looked as he said it, and how sad it was to part with him!
my mother wept most bitterly, and said it was cruel to leave us to our
fate, and that he would kill himself in the Dutch marshes; but when the
actual pain of parting with him was over, I am not sure that she had not
more hope of carrying out her wishes. She would have begun by forbidding
Annora to go, attended only by the servants, to prayers at the England
ambassador’s: but Eustace had foreseen this, and made arrangements with
a good old knight and his lady, Sir Francis Ommaney, always to call for
my sister on their way to church, and she was always ready for them. My
mother used to say that her devotion was all perverseness, and now and
then, when more than usually provoked with her, would declare that it
was quite plain that her poor child’s religion was only a heresy, since
it did not make her a better daughter.

That used to sting Annora beyond all measure. Sometimes she would reply
by pouring out a catalogue of all the worst offences of our own Church,
and Heaven knows she could find enough of them! Or at others she would
appeal to the lives of all the best people she had ever heard of in
England, and especially of Eustace, declaring that she knew she herself
was far from good, but that was not the fault of her religion, but of
herself; and she would really strive to be submissive and obliging for
many days afterwards.

Meantime the Prince of Conde had returned, and had met the Court at
Ruel. M. d’Aubepine and M. de Solivet both were coming with him, and
my poor little Cecile wrote letter after letter to her husband, quite
correct in grammar and orthography, asking whether she should have the
Hotel d’Aubepine prepared, and hire servants to receive him; but she
never received a line in reply. She was very anxious to know whether the
concierge had received any orders, and yet she could not bear to betray
her ignorance.

I had been startled by passing in the street a face which I was almost
sure belonged to poor Cecile’s former enemy, Mademoiselle Gringrimeau,
now the wife of Croquelebois, the intendant of the estate; and setting
old Nicole to work, I ascertained that this same agent and his wife were
actually at the Hotel d’Aubepine, having come to meet their master, but
that no apartments were made ready for him, as it was understood that
being on the staff he would be lodge in the Hotel de Conde.

‘His duty!’ said Cecile; ‘he must fulfil his duty, but at least I shall
see him.’

But to hear of the intendant and his wife made me very uneasy.

The happier wives were going out in their carriages to meet their
husbands on the road, but Cecile did not even know when he was coming,
nor by what road.

‘So much the better,’ said our English Nan. ‘If I had a husband, I would
never make him look foolish in the middle of the road with a woman and a
pack of children hanging on him!’

No one save myself understood her English bashfulness, shrinking from
all display of sentiment, and I--ah! I had known such blissful meetings,
when my Philippe had been full of joy to see me come out to meet him.
Ah! will he meet me thus at the gates of Paradise? It cannot be far off
now!

I knew I should weep all the way if I set out with my mother to meet
her son; and Cecile was afraid both of the disappointment if she did not
meet her husband, and of his being displeased if he should come. So she
only took with her Annora and M. de Solivet’s two daughters, Gabrielle
and Petronille, who were fetched from the Convent of the Visitation.
There they sat in the carriage, Nan told me, exactly alike in their
pensionnaire’s uniform, still and shy on the edge of the seat, not
daring to look to the right or left, and answering under their breath,
so that she longed to shake them. I found afterwards that the heretic
Mademoiselle de Ribaumont was a fearful spectacle to them, and that they
were expecting her all the time to break out in the praises of Luther,
or of Henry VIII., or of some one whom they had been taught to execrate;
and whenever she opened her lips they thought she was going to pervert
them, and were quite surprised when she only made a remark, like other
people, on the carriages and horsemen who passed them.

Meanwhile Cecile saw her little girl and boy dressed in their best, and
again rehearsed the curtsey and the bow and the little speeches with
which they were to meet their father. She was sure, she said, that
whatever he might think of her, he must be enchanted with them; and
truly they had beautiful eyes, and Armantine was a charming child,
though Maurice was small and pale, and neither equaled my Gaspard, who
might have been White Ribaumont for height and complexion, resembling
much his uncle Walwyn, and yet in countenance like his father. Then
Cecile and I, long before it was reasonable, took our station near a
window overlooking the porte-cochere. I sat with my work, while the
children watched on the window-seat, and she, at every exclamation of
theirs, leaped up to look out, but only to see some woodcutter with his
pile of faggots, or a washer-woman carrying home a dress displayed on
its pole, or an ell of bread coming in from the baker’s; and she resumed
her interrupted conversation on her security that for the children’s
sake her husband would set up his household together with her at the
Hotel d’Aubepine. She had been learning all she could, while she was
with us, and if she could only be such that he need not be ashamed of
her, and would love her only a little for his children’s sake, how happy
she should be!

I encouraged her, for her little dull provincial convent air was quite
gone; she had acquired the air of society, my mother had taught her
something of the art of dress, and though nothing would ever make her
beautiful in feature, or striking in figure, she had such a sweet,
pleading, lovely expression of countenance that I could not think how
any one could resist her. At last it was no longer a false alarm. The
children cried out, not in vain. The six horses were clattering under
the gateway, the carriage came in sight before the steps. Cecile dropped
back in her chair as pale as death, murmuring: ‘Tell me if he is there!’

Alas! ‘he’ was not there. I only saw M. de Solivet descend from the
carriage and hand out my mother, my sister, and his two daughters. I
could but embrace my poor sister-in-law, and assure her that I would
bring her tidings of her husband, and then hurry away with Gaspard that
I might meet my half-brother at the salon door. There he was, looking
very happy, with a daughter in each hand, and they had lighted up into
something like animation, which made Petronille especially show that she
might some day be pretty. He embraced me, like the good-natured friendly
brother he had always been, and expressed himself perfectly amazed at
the growth and beauty of my little Marquis, as well he might be, for my
mother and I both agreed that there was not such another child among all
the King’s pages.

I asked, as soon as I could, for M. d’Aubepine, and heard that he was
attending the Prince, who would, of course, first have to dress, and
then to present himself to the Queen-Regent, and kiss her hand, after
which he would go to Madame de Longueville’s reception of the King. It
was almost a relief to hear that the Count was thus employed, and I sent
my son to tell his aunt that she might be no longer in suspense.

I asked Solivet whether we might expect the young man on leaving the
Louvre, and he only shrugged his shoulders and said: ‘What know I?’
It became plain to me that he would not discuss the matter before his
daughters, now fourteen and fifteen, and we all had to sit down to an
early supper, after which they were to be taken back to their convent.
M. d’Aubepine appeared, and was quite cheerful, for she figured to
herself once more that her husband was only detained by his duties and
his value to his Prince, and was burning every moment to see his little
ones. She asked questions about him, and became radiant when she heard
of his courage at Lens, and the compliments that M. le Prince had paid
to him.

After supper the little pensionnaires were to be taken back, and as
some lady must escort them, I undertook the charge, finding with great
delight that their father would accompany them likewise. I effaced
myself as much as I could on the way, and let the father and daughters
talk to one another; and they chattered freely about their tasks, and
works, and playfellows, seeming very happy with him.

But on the way home was my opportunity, and I asked what my half-brother
really thought of M. d’Aubepine.

‘He is a fine young man,’ he said.

‘You have told me that before; but what hopes are there for his wife?’

‘Poor little thing,’ returned Solivet.

‘Can he help loving her?’ I said

‘Alas! my sister, he has been in a bad school, and has before him
an example--of courage, it is true, but not precisely of conjugal
affection.’

‘Is it true, then,’ I asked, ‘that the Princess of Conde is kept utterly
in the background in spite of her mother-in-law, and that the Prince
publishes his dislike to her?’

‘Perfectly true,’ said my brother. ‘When a hero, adored by his officers,
actually declares that the only thing he does not wish to see in France
is his wife, what can you expect of them? Even some who really love
their wives bade them remain at home, and will steal away to see them
with a certain shame; and for Aubepine, he is only too proud to resemble
the Prince in being married against his will to a little half-deformed
child, who is to be avoided.’

I cried out at this, and demanded whether my little sister-in-law could
possibly be thus described. He owned that she was incredibly improved,
and begged my pardon and hers, saying that he was only repeating what
Aubepine either believed or pretended to believe her to be.

‘If I could only speak with him!’ I said. ‘For my husband’s sake I used
to have some influence with him. I would give the world to meet him
before he sees the intendant and his wife. Could we contrive it?’

In a few moments we had settled it. Happily we were both in full dress,
in case friends should have dropped in on us. Both of us had the entree
at Madame de Longueville’s, and it would be quite correct to pay her our
compliments on the return of her brother.

I believe Solivet a little questioned whether one so headstrong had not
better be left to himself, but he allowed that no one had ever done as
much with Armand d’Aubepine as my husband and myself, and when he heard
my urgent wish to forestall the intendant, whose wife was Cecile’s old
tyrant, Mademoiselle de Gringrimeau, he thought it worth the venture. He
said I was a warlike Gildippe still, and that he would stand by me.

So the coachman received his orders; we fell in among the long line of
carriages, and in due time made our way to the salon, where Madame le
Duchesse de Longueville sat enthroned in all the glory of her fair hair
and beautiful complexion, toying with her fan as she conversed with the
Prince of Marsillac, the most favoured at that time of a whole troop of
admirers and devoted slaves. She was not an intellectual woman herself,
but she had beyond all others who I ever saw the power of leading
captive the very ablest men.

The hero had not yet come from the palace, and having made our
compliments, and received a gracious smile and nod, we stood aside,
waiting and conversing with others, and in some anxiety lest the Prince
should be detained at the Louvre. However, before long he came, and
his keen eagle face, and the stars on his breast, flashed on us, as he
returned the greetings of one group after another in his own peculiar
manner, haughty, and yet not without a certain charm.

A troop of officers followed, mingling with the gay crowd of ladies and
gentlemen, and among them Solivet pointed out the Count d’Aubepine. I
should not otherwise have known him, so much was he altered in these six
years, changing him from youth to manhood. His hair was much darker, he
had a small pointed beard, and the childish contour of cheek and
chin had passed away, and he was altogether developed, but there was
something that did not reassure me. He seemed to have lost, with his
boyhood, that individuality which we had once loved, and to have
passed into an ordinary officer, like all the rest of the gay, dashing,
handsome, but often hardened-looking men, who were enjoying their
triumphant return into ladies’ society.

Solivet had accosted him. I saw his eye glance anxiously round, then he
seemed reassured, and came towards me with some eagerness, greeting me
with some compliment, I know not what, on my appearance; but I cut this
as short as I could be saying: ‘Know you, Monsieur, why I am here? I am
come to ask you to bestow a little half-hour on one who is longing to
see you.’

‘Madame, I am desolated to refuse you, but, you see, I am in attendance,
and on duty; I am not the master!’

However, my brother observed that he would not be required for at least
two hours, and his movements would be quite free until the party broke
up. And after a little importunity, I actually carried him off, holding
up his hands and declaring that he could not withstand Madame de
Bellaise, so as to cast over his concession an air of gallantry without
which I believe his vanity would never have yielded.

However, I had my hopes; I would not blame him when I had such an
advantage over him as having him shut up with me in my coach, for we
left Solivet to make his excuses, and as we told him, for a hostage, to
come back when I released my prisoner. I trusted more to the effect of
the sight of my sweet little Cecile than to any exhortation in my power;
indeed, I thought I had better keep him in good humour by listening
amiably to his explanation of the great favour that he was doing me in
coming to see Madame, my mother, and how indispensable he was to M. le
Prince.

He must have known what I was carrying him to see, but he did not choose
to show that he did, and when he gave me his arm and I took him into
the pansy salon, there sat my mother with my sister, two or three old
friends who had come to congratulate her, and to see M. de Solivet, and
Cecile, who had not been able to persuade herself to send her children
to bed, though she knew not of my audacious enterprises.

I saw that he did not know her in the least, as he advanced to my
mother, as the lady of the house, and in one moment I recollected how my
grandfather had fallen in love with my grandmother without knowing she
was his life. Cecile, crimson all over, with her children beside her,
sprang forward, her heart telling her who he was. ‘Ah, Monsieur, embrace
your son,’ she murmured. And little Armantine and Maurice, as they
had been tutored, made their pretty reverences, and said, ‘Welcome, my
papa.’

He really was quite touched. There was something, too, in the
surroundings which was sympathetic. He embraced them all, and evidently
looked at his wife with amazement, sitting down at last beside her with
his little boy upon his knee.

We drew to the farther end of the room that they might be unembarrassed.
Annora was indignant that we did not leave them alone, but I thought he
wanted a certain check upon him, and that it was good for him to be in
the presence of persons who expected him to be delighted to see his wife
and children.

I believe that that quarter of an hour was actual pain to Cecile from
the very overflowing rush of felicity. To have her husband seated beside
her, with his son upon his knee, had been the dream and prayer of her
life for six years, and now that it was gratified the very intensity of
her hopes and fears choked her, made her stammer and answer at random,
when a woman without her depth of affection might have put out all kinds
of arts to win and detain him.

After a time he put the child down, but still held his hand, came up to
the rest of the company and mingled with it. I could have wished they
had been younger and more fashionable, instead of a poor old Scottish
cavalier and his wife, my mother’s old contemporary Madame de
Delincourt, and a couple of officers waiting for Solivet. Annora was the
only young brilliant creature there, and she had much too low an opinion
of M. d’Aubepine to have a word to say to him, and continued to converse
in English with old Sir Andrew Macniven about the campaigns of the
Marquis of Montrose, both of them hurling out barbarous names that were
enough to drive civilized ears out of the room.

Our unwilling guest behaved with tolerably good grace, and presently
made his excuse to my mother and me, promising immediately to send back
Solivet to his friends. His wife went with him into the outer room, and
when in a few minutes Armantine ran back to call me--

‘Papa is gone, and mama is crying,’ she said.

It was true, but they were tears of joy. Cecile threw herself on my
bosom perfectly overwhelmed with happiness, poor little thing, declaring
that she owed it all to me, and that though he could not remain now, he
had promised that she should hear from him. He was enchanted with his
children; indeed, how could he help it? And she would have kept me up
all night, discussing every hair of his moustache, every tone in the few
words he had spoken to her. When at last I parted from her I could
not help being very glad. Was the victory indeed won, and would my
Philippe’s sister become a happy wife?

I trusted that now he had seen her he would be armed against Madame
Croquelebois, who you will remember had been his grandmother’s dame de
compagnie, and a sort of governess to him. She had petted him as much as
she had afterwards tyrannized over his poor little wife, and might still
retain much influence over him, which she was sure to exert against me.
But at any rate he could not doubt of his wife’s adoration for him.

We waited in hope. We heard of the Prince in attendance on the
Queen-Regent, and we knew his aide-de-camp could not be spared, and we
went on expecting all the morning and all the evening, assuring Cecile
that military duty was inexorable, all the time that we were boiling
over with indignation.

My mother was quite as angry as we were, and from her age and position
could be more effective. She met M. d’Aubepine one evening at the
Louvre, and took him to task, demanding when his wife was to hear from
him, and fairly putting him out of countenance in the presence of the
Queen of England. She came home triumphant at what she had done, and
raised our hopes again, but in fact, though it impelled him to action,
there was now mortified vanity added to indifference and impatience of
the yoke.

There was a letter the next day. Half an hour after receiving it I
found Cecile sunk down on the floor of her apartment, upon which all her
wardrobe was strewn about as if to be packed up. She fell into my arms
weeping passionately, and declaring she must leave us. to leave us and
set up her menage with her husband had always been her ambition, so
it was plain that this was not what she meant; but for a long time she
neither would nor could tell me, or moan out anything but a ‘convent,’
‘how could he?’ and ‘my children.’

At last she let me read the letter, and a cruel one it was, beginning
‘Madame,’ and giving her the choice of returning to Chateau d’Aubepine
under the supervision of Madame Croquelebois, or of entering a convent,
and sending her son to be bred up at the Chateau under a tutor and the
intendant. She had quite long enough lived with Madame de Bellaise, and
that young Englishman, her brother, who was said to be charming.

It was an absolute insult to us all, and as I saw at once was the work
of Madame Croquelebois, accepted by the young Count as a convenient
excuse for avoiding the ennui and expense of setting up a household with
his wife, instead of living a gay bachelor life with his Prince. I did
not even think it was his handwriting except the signature, an idea
which gave the first ray of comfort to my poor sister-in-law. It was
quite provoking to find that she had no spirit to resent, or even
to blame; she only wept that any one should be so cruel, and, quite
hopeless of being heard on her own defence, was ready to obey, and
return under the power of her oppressor, if only she might keep her
son. All the four years she had lived with us had not taught her
self-assertion, and the more cruelly she was wounded, the meeker she
became.

The Abbe said she was earning a blessing; but I felt, like Annora, much
inclined to beat her, when she would persist in loving and admiring that
miserable fellow through all, and calling him ‘so noble.’

We did not take things by any means so quietly. We were the less sorry
for my brother’s absence that such an insinuation almost demanded a
challenge, though in truth I doubt whether they would have dared to make
it had he been at hand. Annora did wish she could take sword or pistols
in hand and make him choke on his own words, and she was very angry that
our brother de Solivet was much too cool and prudent to take Eustace’s
quarrel on himself.

Here, however, it was my mother who was most reasonable, and knew best
how to act. She said that it was true that as this was my house, and the
charge of M. d’Aubepine had been committed to me, I had every right to
be offended; but as she was the eldest lady in the house it was suitable
for her to act. She wrote a billet to him demanding a personal interview
with him that he might explain the insinuations which concerned the
honour of herself, her son, and her daughter.

I believe a duel would have been much more agreeable to him than such
a meeting, but my mother so contrived it that he knew that he could not
fail to meet her without its being known to the whole Court, and that he
could not venture. So he came, and I never saw anything more admirably
managed than the conference was on my mother’s part, for she chose to
have me present as mistress of the house. She had put on her richest
black velvet suit, and looked a most imposing chatelaine, and though he
came in trying to carry it off with military bravado and nonchalance, he
was evidently ill at ease.

My mother then demanded of him, in her own name, her son’s, and mine,
what right or cause he had to make such accusations, as he had implied,
respecting our house.

He laughed uneasily, and tried to make light of it, talking of reports,
and inferences, and so on; but my mother, well assured that there was no
such scandal, drove him up into a corner, and made him confess that he
had heard nothing but from Madame Croquelebois. My mother then insisted
on that lady being called for, sending her own sedan chair to bring her.

Now the Baronne de Ribaumont Walwyn was a veritable grande dame, and
Madame Croquelebois, in spite of her sharp nose, and sharper tongue, was
quite cowed by her, and absolutely driven to confess that she had not
heard a word against Madame la Comtesse. All that she had gone upon was
the fact of their residence in the same house, and that a servant of
hers had heard from a servant of ours that M. le Baron gave her his hand
to go in to dinner every day when there were no visitors.

It all became plain then. The intendant’s wife, who had never forgiven
me for taking her victim away from her, had suggested this hint as an
excuse for withdrawing the Countess from me, without obliging the Count
to keep house with her, and becoming the attentive husband, who seemed,
to his perverted notions, a despicable being. Perhaps neither of
them had expected the matter to be taken up so seriously, and an old
country-bred Huguenot as Madame Croquelebois had originally been,
thought that as we were at Court, gallantry was our natural atmosphere.

Having brought them to confession, we divided them. My mother talked to
the intendante, and made her perceive what a wicked, cruel injustice and
demoralization she was leading her beloved young Count into committing,
injuring herself and his children, till the woman actually wept, and
allowed that she had not thought of it; she wanted to gratify him, and
she felt it hard and ungrateful that she should not watch over his wife
and children as his grandmother had always intended.

On my side I had M. d’Aubepine, and at last I worked down to the
Armand I had known at Nancy, not indeed the best of subjects, but still
infinitely better than the conceited, reckless man who had appeared
at first. The one thing that touched him was that I should think him
disrespectful to me, and false to his friendship for my husband. He
really had never thought his words would hurt me for a moment. He
actually shed tears at the thought of my Philippe, and declared that
nothing was farther from his intention than any imputation on any one
belonging to me.

But bah! he was absolutely driven to find some excuse! How could he play
the devoted husband to a little ugly imbecile like that, who would make
him ridiculous every moment they appeared together? Yes, he knew I
had done the best I could for her, but what was she after all? And her
affection was worst of all. Everybody would made game of him.

There was no getting farther. The example of the Prince of Conde and the
fear of ridicule had absolutely steeled his heart and blinded his eyes.
He could not and would not endure the innocent wife who adored him.

Finally my mother, calling in Solivet, came to the following
arrangement, since it was plain that we must part with our inmates.
Cecile and her children were to be installed in the Hotel d’Aubepine, to
which her husband did not object, since he would be either in attendance
on the Prince, or with his regiment. This was better than sending her
either to a convent or to the country, since she would still be within
our reach, although to our great vexation we could not prevail so far
as to hinder Madame Croquelebois from being installed as her duenna, the
intendant himself returning to La Vendee.

To our surprise, Cecile did not seem so much dismayed at returning
under the power of her tyrant as we had expected. It was doing what her
husband wished, and living where she would have news of him, and perhaps
sometimes see him.

That was all she seemed to think about, except that she would have her
children still with her, and not be quite cut off from us.

And I took this consolation, that she was in better health and a woman
of twenty-two could not be so easily oppressed as a sickly child of
sixteen.

But we were very unhappy about it, and Annora almost frantic, above all
at Cecile’s meek submission. She was sure the poor thing would be dead
in a month, and then we should be sorry.



CHAPTER XVIII. -- TWELFTH NIGHT, OR WHAT YOU WILL.

My mother declared that M. d’Aubepine would fare the better if we left
her alone and did not excite the jealousy of Madame Croquelebois, who
would be quite capable of carrying her off into the country if she were
interfered with.

Indeed it was not an easy or a pleasant thing to go about Paris just
then, and we were obliged to stay at home. The town was in a restless
state, mobs went about, hooting or singing political songs, or assembled
in front of the Louvre to abuse the Cardinal, and any one who was
supposed to belong to the Court party might at any time be mobbed.
Annora and I much missed the explanations that our brother, Lord Walwyn,
used to make to us; and the listening to his conversations with M.
Darpent. The Duchess de Rambouillet and her family had wisely retired
to their estates, so that there were no more meetings in the Salon Bleu;
and after what my brother had said to me, I durst not make the slightest
demonstration towards Clement Darpent, though I continued to give
my weekly receptions to our poor hungry cavaliers, as I had promised
Eustace that I would do. It was from one of them, Sir Andrew Macniven, a
clever man who had been a law student in Scotland and at Leyden, that we
came to some understanding of what was going on around us.

Under the great Cardinal de Richelieu, the Crown had taken more
authority then ever, and raised taxes at its will. The Parliament was
only permitted to register the edicts of the Crown, but not to refuse
them, as it claimed to do. As nobody who was noble paid taxes the
noblesse did not care, and there had hitherto seemed to be no redress.
But at this moment, when the war taxes were weighing more heavily than
ever, and the demand of a house-tax had irritated the people of Paris,
there were a very large number of the nobility much incensed against
Cardinal Mazarin, and very jealous of his favour with the Queen-Regent.
What they would endure from a French nobleman like Richelieu they
abhorred from a low-born foreigner such Mazarin was; and it seemed to
the Parliament that this was the moment to make a stand, since they had
the populace on their side, and likewise so many of the Court party.
There was the Archbishop of Corinth, the Coadjutor to the Archbishop of
Paris, who had been mortally offended by the way in which the Queen
had treated him on the day of the barricades; there was the handsome,
fair-haired Duke of Beaufort, a grandson of Henri IV., who used to
be called ‘Le roi des halles,’ he was such a favourite with the
market-women; there was the clever brilliant Prince de Marsillac
(you know will his maxims, written after he had become Duke of
Rochefoucauld). He could do anything with Madame de Longueville; and she
was thought able to do anything with her brothers, the Prince of Code
and Conti. Every one had been watching to see what side the Prince would
take, but at this time he seemed inclined to the Crown, though it was
not likely he could go on long without quarrelling with Mazarin. All
this made the Frondeurs hope much from beginning to resist; but I
remember Sir Andrew said that he did not believe that these nobles and
princes cared in the least for relieving the people, but merely for
overthrowing the Cardinal, and he could not find out that the Parliament
had any definite scheme, or knew what they wished. In fact, Sir
Andrew dreaded any movement. He had been so much disappointed, and so
broken-hearted at the loss of friends and the ruin of the country, that
his only thought was to leave all alone. And above all he so thought,
when every letter from England told how the enemy were proceeding to
hunt down his Sacred Majesty.

What a change it was when my son and I had to go into waiting at the
Louvre! Before the Queen-Regent there was nothing but vituperation of
the Parliament, but the Duke of Orleans hates the Cardinal quite as much
as the Parisians did; and his daughter, Mademoiselle, wanted him to
lead the Frondeuse, and chatted to me of her plan of leading the party,
together with the Prince of Conde, whom she eagerly desired to marry if
his poor wife could be divorced. I used to shake my head at her and say
I knew she was too good at the bottom to desire anything so shocking,
and she took it in good part. She was much better than she chose to
seem.

Thus the eve of the Epiphany came, and there was a feast for the King
and his little companions. Gaspard had the Bean, and the Queen crowned
him and made him King of the night. King Louis himself had to bend the
knee, which he did with the best grace in the world. (You must all have
seen the little enamelled Bean-flower badge that your father received on
that night.)

Every one went to see the children at their feast, where the little
English lady Henrietta sat between her two royal cousins, looking like
a rosebud, all ignorant, poor child, of the said disaster which was
falling on her. Her mother was looking on, smiling in the midst of her
cares to see the children’s glee.

The Queen-Regent was in the highest spirits. We had never seen her
dignity so relax into merriment as when she set the little ones to dance
together after the supper was over; but she sent them to bed early,
much earlier than her sons desired. We heard his real Majesty saying to
Gaspard, ‘M. le Marquis, since you are King of the Bean, command that we
should be like all other revelers, and sit up till morning.’

My boy looked up to me, and read in my face that he must not presume.

‘Ah! sire,’ said he, ‘though we are called kings, these ladies are the
higher powers.’

It was applauded as a grand witticism, although Gaspard meant it in all
simplicity, and had no notion of the meaning attributed to it. Nay, he
thought all the praise was approval of him as a good boy inducing the
King to be obedient.

After the children had gone to bed, including Mademoiselle’s three
little half-sisters, dull little girls of whom she spoke contemptuously
but always treated very kindly, she led the way to the apartment where
her father was sitting by a great fire, fretful with gout, and wanting
the amusement which she tried to give him by describing the children’s
diversions. Some one came and whispered something to her, and in the
tone of one who has an excellent joke to rehearse she went up to the
Duke of Orleans, exclaiming--

‘Monsieur! Here is news! We are all to start for St. Germain this very
night!’

Monsieur made no answer, and immediately after bade her good night.
She then went to her stepmother’s room, and I remained with some of the
other ladies, who were pretty well convinced that it was a true report,
and that the Queen had been only waiting the arrival of the troops
from the Low Countries to quit Paris and crush the resistance of the
Parliament. What was to become of us we did not know, whether we were to
stay or go; but as we heard no more, and Mademoiselle came out and went
to bed, we followed her example.

Between three and four we were all awakened by a loud knocking at the
door, and Mademoiselle’s shrill voice calling out to her maids to
open it. Through the anteroom, where the Comtess de Fiesque and I
were sleeping, there came M. de Comminges. Mademoiselle, in her laced
night-cap, rose on her pillows and asked--

‘Are we going?’

‘Yes, Mademoiselle,’ was the reply. ‘The King, the Queen, and Monsieur,
are waiting for you in the court, and here is a letter from Monsieur.’

She put it aside, saying she did not want Monsieur’s orders to make her
obey those of the Queen, but he begged her to read it. She glanced
at it, and then declared that she would be ready immediately. M. de
Comminges departed, and then began the greatest bustle imaginable,
everybody dressing at once in the greatest confusion, putting on each
other’s things by mistake, and Mademoiselle talking--talking through
all.

They were afraid to leave her behind, she said, lest she should have
headed a party. No doubt M. le Prince dreaded her influence, and so did
the Queen. They had made her father issue his commands without warning
lest she should disobey.

In fact she had the greatest desire to disobey, only she did not quite
venture, and we her ladies had no notion what we were to do, whether to
stay or go, while I was in great anxiety as to what they might have done
with my boy.

Somehow or other we all found ourselves in the court of the Louvre,
strongly lighted by flambeaux, and by the windows of the building. There
stood a row of carriages; Mademoiselle called for hers, but it was not
forthcoming, and M. de Comminges, bowing low, offered her his own;
but another gentleman came up and handed her into the royal one, where
already were the King and Queen, the two Princesses of Conde, the Prince
of Conti, and a lady.

I heard Mademoiselle asserting her right to one of the best seats, and
then declaring that she yielded ‘as the young must give place to the
old,’ a little cut at the Princess Dowager of Conde. She bade M. de
Fiesque follow with her carriage and properties, and we were left in the
most wonderful confusion in that dark court, the carriages moving away
one after another, the mounted servants carrying torches, and the guards
trampling and clinking behind them; servants, gentlemen, and ladies
running about wildly, some of the women crying and wringing their hands.
Among these was Madame de Fiesque, who was of a timid nature, and was
frightened out of her wits at the notion of having to follow, whither
she did not even know, while I was equally wild, though I hope I did not
make quite so much noise, about my son.

One of the gentlemen at last came and spoke to us, and told us that the
King and Queen were gone to St. Germain. It had all been determined upon
for some time past (as soon in fact as the Queen knew that the Prince of
Conde would support her, and that the troops were near enough to be
of use), and this night had been chosen because she could get off more
easily in a time of revelry. Monsieur had known it all the evening, but
had been afraid to tell his daughter because of ‘her ideas,’ which meant
that he was by no means sure that she might choose to obey, unless she
were taken by surprise, but might want to represent the House of Orleans
at Paris. The Queen of England was not gone; and, as to M. le Marquis de
Nidemerle--

That question was answered by a sound of bare, pattering feet, and a cry
of ‘Mamma, mamma!’ and my little Marquis himself, with nothing on
but his little white shirt and black velvet breeches, his long hair
streaming behind him, came and threw himself on me, followed by two or
three more little fellows in the same state of dishabille. ‘Oh, mamma!’
he cried, ‘we thought they were all gone, and had left us to be murdered
by the cruel Parliament; and then I saw you from the window in the
court.’ So there they all were, except one little Count from Burgundy,
who slept serenely through the tumult.

By this time we could recollect that it was a January night, and that
we had better retreat into the great hall, where the fire was not out.
I had a great mind, since we were thus deserted, to return home with my
son, but my poor Princess could not be left without a single attendant,
or any clothes save what had been huddled on in haste, nor perhaps even
a bed, for we knew that St. Germain was dismantled of furniture, and
that no preparations had been made for fear of giving alarm.

M. de Fiesque declared that she should die if she tried to pass the
streets of Paris, where we began to hear loud cries. The maids seemed
to have all run away, and she implored me to go, with all that was most
necessary, to Mademoiselle.

‘You are English! You are a very Gildippe. You have been in the
wars--you fear nothing,’ said the poor woman. ‘I implore you to go!’

And as I had my son with me, and it seemed to be a duty or even a
charity that no one else would undertake, though it was not likely that
any harm could come to us, I sent Gaspard to dress himself, with my
faithful Nicolas, who had come to light. The gentlemen undertook to find
us Mademoiselle’s coach, and we hurried back to get together what we
could for our mistress. I laugh now to think of M. de Fiesque and myself
trying with our inexperienced hands to roll up a mattress and some
bedding, and to find the linen and the toilet requisites, in which we
had but small success, for the femmes de chamber kept everything, and
had all either run away or slept too far off to hear us. We managed at
last to fasten up the mattress with the other things in it, tied by
a long scarf at each end, and dragging it to the top of the stairs
we rolled it down each flight. At the second it upset at unfortunate
lackey, who began to yell, firmly persuaded that it was a corpse, and
that the Frondeurs had got in and were beginning a general slaughter.

How we recovered from the confusion I do not know, but Gaspard joined me
at the top of the stairs, bringing with him a page of his own age, the
little Chevalier de Mericour, whom he entreated me to take with us. All
the other boys had relations close at hand; but this child’s mother was
dead, and his father and brothers with the army. Being really a cousin
of Harry Merrycourt’s, he had always seemed like a relation, and he was
Gaspard’s chief friend, so I was very willing to give him a seat in the
carriage, which came from somewhere, and into which the mattress was
squeezed by some means or other. Off we set, but no woman of any rank
would accompany me, for they said I had the courage of an Amazon to
attempt to make my way through the mob that was howling in the streets.

It certainly was somewhat terrible when we came out into the street
thronged with people carrying lanterns and torches, and tried to make
our way step by step. We had not gone far before a big man, a butcher
I should think, held up a torch to the window, and seeing my son’s long
fair hair, shouted, ‘The King! the King! Here is the Queen carrying the
King and the Duke of Anjou!’

The whole mob seemed to surge round us, shrieking, screaming, and
yelling; some trying to turn the horses, others insisting that we should
alight. No one heard my assurances that we were no such personages, that
this was Mademoiselle’s carriage, and that the Queen was gone long ago;
and, what was more fortunate, their ears did not catch young Mericour’s
denunciations of them as vile canaille. A market woman mounted on the
step, and perceiving the mattress, screeched out, ‘The Cardinal--they
are carrying off the Cardinal rolled up in a mattress!’

Their fury was redoubled. I began to unite it to show them there was
nothing, but we had drawn the knots too tight, and Gaspard’s little
sword would not of course cut, nay, the gleam of it only added to the
general fury. I really think if the Cardinal had been there they would
have torn him to pieces. They were trying to drag open the doors,
and would have done so much sooner but for the crowds who were pushed
against them and kept them shut. At last there seemed to be some one
among them with a more authoritative tone. The pressure on the door
lessened, and it was to my dismay torn open; but at that moment my son
called out, ‘M. Darpent! Oh, M. Darpent, come to my mother!’ Immediately
M. Clement Darpent, unarmed and in his usual dress, with only a little
came in his hand, made his way forward. Before I saw him I heard his
welcome voice calling, ‘Madame de Bellaise here! I am coming, M. le
Marquis! The Queen! Betise! I tell you it is a lady of my acquaintance.’

‘The Cardinal! She is carrying off the Italian rolled up in a mattress!
Down with the fox!’ came another terrible outcry; but by this time M.
Darpent had been hustled up to the door, and put himself between us
and the throng. He could hear me now when I told him it was merely
Mademoiselle’s bedding which we were carrying out to her. He shouted out
this intelligence, and it made a lull; but one horrid fellow in a fur
cap sneered, ‘We know better than that, Monsieur! Away with traitors!
And those who would smuggle them away!’

‘Oh! show it to them!’ I cried; and then I saw a face that I had known
in the hospital, and called him by name. ‘Jean Marie, my good friend,
have you your knife to cut these cords and show there is nothing
inside?’

The man’s honest face lighted up. ‘Hein! The good tall lady who brought
me bouillons! I warrant there is no harm in her, brothers! She’s a good
Frondeuse, and has nothing to do with foreign traitors.’

He ranged himself beside Clement Darpent, offering a big knife,
wherewith in a moment the bands were cut and the mattress help up to
view, with a few clothes inside.

I made my two defenders understand that they were Mademoiselle’s
garments, and when this was repeated there was a general shout: ‘Vive la
bonne dame! Vive Mademoiselle! Vive Monsieur! Vive la Fronde!’

Jean Marie, who had worked in a furniture shop, would have rolled up the
bed in a trice much better than before, but M. Darpent observed that
as we were not yet out of Paris is might bring us into trouble, and,
inconvenient as it was, he advised us to keep it open till we were
beyond the gates. He asked permission to accompany me to prevent
any further annoyance, and Jean Marie, to the extreme disgust of the
servants, mounted the box, to serve as an additional guard.

No one could be kinder than M. Darpent. He was very sad about this
flight of the Court. He said he feared it was the beginning of a civil
war, and that he had thought better of the blood royal and noblesse of
France than to suppose they would assist a Spanish woman and an Italian
priest to trample down and starve their fellow-countrymen in the name of
a minor king. He expected that there would be a siege, for he was sure
that the temper of the people was averse to yielding, and the bourgeois
put their trust in the archers.

I asked if he thought there would be any danger, thinking that I would
either join my mother and sister or endeavour to fetch them away; but he
assured me that they would be safe. Was not the Queen of England left,
as I assured him, and the Duchess of Longueville? M. le Prince
would allow no harm to touch the place where lived the sister he so
passionately loved. I might be secure that the Hotel de Nid de Merle
was perfectly safe, and he would himself watch to see that they were
not annoyed or terrified. He gave me the means of writing a billet to my
mother from his little Advocate’s portfolio, and he promised himself to
convey it to her and assure her of our safety, a message which I thought
would make him welcome even to her. He was most kind in every way, and
when we came near the gate bethought him that the two little boys looked
pale and hungry, as well they might. He stopped the carriage near a
baker’s shop, which was already open, and going in himself, returned
with not only bread, but a jug and cup of milk. I think we never enjoyed
anything so much; and in the meantime the excellent Jean Marie rolled up
our mattress so close that, as Gaspard said, it could hardly have been
supposed to contain in puppy dog.

They saw us safely through the barriers. M. Darpent gave his word for
us, and out we went into the country while scarcely the dawn was yet
seen. At a turn in the road we saw only the morning star hanging like
a great lamp in the east, and I showed it to the little boys, and
told them of the three kings led by the Star to the Cradle. I heard
afterwards that the little Chevalier thought we saw the real Star in the
East sent to guide us to St. Germain, forgetting that it was the wrong
direction; but he had been very little taught, and this was the first
he had ever heard of the Gospel, which was familiar to my boy. They both
fell asleep presently on the cushions, and I think I did so likewise,
for I was surprised to find myself at St. Germain in broad daylight.
Everybody was gone to mass for the festival, and we crept in after them.

Mademoiselle was delighted to see me, and always believed we had made
our passage so safely in consequence of the respect paid to her and her
carriage. It was a strange day; no one did anything but run about and
hear or tell news of how the people in Paris were taking the departure
of the Court, and wonder when the troops would come up to begin the
siege, or, what was more pressing, what was to be done for food and for
bedding? We ate as we could. Eggs and fowls were brought in from the
farms, but plates and dishes, knives and forks, were very scarce. Some
of us were happy when we could roast an egg in the embers for ourselves,
and then eat it when it was hard enough, and I thought how useful Annora
would have been, who had done all sorts of household work during the
troubles at home. But we were very merry over these devices.

The night was a greater difficulty. Most of the windows had no frames
nor glass in them, and hardly any one had a bed. Mademoiselle slept in a
long gallery, splendidly painted and gilt, but with the wind blowing
at every crevice through the shutters, no curtains; only a few marble
tables against the wall by way of furniture, and the mattress spread
upon the floor for her and her youngest sister, who would not sleep
unless she sang, and who woke continually.

I rolled up my two little boys in my great fur cloak, which I had
happily brought with me, for no one seemed disposed to take any charge
of poor little Mericour, and Nicolas fetches me the cushions from the
carriage, so that they were tolerably comfortable.

As to us ladies and gentlemen, we rejoiced that at least faggots could
be had. We made up a great fire, and sat round it, some playing at
cards, other playing at games, telling stories, or reciting poetry,
interspersed with the sillier pastime of love-making. Every one nodded
off to sleep, but soon to wake again,--and, oh, how still we were, and
how our bones ached after two such nights!

And the saddest and most provoking thing, at least to many of us, was
the high spirits of the Queen-Regent.

To be sure, she had not been without a bed in an unglazed room all
night, and had a few maids and a charge of clothes, but she had probably
never been so much out of reach of state in her life, and she evidently
found it most amusing. She did not seem to have an idea that it was a
fearful thing to begin a civil war, but thought the astonishment and
disappointment of the Parisians an excellent joke. Grave and stately as
she was by nature, she seemed quite transformed, and laughed like a girl
when no gold spoon could be found for her chocolate and she had to use
a silver one. Yes, and she laughed still more at the ill-arranged limp
curls and tumbled lace of us poor creatures who had sat up all night,
and tried to dress one another, with one pocket-comb amongst us all!

All that day and all the text, however, parts of different people’s
equipages kept coming from Paris. Mademoiselle’s were escorted by M.
de Fiesque, who had been so civilly treated that Mademoiselle gave
passports for the Queen’s wagons to come through Paris; and it was
considered to be a great joke that one of the bourgeois, examining
a large box of new Spanish gloves, was reported to have been quite
overcome by the perfume, and to have sneezed violently when he came to
examine them.

We were in a strange state up there on the heights of St. Germain. Some
of the Court had no hangings for their great draughty rooms, others had
no clothes, and those who had clothes had no bedding. Very few of us had
any money to supply our wants, and those who had soon lent it all to
the more distressed. The Queen herself was obliged to borrow from the
Princess Dowager, even to provide food, and the keeping up of separate
tables was impossible. We all dined together, King and Queen, Monsieur,
Madame, and all, and the first day there was nothing but a great pot au
feu and the bouilli out of it; for the cooks had not arrived. Even the
spoons and knives were so few that we had to wash them and use them in
turn. However, it was all gaiety on those first days, the Queen was so
merry that it was every one’s cue to be the same; and as to the King
and the Duke of Anjou, they were full of mischief; it was nothing but
holiday to them to have no Court receptions.

At eight o’clock in the evening there came a deputation from Paris. They
were kept waiting outside in the snow while the Queen considered whether
to receive them; and she could hardly be persuaded to allow them to
sleep under shelter at St. Germain, though on the road at that time of
night they were in danger from brigands, traveling soldiers, and I know
not what!

They were at last admitted to the ranger’s lodgings, and had an
interview with the Chancellor, who was harsh and peremptory, perhaps
feeling himself avenged for his troubles and fright on the day of the
barricades.

When I heard that the President Darpent was among the deputation I sent
Nicolas to find out whether his son were there; and by and by I received
a little billet, which excited much more attention than I wished. Some
told me I was a Frondeuse, and M. le Baron de Lamont pretended to be
consumed with jealousy. I had to explain publicly that it was only from
my sister, and then they pretended not to believe me. It was in English,
a tongue of which nobody knew a single word, except that scandal
declared that the Duke of Buckingham had taught the Queen to say ‘Ee
lofe ou;’ but it said only: ‘We are quite well, and not alarmed, since
we know you are safe. We had heard such strange rumors that my mother
welcomed our friend as an angel of consolation.’

I translated this to all whom it concerned; but M. de Lamont annoyed me
much with his curiosity and incredulity. However, when I found that the
unfortunate deputies were permitted to spend the night in the guard-room
I sent Nicolas to see whether he could be of any use to the Darpents.
Truly it was a night when, as the English say, one would not turn out
one’s enemy’s dog, and the road to Paris was far from safe; but the
ranger’s house was a wretched place for elderly men more used to comfort
than even the noblesse, whose castles are often bare enough, and who are
crowded and ill accommodated when in waiting at the palaces.

At that moment a bed was to ourselves a delightful luxury, which M. de
Fiesque and I were to share, so Nicolas could not do much for poor old
Darpent, whom he found wet through from having waited so long in the
snow, melting as it fell; but he did lend him his own dry cloak, and got
some hot drink for him. Clemet professed himself eternally grateful for
this poor attention when in the morning I sent my son with another note
in return to be sent to my mother and sister; and he promised to watch
over them as his own life.

This was the last communication I had with my family for two months. The
Queen had declared that her absence would be only ‘a little expedition
of a week;’ but week after week passed on, and there we still were on
the hill. The troops could not entirely surround Paris, but no such
thing. I think we were, on the whole, more hungry than those whom we
blockaded.

As each set of officials finished their time of waiting they retired,
and nobody came to replace them, so our party became smaller from day
to day, which was the less to be regretted as our Lent was Lent indeed.
Nobody had any money, and provisions ran very short; everybody grumbled
but the Queen and Cardinal, and Mademoiselle, who enjoyed the situation
and laughed at everybody.

In the intervals of grumbling every one was making love. M. de Juvizy
actually was presumptuous enough to make love to the Queen, or to boast
that he did. Mademoiselle, I am sorry to say, was in love, or, more
truly, in ambition with the Prince of Conde; M. de S. Maigrin was said
to be in love with the Princess, M. de Chatillon with Mademoiselle de
Guerchy, and so on.

Even I, who had always declared that it was a woman’s own fault if
she had a lover, did not escape. I had not my mother to shield me, and
nobody had anything to do, so it was the universal fashion; and M.
de Lamont thought proper to pursue me. I knew he was dissipated and
good-for-nothing, and I showed the coldest indifference; but that only
gave him the opportunity of talking of my cruelty, and he even persuaded
Mademoiselle to assure me that he was in earnest.

‘No doubt,’ said I, ‘he would like to meddle with the administration of
Nid de Merle. I have no doubt he is in earnest about that!’

But there was no escape, as we lived, from being beset. We had all to
attend the Queen to the Litanies at the chapel. She used to remain in
her little orator praying long after they were finished, Mademoiselle
with her, and, by her own account, generally asleep. I am ashamed to say
how much chatter, and how many petits soins, went on among those waiting
outside. I used to kneel, as I heard people say, like a grim statue over
my chair, with my rosary hanging from my hands, for if I did but hear a
rustle and turn my head, there stood M. de Lamont with a bonbonniere,
or an offer to shield me from the draught, and I could hear a tittering
behind me.

Yet there was enough to make us grave. In a fight with the Frondeurs
for Charenton, M. de Chatillon, one of the handsomest and gayest of our
cavaliers, was killed. He was the grandson of the Admiral de Coligny,
and was said to have been converted to the Church by the miracle of the
ducks returning regularly to the pond where the saint had bound them
to come. I think he must have made up his mind beforehand. But it was a
great shock to have that fine young man thus cut down the day after he
had been laughing and dancing in our gallery. Yet all people seemed to
think of, when everybody went to condole with his young widow in her
bed, was that she had set herself off to the best advantage to captivate
M. de Nemours!

And then came the great thunderbolt--the tidings of the death of the
King of England! I knew it would almost kill Eustace; I thought of my
poor godmother, Queen Henrietta, and there I was among people who did
not really care in the least! It was to them merely a great piece of
news, that enabled them to say, ‘Yield an inch to the Parliament and see
what it will come to.’

That kind, dignified, melancholy countenance as I last saw it was
constantly before me. The babble of the people around seemed to
me detestable. I answered at haphazard, and begged permission of
Mademoiselle to keep my room for a day, as I thought I should be
distracted if I could not get out of reach of M. de Lamont.

She gave permission, but she said it was an affectation of mine, for how
could I care for a somber old prince whom I had not seen for ten years?



CHAPTER XIX. -- INSIDE PARIS

Annora’s narrative.



My sister has asked me to fill up the account of the days of the Fronde
with what I saw within the city. She must permit me to do so in English,
for I have taken care to forget my French; and if I write perilous stuff
for French folk to read she need not translate it.

I will begin with that Twelfth-day morning when we were wakened by more
noise and racket than even Paris could generally produce. There had been
a little tumult about once a week for the last six months, so we could
endure a great deal, but this was plainly a much larger one. Some of the
servants who went out brought word that the Queen had carried off the
King in order to be revenged on Paris, and that the people, in a rage,
were breaking the carriages of her suite to pieces, plundering the
wagons, and beating, if not killing, every one in them. We were of
course mightily troubled for my sister, and being only two women we
could not go out in quest of her, while each rumour we heard was more
terrible than the last. Some even said that the Louvre had been asked
and plundered; but old Sir Andrew Macniven, who had made his way through
the mob like a brave old Scottish knight, brought us word that he could
assure us that our own Queen was safe in her own apartments, and that
there had been no attack on the palace.

Still he had himself seen carriages plundered and broken to pieces by
the mob, and the gates were closely guarded. Seeing our distress, he was
about to go with Abbe to the Louvre, to learn whether my sister and
her son were there, when one of the servants came up to tell us that M.
Clement Darpent requested to see my mother, having brought us tidings of
Madame la Vicomtesse.

My poor mother never could endure the name of M. Darpent, because she
did not like my brother’s friendship with any one not noble, but she was
as glad to see him then as if he had been a Montmorency or a Coucy.

I always like his manners, for they were even then more English than
French. Though going through all due form, he always seemed to respect
himself too much to let any one be supercilious with him; and however
she might begin at a vast distance, she always ended by talking to
him just as if he were, as she called it, our equal. As if he were
not infinitely the superior of the hundreds of trumpery little apes of
nobles who strutted about the galleries of the Louvre, with nothing to
do but mayhap to carry the Queen’s fan, or curl her poodle’s tail!

I see I have been writing just as I felt in those fervent days of my
youth, when the quick blood would throb at my heart and burn in my cheek
at any slight to the real manhood and worth I saw in him, and preference
for the poor cringing courtiers I despised. The thought of those old
days has brought me back to the story as all then seemed to me--the
high-spirited, hot-tempered maiden, who had missed all her small chances
of even being mild and meek in the troubles at home, and to whom Paris
was a grievous place of banishment, only tolerable by the aid of my dear
brother and my poor Meg, when she was not too French and too Popish for
me. But that was not her fault, poor thing.

My mother, however, was grateful enough to Clement Darpent for the
nonce, when he told how he had seen Meg safe beyond the gates. Moreover,
he assured us that so far from 8000 horse being ready to storm the city
(I should like to have seen them! Who ever took a fortress with a charge
of horse?) barely 200 had escorted their Majesties. The Coadjutor had
shown M. Blancmesnil a note from the Queen telling him so, and summoning
him to St. Germain.

It was likely, M. Darpent said, that the city would be besieged, but he
did not foresee any peril for us, and he promised to watch over us,
as he would over his own mother, and that he would give us continual
intelligence so that we might provide for our safety. It was amusing
to see how eagerly my mother accepted this offer, though she had almost
forbidden him the house when my brother left us.

I am sure my mother was as uneasy as any of us when he did not appear on
the morning after he had gone with his father on the deputation to St.
Germain. However, he did come later on in the afternoon, bringing a note
from Meg. He had not seen her, only Nicolas and little Gaspard, and
he, like all the rest, was greatly incensed at the manner in which the
magistrates had been treated. His father had, he said, caught a violent
cold, and had been forced to go to bed at once. In fact it really was
the poor old man’s death-stroke, and he never quitted his chamber,
hardly even his bed.

The Parliament, in a rage, put forth a decree, declaring the Cardinal an
enemy to the State, and ordering him to leave the Court and kingdom
on that very day, calling on all loyal subjects to fall on him, and
forbidding any one to give him shelter.

We heard loud acclamations, which made us think something unusual was
going on, and it was the publication of this precious edict. I wondered
who they thought was going to attend to it when M. Darpent brought in a
copy. And my mother began to cry and talk about Lord Strafford. I had
to think of Eustace and bite my tongue to keep my patience at our noble
‘thorough’ Wentworth being likened to that base cringing Italian.

Clement Darpent said, however, that every one had passed it by
acclamation, except Bernai, who was a mere cook, and gave fine dinners
to such a set of low, loose creatures that he was called ‘le cabaretier
de la cour.’ Moreover, they proceeded to give orders for levying 4000
horse and 10,000 foot. This really did mean civil war.

‘I knew it,’ said my mother, ‘it is the next step after denouncing the
King’s minister. We shall see you next armed cap-a-pie, like our young
advocates at home, all for the King’s behalf, according to them.’

Of course she was thinking of Harry Merrycourt, but she was surprised by
the answer.

‘No, Madam, nothing shall induce me to bear arms against the King. So
much have I learned from the two living persons who I esteem the most.’

‘And they are?’ asked my lady.

‘My mother and monsieur votre fils,’ he replied.

And I could not help crying out--

‘Oh, sir, you are right. I know that Harry Merrycourt feels NOW that
nothing can justify rebellion, and that he little knew whither he should
be led.’

‘And yet,’ said he, clasping his hands together with intensity of
fervour, ‘when all is rotten to the core, venal, unjust, tyrannical, how
endure without an endeavour at a remedy? Yet it may be that an imposing
attitude will prevail! Self-defence without a blow.’

It seemed as if such war as they were likely to wage could do no
one much damage, for they actually chose as their generalissimo that
ridiculous little sickly being, the Prince de Conty, who had quarrelled
with the Court about a cardinal’s hat, and had run away from his
mother’s apron string at St. Germain to his sister’s at Paris.

On recalling it, all was a mere farce together, and the people were
always stringing together lampoons in rhyme, and singing them in the
streets. One still rings in my head, about a dissolute impoverished
Marquis d’Elbeuf, one of the house of Lorraine, whom the prospect of pay
induced to offer his services to the Parliament.


                   ‘Le pauvre Monseigneur d’Elbeuf,
                     Qui n’avait aucun ressource,
                   Et qui ne mangeait que du boeuf.
                    Le pauvre Monseigneur d’Elbeuf,
                      A maintenant un habit neuf
                   Et quelques justes dans sa bourse.
                     Le pauvre Monseigneur d’Elbeuf,
                      Qui n’avait aucun ressource.’


There was more sense in taking the Duke of Bouillon, though he was not
his brother, M. de Turenne. These young men were in high spirits. You
will find no traces of their feelings in the memoirs of the time, for of
course nothing of the kind would be allowed to pass the censors of the
press. But there was a wonderful sense of liberty of speech and tongue
during that siege. The younger gens de la robe, as they were called,
who, like Clement Darpent, had read their Livy and Plutarch, were full
of ideas of public virtue, and had meetings among themselves, where M.
Darpent dwelt on what he had imbibed from my brother of English notions
of duty to God, the King and the State. It may seem strange that a
cavalier family like ourselves should have infused notions which were
declared to smack of revolution, but the constitution we had loved and
fought for was a very Utopia to these young French advocates. They, with
the sanguine dreams of youth, hoped that the Fronde was the beginning of
a better state of things, when all offices should be obtained by merit,
never bought and sold, and many of them were inventions of the Court
for the express purpose of sale. The great Cardinal had actually created
forty offices for counselors merely in order to sell them and their
reversions! The holders of these were universally laughed at, and not
treated as on a level with the old hereditary office-bearers, who at
least might think themselves of some use.

We smile sadly now to think of the grand aspirations, noble visions,
and brave words of those young advocates, each of whom thought himself
a very Epaminondas, or Gracchus, though M. Darpent, on looking back, had
to confess that his most enthusiastic supporters were among the younger
brothers, or those with less fortunate fathers, for whom the Paulette
had never been paid, or who felt it very hard to raise. He himself
brought sincere ardour for his own part, and was full of soaring hope
and self-devotion, though I suspect his father would soon have silenced
him if the poor man had been able to think of anything beyond his own
sick-chamber.

The real absurdity, or rather the sadness, of it was, as we two saw,
that the fine folk in whom the Parliament put its trust merely wanted to
spite the Cardinal, and cared not a rush for the Parliament, unlike my
Lord Essex, and our other Roundhead noblemen, who, right or wrong, were
in honest earnest, and cared as much about the Bill of Rights and all
the rest of their demands as Sir Harry Vane or General Cromwell himself,
whereas these were traitors in heart to the cause they pretended to
espouse. Even the Coadjutor, who was the prime mover of all, only wanted
to be chief of a party.

One part of his comedy, which I should like to have seen, was the
conducting the Duchesses of Longueville and Bouillon along the Greve to
the Hotel de Ville to ask protection, though I do not know what for.

However, there they were, exquisitely dressed, with Madame de
Longueville’s beautiful hair daintily disheveled, on foot, and each with
a child in her arms. Crowds followed them with shouts of ecstasy, and
the Coadjutor further gratified the world by having a shower of pistoles
thrown from the windows of the Hotel de Ville.

It was good sport to hear Sir Andrew Macniven discourse on the sight,
declaring that the ladies looked next door to angels, and kenned it full
well too, and that he marvelled what their gudemen would have said to
see them make a raree show of themselves to all the loons in Paris!

The streets soon became as quiet as they ever were, and we could go
about as usual, except when we had warning of any special cause for
disturbance. We were anxious to know how poor little Madame d’Aubepine
was getting on, and, to our surprise, we found her tolerably cheerful.
In truth, she had really tamed the Croquelebois! As she said afterwards
in her little pathetic tone, so truly French, when they both so truly
loved Monsieur le Comte (wretch that he was) how could they differ? You
see he was not present to cause jealousies, and when Madame Croquelebois
found that Cecile never blamed him or murmured she began to be uneasy at
his neglect and unkindness.

Though, of course, at that moment he was out of reach, being in the army
that was blockading us. Not that we should ever have found out that we
were blockaded, if we could have got any letters from any one, except
for the scarcity of firewood. My mother wanted much to get to our own
Queen, but the approaches to the Louvre were watched lest she should
communicate with the Regent; and we were cut off from her till M.
Darpent gave his word for us, and obtained for us a pass. And, oh! it
was a sad sight to see the great courts and long galleries left all
dreary and empty. It made me think of Whitehall and of Windsor, though
we little knew that at that very time there was worse there than even
desolation.

And when at last we reached our poor Queen’s apartments, there was not a
spark of fire in them. She was a guest there. She had no money, and all
the wood had either been used up or pillaged; and there we found her,
wrapped in a great fur cloak, sitting by the bed where was the little
Lady Henrietta.

When my mother cried out with grief that the child should be ill, the
poor Queen replied with that good-humoured laugh with which she met all
the inconveniences that concerned herself alone: ‘Oh, no, Madame, not
ill, only cold! We cannot get any firewood, and so bed is the safest
place for my little maid, who cares not if she can have her mother to
play with her! Here is a new playfellow for thee, ma mie. Sweet Nan will
sit by thee, and make thee sport, while I talk to her mother.’

So the child made the big four-post bed, all curtained round, into a
fortress, and I besieged her there, till she screamed with glee, while
the Queen took my mother’s arm, and they paced the rooms together, sadly
discussing the times and the utter lack of news from home, when the last
tidings had been most alarming. Poor lady! I think it was a comfort to
her, for she loved my mother; but we could not but grieve to see her in
such a plight. As we went home we planned that we would carry a faggot
in the carriage the next day, and that I would take it upstairs to her.
And so I actually did, but the sentry insisted on knowing what I was
carrying hidden in a cloak, and when he saw it, the honest man actually
burst into tears that the daughter of Henri IV. should be in such
straits. The Queen kissed me for it, and said I was like the good girl
in Madame d’Aulnoy’s tales, and she would fain be the benevolent fairy
to reward me. And then the little Princess insisted that I was Capuchon
Rouge, and that she was my Grandmother Wolf, and after making her great
eyes at me, she ate me up with kisses over and over again! Ah! how happy
children can be. It was strange to remember that this was the way King
Charles’s little daughter spent that 30th of January!

We had told M. Darpent of the condition in which we found the Queen, and
he told the Coadjutor, who went himself to see her, and then stirred
up the Parliament to send her regular supplies both of firing and
provisions, so that she never suffered again in the same way.

Each day increased our anxiety for His Sacred Majesty. Lord Jermyn made
his way into Paris, and came to consult with my mother, telling her that
he had little doubt that the iniquitous deed had been consummated, and
between them, by way of preparing the unhappy Queen, they made up a
story that the King had been led out to execution, but had been rescued
by the populace. I could not see that this would be of much use in
softening the blow; in fact, I thought all these delicate false-hoods
only made the suspense worse, but I was told that I was a mere downright
English country lass, with no notion of the refinements such things
required with persons of sensibility.

So I told them, if ever I were in trouble, all I asked of them was to
let me know the worst at once. One great pleasure came to the Queen
at this time in the arrival of the Duke of York, who made his way into
Paris, and arriving in the midst of dinner, knelt before his mother. He
knew no more of his father than we did, and the Queen’s urgent entreaty,
undertook to go to St. Germain with a letter from her, asking what Queen
Anne had heard from England.

The siege was not so strait but that unsuspected persons could get in
and out, but after all, the poor Queen’s anxiety and suspense were such
that Lord Jermyn was forced to disclose the truth to her before Sir
Andrew came back with the letters. She stood like a statue, and could
neither move nor speak till night, when the Duchess of Vendome came and
caressed her until at last the tears broke forth, and she sobbed and
wept piteously all night. The next day she retired into the Carmelite
convent in the Faubourg St. Jaques, taking my mother with her. As,
according to French fashion, I was not to be left to keep house myself,
my mother invited Sir Francis and Lady Ommaney to come and take charge
of me, and a very good thing it was, for we at least had food enough,
and my dear good friends had very little.

We were all stunned by the dreadful news from England. It was very
sad old Sir Francis, who had borne without complaint the loss of land,
honours, and home, nay, who had stood by to see his only son die at
Naseby, sitting like one crushed, and only able to mutter now and then:
‘My Master, my good Master.’ You might know an English exile in those
days by the mourning scarf and sad countenance. I remember a poor wild
cavalier whom my mother and Meg never liked to admit when Eustace was
not at home, going down on his knees to Lady Ommaney for a bit of black
silk, when he looked as if he was starving.

We could not, of course, have evening receptions for our poor hungry
countrymen in the absence of my mother, and with such sorrow upon us
all, but Lady Ommaney and I did contrive pies and pasties, and all sorts
of food that could be sent as gifts without offence to the families we
thought most straitened.

The poor of Paris itself were not so very ill-off, for there were
continual distributions of money and flour to keep them in good humour,
and there were songs about.


                     ‘Le bon tems que c’etait
                      A Paris Durant la famine,
                     Tout le monde s’entrebaisait
                       A Paris Durant la famine,
                      La plus belle se contentait
                    D’un simple boisseau de farine.’


La plus belle was the Duchess of Longueville, who tried hard to persuade
the people that she was one with them. Her second son had been born only
a few days after her expedition to the Hotel de Ville, and she asked the
City of Paris to stand godmother to him in the person of the provosts
and echevins. Afterwards she had a great reception, which Clement
Darpent attended, and he told us the next morning that it had been the
most wonderful mixture of black gowns and cassocks, with blue scarfs and
sword-knots, lawyers, ladies, warriors, and priests.

He continued to bring us tidings every day, and Sir Francis and Lady
Ommaney really liked him, and said he was worthy to be an Englishman.

His father remained very ill, and day by day he told of the poor old
man’s pain and shortness of breath. Now Lady Ommaney had great skill
in medicine, indeed there were those who said she had done the work of
three surgeons in the war; and she had been of great service to my dear
brother, Lord Walwyn, when he first came to Paris. She thought little
or nothing of the French doctors, and waxed eloquent in describing to
Clement Darpent how she would make a poultice of bran or of linseed. Now
he had learned of my mother to read English easily, and to converse in
it on all great matters of state and policy, but the household terms and
idioms were still far beyond him, and dear good Lady Ommaney had never
learned more French than enabled her to say ‘Combien’ when she made a
purchase. Or if they had understood one another’s tongue, I doubt me if
any one could have learned the compounding of a poultice through a third
person, and that a man!

So, while I was labouring to interpret, Lady Ommaney exclaimed, ‘But why
should I not come and show your mother?’

‘Ah! if you would, Madame, that would verily be goodness,’ returned
Clement in his best English.

Well, I knew Eustace and Meg would have called me self-willed, when
my mother had once made such a noise about our taking shelter from
Broussel’s mob at the Maison Darpent; but this was a mere visit of
charity and necessity, for it was quite certain that the two good ladies
could never have understood one another without me to interpret for
them. Moreover, when Clement Darpent had rescued my sister from the mob,
and was always watching to protect us, we surely owed him some return of
gratitude, and it would have been mere bourgeois.

So I went with Lady Ommaney, and was refreshed by the sight of that calm
face of Madame Darpent, which she always seemed to me to have borrowed
from the angels, and which only grew the sweeter and more exalted the
greater was her trouble, as if she imbibed more and more of heavenly
grace in proportion to her needs.

We did our best, Lady Ommaney and I, to show and explain, but I do not
think it was to much purpose. The materials were not like our English
ones, and though mother and son were both full of thanks and gratitude,
Madame Darpent was clearly not half convinced that what was good for an
Englishman was good for a Frenchman, and even if she had been more fully
persuaded, I do not think her husband would have endured any foreign
treatment.

When we took leave she said, ‘Permettez moi, ma chere demoiselle,’ and
would have kissed my hand, but I threw my arms round her neck embraced
her, for there was something in her face that won my heart more than it
had ever gone out to any woman I ever saw; and I saw by Lady Ommaney’s
whole face and gesture that she thought a great sorrow was coming on the
good woman. I believe she was rather shocked, for she was a Huguenot by
birth, and a Jansenist by conviction, and thus she did not approve of
any strong signs of affection and emotion; but nevertheless she was
touched and very kind and good, and she returned my embrace by giving me
her sweet and solemn blessing.

And as he put me into the carriage, Clement, that foolish Clement, must
needs thank me, with tears in his eyes, for my goodness to her.

‘What do you mean, sir,’ said I, ‘by thanking me for what I delight in
and value as a daughter?’

Whereupon I, equally foolish, knew what I had said, and felt my face and
neck grow crimson all over, and what must he do, but kiss my hand in a
rapture.

And all the way home I could hear old Lady Ommaney murmuring to herself,
quite unconscious that she was speaking aloud, ‘My stars! I hope I
have not done wrong! What will my Lady Walwyn say? Not that he would be
altogether a bad match for her after our notions. Her father was only a
baron, and theirs is a good old family of the citizen sort, but then my
Lady Walwyn is a Frenchwoman, and thinks all that is not noble the dirt
under her feet.’

My heart gave a great bound, and then seemed to swell and take away
my breath, so that I could not at first speak to stop those uttered
thoughts, which made me presently feel as if I were prying into a
letter, so as soon as I could get my voice I said, as well as I could,
‘My Lady, I hear you.’

‘Hear me! Bless me, was I talking to myself! I only was thinking that
the poor old gentleman there is not long for this world. But maybe your
mother would not call him a gentleman. Ha! What have they got written up
there about the Cardinal?’

I read her the placard, and let her lead me away from the subject. I
could not talk about it to any one, and how I longed for Eustace!

However, I believe terror was what most ailed the old gentleman
(not that the French would call him so). He must always have been
chicken-hearted, for he had changed his religion out of fear. His wife
was all sincerity, but the dear good woman was religious for both of
them!

And as time went on his alarms could not but increase. The Parliament
really might have prevailed if it had any constancy, for all the
provincial Parliaments were quite ready to take part with it, and
moreover the Duke of Bouillon had brought over his brother, the Vicomte
de Turenne, to refuse to lead his army against them, or to keep back the
Spaniards. The Queen-Regent might really have been driven to dismiss the
Cardinal and repeal the taxes if the city had held out a little longer,
but in the midst the First President Mole was seized with patriotic
scruples. He would not owe his success to the foreign enemies of his
country, and the desertion of the army, and he led with him most of his
compeers. I suppose he was right--I know Clement thought so--but the
populace were sorely disappointed when negotiations were opened with
the Queen and Court, and it became evident that the city was to submit
without any again but some relaxation of the tax.

The deputies went and came, and were well mobbed everywhere. The
Coadjutor and Duke of Beaufort barely restrained the populace from
flying at the throat of the First President, who they fancied had been
bribed to give them up. One wretch on the steps of the Palais de Justice
threatened to kill the fine old man, who calmly replied, ‘Well, friend,
when I am dead I shall want nothing but six feet of earth.’

The man fell back, daunted by his quietness, and by the majesty of
his appearance in his full scarlet robes. These alarms, the continual
shouting in the streets, and the growing terror lest on the arrival of
the Court all the prominent magistrates should be arrested and sent to
the Bastille, infinitely aggravated President Darpent’s disorder. We no
longer saw his son every day, for he was wholly absorbed in watching by
the sick-bed, and besides there was no further need, as he averred, of
his watching over us. However, Sir Francis went daily to inquire at
the house, and almost always saw Clement, who could by this time speak
English enough to make himself quite intelligible, but who could only
say that, in spite of constantly being let blood, the poor old man grew
weaker and weaker; and on the very day the treaty was signed he was to
receive the last rites of the Church.



CHAPTER XX. -- CONDOLENCE

(By Margaret)



Our siege was over at last. I can hardly explain how or why, for there
was no real settlement of the points at issue. I have since come to
understand that the Queen and the Cardinal were alarmed lest the Vicomte
de Turenne with his army should come to the assistance of his brother,
the Duke of Bouillon, and thus leave the frontier open to the Spaniards;
and that this very possibility also worked upon the First President
Mole, who was too true a Frenchman not to prefer giving way to the Queen
to bringing disunion into the army and admitting the invader. Most of
the provincial Parliaments were of the same mind as that of Paris, and
if all had united and stood firm the Court would have been reduced to
great straits. It was well for us at St. Germain that they never guessed
at our discomforts on our hill, and how impossible it would have been to
hold out for a more complete victory.

I was glad enough to leave St. Germain the day after the terms had been
agreed upon. The royal family did not yet move, but my term of waiting
had long been expired; I burned to rejoin my mother and sister, and
likewise to escape from the assiduities of M. de Lamont, who was
becoming more insufferable than ever.

So I asked permission of the Queen to let my son resume his studies, and
of Mademoiselle to leave her for the time. Both were gracious, though
the Queen told me I was going into a wasp’s nest; while, on the
other hand, Mademoiselle congratulated me on returning to those dear
Parisians, and said she should not be long behind me. I was too much
afraid of being hindered not to set out immediately after having
received my license, so as to take advantage of the escort of some of
the deputies with whom I had a slight acquaintance. I also hoped to
avoid M. de Lamont’s leave-takings, but I was not fortunate enough to
do this. The absurd man, learning that I was on the point of departure,
came rushing headlong into the court where the carriages stood, having
first disordered his hair and untied his scarf, so as to give himself a
distracted appearance, and thus he threw himself on his knees between
me and the coach door, declaring that I was killing him and breaking his
heart by my cruelty.

I was very angry, and afraid of showing any excitement, lest it should
give him any advantage, so I only drew up my head coldly and said:

‘Let me pass, sir.’ But that only made him throw himself on the ground
as if he would kiss my robe, whereupon Gasppard, with his hand on his
little sword, said: ‘Why don’t you give him a good kick, mama?’ This
made everybody laugh; and I said, still keeping my head stiff: ‘We will
go round to the other door, my son, since there is this obstruction in
our way.’

This we did before he could follow us; and the last I saw of M. de
Lamont as I quitted St. Germain, he was still kneeling in the court, in
the attitude of an Orlando Furioso, reaching out his arms towards the
departing carriage. I did not pity him, for I did not for a moment
believe his passion a serious one, and I thought his wife would not be
much happier than my poor little sister-in-law, about whom I was very
anxious, and as to these extravagances, they were the ordinary custom of
those who professed to be lovers. He was one of the equerries-in-waiting
on the Duchess of Orleans, and thus happily could not follow; and I
never rejoiced more than when Gaspard and I, with my two women, had
turned our backs on St. Germain and began to descend through the
scattered trees of the forest towards Paris.

No less than forty carriages came out to meet the deputies on their
return, and our progress was very slow, but at last we found ourselves
at our hotel, where we were entirely unexpected, and the porter was so
much surprised that, instead of announcing us properly, he rushed into
the courtyard, screaming out: ‘Madame! Monsieur le Marquis!’ The whole
household came rushing down the steps pell-mell, so that it was plain at
the first glance that my mother was not there. Annora was the first to
throw herself into my arms, with a shriek and sob of joy, which gave
me a pleasure I cannot describe when I contrasted this meeting with our
former one, for now again I felt that we were wholly sisters.

Gaspard sprang to the Abbe’s neck, and declared himself tired of his
holidays, and quite ready to resume his studies. They would be much
pleasanter than running after the King and Duke of Anjou, and bearing
the blame of all their pranks. My mother, I heard, was at the Convent of
St. Jaques with her poor bereaved Queen, and she had left my sister in
the charge of Sir Francis and Lady Ommaney.

The old lady came to welcome me; Sir Francis was out gone to inquire
for the President Darpent; and before I had been an hour in the house, I
found how entirely different a world it was from that which I had left,
and how changed were the interests that absorbed it. Of my poor little
Cecile scarcely anything was known. Annora had only seen her once or
twice, and even the poor English Queen was second in interest to the
illness of M. Darpent, and the fatigues of his wife in nursing him. It
seemed to me as if Lady Ommaney and my sister discussed, as if he had
been their near relation, every symptom of him, who, in the eyes of all
my recent companions, was nothing better than an old frondeur, a rebel
richly deserving to be put to death.

If Lady Ommaney had understood French, I really believe she would have
gone to help Madame Darpent, who had now been sitting up for several
nights; and though her son was most dutiful, and shared her vigils,
taking every imaginable care of his father, he could not relieve her
materially. The old man died the morning after my return home, and Sir
Francis, who had been to inquire, reported that the funeral was to take
place the next night by Madame’s desire, as she was resolved that it
should not be made an occasion for the meeting of inveighing against the
Government as the remote cause of his death.

The city was, in fact, in a very unquiet state; nevertheless, Queen
Henrietta returned to her apartments at the Louvre, and my mother came
back to us, though when she found me at home, she only remained for one
night. The Queen wanted her, and it was not convenient, in the condition
of things, to be carried about in a sedan chair. Moreover I had a visit
from my sister-in-law; I was astonished at her venturing out, but though
very thin, she looked radiant, for her husband had come into Paris in
the train of the Princes, and had actually passed half an hour with her!
I was less gratified when I found what he had come for. It was to desire
his wife to come to me and inform me that it was the will and pleasure
of the Prince of Conde that I should accept the addresses of the Baron
de Lamont.

‘Thank you, sister,’ I said, smiling a little, for I knew it was of no
use to scold her or argue with her, and I would have spoken of something
else, but she held my hand and entreated:

‘You will, then?’

‘Oh! you have been charged to throw your influence into the scale,’ I
said, laughing; and the poor thing had to confess that he had said to
her, with an air so noble, so amiable, that here was an opportunity of
being of some real use to him if she would persuade Madame de Bellaise
to marry M. de Lamont.

‘To him!’ I might well exclaim.

‘Well, you see,’ Cecile explained, ‘M. le Prince said to him: ‘The
Bellaise is your sister-in-law, is she not? It is for you to overcome
her ridiculous scruples and make her accept Lamont, who is desperately
in love with her, and whose fortune needs to be repaired.’’

‘I see,’ I replied; ‘but I cannot carry my complaisance so far.’

‘But,’ faltered Cecile, ‘he is very handsome and very distinguished--’

‘Come, Cecile, you have done your duty. That is enough.’

But the poor little thing thought herself bound still to persuade me
with the arguments put into her mouth, till I asked her whether she
could wish me to forget her brother, or if in my place she would do such
a thing as give a father like M. de Lamont to her children. Then she
began to weep, and asked me to forgive her, ending in her simplicity
with:

‘The Prince would have been pleased with my husband, and perhaps he
would borne me good will for it!’

‘Ah! Cecile,’ I said, embracing her; ‘I would do much for you, but you
must not ask me to do this.’

The next question was about a visit of condolence to be paid to Madame
Darpent. We still kept the Ommaneys with us, on the pretext that the
presence of a gentleman gave a sense of security in the condition of the
city, but chiefly because we feared that they would be half-starved in
their lodgings.

Sir Francis told us that Madame Darpent was, ‘after your French
fashion,’ as he said, receiving visits of condolence in her bed, and,
considering how good and obliging the young man had been, he supposed
we should pay one. Annora’s eyes shone, but to my surprise she said
nothing, and I was quite ready to consent, since I too felt under such
obligations to the younger Darpent that I could let no scruple about
condescension stand in my way, and I was glad that my mother could not
hear of it until after it was done.

Lady Ommaney, however, looked rather old and mysterious. She came to
my room and told me that she thought I ought to know, though she had no
opportunity of telling my mother, that she could not but believe that
she had observed a growing inclination between Mistress Annora and
the young Monsieur Darpent. I suppose my countenance showed a certain
dismay, for she explained that it might be only an old woman’s fancy;
but knowing what were our French notions as to nobility and rank, and
how we treated all honest gentry without titles like the dirt under our
feet, she thought we ought to be warned. Though for her part, if the
young gentleman were not a Papist and Frenchman, she did not see that
Mistress Nan could do much better even if we were in England. Then
she began giving me instances of barons’ daughters marrying gentlemen
learned in the law; and I listened with dismay, for I knew that these
would serve to make my sister more determined, if it were really true
that any such passion were dawning. I saw that to her English breeding
it would not seem so unworthy as it would to us, but to my mother it
would be shocking, and I could not tell how my brother would look on it.
The only recommendation in my eyes would be the very contrary in his,
namely, that she might be led to embrace our religion; but then I
thought Clement Darpent so doubtful a Catholic that she would be more
likely to lead him away. My confidence was chiefly in his bourgeois
pride, which was not likely to suffer him to pay his addresses where
they would be disdained by the family, and in his scrupulous good faith,
which would certainly prevent his taking advantage of the absence of the
maiden’s mother and brother.

However, I knew my sister well enough to be aware that to contradict her
was the surest mode of making her resolute, and I thought it wiser that
there should be no appearance of neglect or ingratitude to rouse her on
behalf of the Darpents. So I agreed with Lady Ommaney that we would
seem to take no notice, but only be upon our guard. We did not propose
Annora’s accompanying us on our visit of condolence, but she was
prepared when the carriage came round, and we made our way, falling into
a long line of plain but well-appointed equipages of the ladies of the
robe, who were all come on the same errand, and we were marshalled into
the house, and up the stairs by lackeys in mourning.

At the top of the great staircase, receiving everybody, stood Clement
Darpent, looking rather pale, and his advocate’s black dress decorated
with heavy weepers of crape. When he saw us his face lighted up, and he
came down to the landing to meet us, an attention of course due to our
rank; but it was scarcely the honour done to the family that made his
voice so fervent in his exclamation, ‘Ah! this is true goodness,’ though
it was only addressed to me, and of course it was my hand that he held
as he conducted us upstairs, and to the great chamber where his mother
sat up in her bed, not, as you may imagine, in the cloud of lace and
cambric which had coquettishly shrouded the widowhood of poor little
Madame de Chatillon. All was plain and severe, though scrupulously neat.
There was not an ornament in the room, only a crucifix and a holy-water
stoup by the side of the bed, and a priest standing by, of the grave and
severe aspect which distinguished those connected with Port Royal aux
Champs. Madame Darpent’s face looked white and shrunken, but there was
a beautiful peace and calmness on it, as if she dwelt in a region far
above and beyond the trifling world around her, and only submitted, like
one in a dream, to these outward formalities. I felt quite ashamed to
disturb her with my dull commonplace compliment of condolence, and I do
not think she in the least saw or knew who we were as her lips moved
in the formula of thanks. Then Clement led us away in the stream to the
buffet, where was the cake and wine of which it was etiquette for every
one to partake, though we only drank out of clear glass, not out
of silver, as when the mourners are noble. Monsieur Verdon and some
familiars of the house, whether friends or relations I do not know, were
attending to this, and there was a hum of conversation around; but there
was no acquaintance of ours present, and nobody ventured to speak to us,
except that Clement said: ‘She will be gratified, when she has time
to understand.’ And then he asked whether I had heard anything of my
brother.

As the streets were tolerably clear, I thought we had better drive at
once to the Louvre, to see my poor god-mother Queen and my mother.

Certainly it was a contrast. Queen Henrietta had been in agonies of
grief at first, and I believe no day passed without her weeping for her
husband. Her eyes were red, and she looked ill; but she was quite as
ready as ever to take interest in things around her; and she, as only
English were present, made me come and sit on a stool at her feet and
describe all the straits we had endured at St. Germain, laughing her
clear ringing laugh at the notion of her solemn, punctilious Spanish
sister-in-law living, as she said, en bergere in the middle of the
winter, and especially amusing herself over her niece Mademoiselle’s
little fiction that her equipage had secured respect.

‘That young Darpent is a useful and honest man,’ she said. ‘It is well
if your beaux yeux have secured him as a protector in these times, my
goddaughter.’

‘It is for my brother’s sake that he has been our friend,’ I said
stiffly, and my mother added that he had been engaged in our cause in
the Ribaumont suit, as if that naturally bound him to our service, while
the indignant colour flushed into Annora’s cheek at thus dispensing with
gratitude. However, we were soon interrupted, for now that the way into
the city was opened, and the widowed Queen had left her first solitude,
every one was coming to pay their respects to her; and the first we saw
arrive was Mademoiselle, who had no sooner exchanged her compliments
with her royal aunt, than, profiting by another arrival, she drew me
into a window and began: ‘But, my good Gildippe, this is serious. You
have left a distracted lover, and he is moving heaven and earth to
gain you. Have you considered? You would gain a position. He has great
influence with M. le Prince, who can do anything here.’

‘Ah! Mademoiselle! Your Royal Highness too!’ was all I could say, but I
could not silence her. M. de Lamont had interested the Prince of Conde
in his cause, and Mademoiselle, with her insane idea of marrying the
hero, in case the poor young Princess should die (and some people
declared that she was in a decline), would have thought me a small
sacrifice to please him. So I was beset on all sides. I think the man
was really enough in love to affect to be distracted. Though far less
good-looking in my early youth than my sister, I was so tall and blonde
as to have a distinguished air, and my indifference piqued my admirer
into a resolution to conquer me.

Mademoiselle harangued me on the absurdity of affecting to be a
disconsolate widow, on the step in rank that I should obtain, and
the antiquity of M. de Lamont’s pedigree, also upon all the ladies of
antiquity she could recollect who had married again; and when I called
Artemisia and Cornelia to the front in my defence, she betrayed her
secret, like poor Cecile, and declared that it was very obstinate and
disobedient in me not to consent to do what would recommend HER to the
Prince.

Next came M. d’Aubepine, poor young man, with the air of reckless
dissipation that sat so ill on a face still so youthful, and a still
more ridiculous affectation of worldly wisdom. He tried to argue me into
it by assuring me that the Prince would henceforth be all-powerful
in France, and that M. de Lamont was his protege, and that I was not
consulting my own interest, those of my son, or of my family, by my
refusal. When he found this ineffectual, he assured me peremptorily that
it was the Prince’s will, to which I replied, ‘That may be, Monsieur,
but it is not mine,’ to which he replied that I was Mademoiselle, but
that I should repent it. I said M. le Prince was not King of France, and
I trusted that he never would be, so that I did not see why I should be
bound to obey his will and pleasure. At which he looked so much as if
I were uttering blasphemy that I could not help laughing. I really
believe, poor fellow, that M. le Prince was more than a king to him,
the god of his idolatry, and that all his faults might be traced to his
blind worship and imitation.

I was not even exempt from the persuasions or commands of the great man
himself, who was at that time dominating the councils of France, and who
apparently could not endure that one poor woman should resist him. But
he, being a Bourbon and a great captain to boot, set about the thing
with a better grace than did the rest. It was in this manner. When
peace, such as it was, was agreed upon, the Princes came in to Paris,
and of course they came to pay their visit of ceremony to Queen
Henrietta. It was when I happened to be present, and before leaving her
apartment, the Prince came to me, and bending his curled head and eagle
face, said, with a look and gesture clearly unaccustomed to opposition:
‘Madame, I understand that you persist in cruelty to my friend, M. de
Lamont. Permit me to beg of you to reconsider your decision. On the
word of a Prince, you will not have reason to repent. He is under my
protection.’

I thanked His Highness for his condescension, but I assured him that I
had made up my mind not to marry again.

This made him frown, and his face, always harsh, and only redeemed from
ugliness by the fire of his eyes, became almost frightful, so that it
might have terrified a weak person into yielding; but of course all he
could then do was to make a sign to M. de Lamont to approach, present
him to me, and say, ‘I have requested Madame to reconsider her
decision,’ with which he bowed and left us tete-a-tete in the throng.

Then I tried to cut short M. de Lamont’s transports by telling him that
he must not take the Prince’s requesting as the same thing as my doing
it. Moreover, I did what my mother said was brutal and unbecoming; I
informed him that he was mistaken if he thought he should obtain any
claim over my son’s estate, for I had nothing but my husband’s portion,
and there were other guardians besides myself, who would not suffer
a stranger to have any share in the administration. Therewith he
vehemently exclaimed that I did him injustice, but I still believe that
his intention was, if his Prince had remained all-powerful, to get
the disposition of my son’s property thrown into his hands. My brother
Solivet was away with the army, Eustace in Holland, whence I longed to
recall him.

Meantime, Sir Francis Ommaney had had become intimate with the Darpents,
and so too had our good Abbe Bouchamp, who had assisted at the funeral
ceremonies, and from whom the widow derived much consolation. From
them we heard that she would fain have retired into the convent at Port
Royal, only she would not leave her son. There were those who held
that it was her duty not to let him stand between her and a vocation,
especially as he was full grown, and already in the world; but she
retained enough of her old training among the Huguenots to make her
insist that since God had given her children, it was plain that He meant
her to serve Him through her duty to them, and that if, through her
desertion of him, Clement were tempted to any evil courses, she should
never forgive herself. And our Abbe was the more inclined to encourage
her in this resolve that he did not love the Jansenists, and had a mind
sufficiently imbued with theology to understand their errors.

Certainly Clement showed no inclination to evil courses. In fact, he was
so grave and studious that his mother cherished the hope of taking him
with her to Port Royal to become one of the solitaries who transformed
the desert into a garden. She said that with patience she should see
him come to this, but in the meantime youth was sanguine, and he had not
renounced the hope of transforming the world. I think she also foresaw
that the unavowed love for Annora could scarcely lead to anything
but disappointment, and she thought that, in the rebound, he would be
willing to devote himself as one of those hermits.

He was certainly acting in a manner to astonish the world. He was not
yet of sufficient age or standing to succeed to his father’s chair
as the President of one of the Chambers of the Parliament, but his
promotion as one of the gens du roi (crown lawyers) had been secured by
annual fees almost ever since he was born, and the robe of the Consellor
who was promoted to the Presidency in the elder Darpent’s room was
awaiting him, when he declared his intention of accepting nothing that
had been bought for him, but of continuing a simple advocate, and only
obtaining what he could earn by his merits, not what was purchased.
To this no doubt the feelings imbibed from my brother and sister had
brought him. The younger men, and all the party who were still secret
frondeurs, applauded him loudly, and he was quietly approved by the
Chief President Mole who had still hopes that the domineering of the
Prince of Conde and the unpopularity of Cardinal Mazarin would lead to
changes in which ardent and self-devoted souls, like Clement’s, could
come to front and bring about improvements. The Coadjutor de Gondi, who
was bent on making himself the head of a party, likewise displayed much
admiration for one so disinterested, but I am afraid it was full of
satire; and most people spoke of young Darpent as a fool, or else as a
dangerous character.

And it might very possibly be that if he fell under suspicion, his
solitude might not be that of Port Royal but of the Bastille. Yet I am
not sure that his mother did not dread the patronage of the Coadjutor
most of all.



CHAPTER XXI. -- ST. MARGARET AND THE DRAGON



I was day after day worried and harassed by my suitor, so that I was
very glad when, in the autumn, Madame de Rambouillet invited my sister
and me to come and pass a few days with her, and see her vintage. We
left my son under the care of the Abbe and of Sir Francis and Lady
Ommaney, and set forth together in our coach with my women, and, as
usual, mounted servants enough to guard us from any of the thieves or
straggling soldiers who infested the roads.

For about a league all went well and quietly, but just at the cross-road
leading to Chevreuse, a troop of horsemen sprang out upon us. There was
a clashing of swords, a pistol-shot or two; I found myself torn from the
arms in which my sister was trying to hold me fast, dragged out in spite
of all our resistance, and carried into another carriage, at the door of
which I was received by two strong arms; a handkerchief was thrown over
my mouth to stop my screams, and though the inside of the coach was
already darkened, my hands were tied and my eyes blinded as I was
placed on the seat far in the corner; the door banged fast, and we drove
swiftly away.

At first I was exhausted with my struggles, and in an agony of
suffocation with the gag, which hindered me from getting my breath. I
fancy I must have made some sound which showed my captors that unless
they relieved me, I should perish in their hands. So the handkerchief
was removed, and while I was panting, a voice said:

‘It shall not be put on again, if Madame will give her word not to cry
out.’

‘It is of no use at present,’ I gasped out, and they let me alone. I
thought I knew that threats and entreaties could avail me little in the
existing circumstances, and I thought it wiser to rally my forces for
the struggle that no doubt was impending; so I sat as still as I could,
and was rewarded by finding my hands unbound, when I tried to raise one
to my face, and again the voice said:

‘Believe us, Madame, you are with friends who would not hurt you for the
universe.’

I made no answer. Perhaps it was in the same mood in which, when I was a
child at home and was in a bad temper, I might be whipped and shut up
in a dark room, but nothing would make me speak. Only now I said my
prayers, and I am sure I never did so in those old days. We went on and
on, and I think I must have dozed at last, for I actually thought myself
wearied out with kicking, scratching, and screaming on the floor of the
lumber-room at Walwyn, and that I heard the dear grandmother’s voice
saying:

‘Eh! quoi! she is asleep; the sullen had stopped, and with the words,
‘Pardon me, Madame,’ I was lifted out, and set upon my feet; but my
two hands were taken, and I was led along what seemed to be endless
passages, until at length my hands were released, and the same voice
said:

‘Madame will be glad of a few moments to arrange her dress. She will
find the bandage over her eyes easy to remove.’

Before, however, I could pull it away, my enemy had shut the door from
the outside, and I heard the key turn in it. I looked about me; I was
in a narrow paved chamber, with one small window very high up, through
which the sunbeams came, chequered by a tall tree, so high that I knew
it was late in the day, and that we must have driven far. There was the
frame of a narrow bedstead in one corner, a straw chair, a crucifix,
and an empty cell in a deserted convent; but there was a stone table
projecting from the wall, on which had been placed a few toilette
necessaries, and a pitcher of water stood on the floor.

I was glad to drink a long draught, and then, as I saw there was no
exit, I could not but make myself more fit to be seen, for my hair had
been pulled down and hung on my shoulders, and my face--ah! it had never
looked anything like that, save on the one day when Eustace and I had
the great battle, and our grand-mother punished us both by bread and
water for a week.

After I had made myself look a little more like a respectable widow, I
knelt down before the crucifix to implore that I might be defended, and
not be wanting to my son or myself. I had scarcely done so, however,
when the door was opened, and as I rose to my feet I beheld my
brother-in-law, d’Aubepine.

‘Armand, brother,’ I cried joyfully, ‘are you come to my rescue? Did you
meet my sister?’

For I really thought she had sent him, and I readily placed my hand in
his as he said: ‘It depends only on yourself to be free.’ Even then I
did not take alarm, till I found myself in a little bare dilapidated
chapel, but with the altar hastily decked, a priest before it in his
stole, whom I knew for the Abbe de St. Leu, one of the dissipated young
clergy about Court, a familiar of the Conde clique, and, prepared to
receive me, Monsieur de Lamont, in a satin suit, lace collar and cuffs,
and deep lace round his boots.

I wrenched my hand from M. d’Aubepine, and would have gone back, but
three or four of the soldiers came between me and the door. They were
dragoons of the Conde regiment; I knew their uniform. Then I turned
round and reproached d’Aubepine with his wicked treachery to the memory
of the man he had once loved.

Alas! this moved him no longer. He swore fiercely that this should not
be hurled at his head again, and throughout the scene, he was worse
to me than even M. de Lamont, working himself into a rage in order to
prevent himself from being either shamed or touched.

They acted by the will and consent of the Prince, they told me, and it
was of no use to resist it. The Abbe, whom I hated most of all, for he
had a loathsome face, took out a billet, and showed it to me. I
clearly read in the large straggling characters--‘You are welcome to a
corporal’s party, if you can by no other means reduce the pride of the
little droll.--L. DE B.’

‘Your Prince should be ashamed of himself,’ I said. ‘I shall take care
to publish his infamy as well as yours.’

The gentlemen laughed, the Abbe the loudest, and told me I was quite
welcome; such victories were esteemed honourable.

‘Yes,’ I said, ‘for a short time, among cowards and rogues.’

Armand howled at the word cowards.

‘Cowards, yes,’ I said, ‘who must needs get a company of soldiers to
overcome one woman.’

I saw a good long scratch on Lamont’s face just then, and I flattered
myself that it was due to Nan’s nails. They all beset me, Lamont at
my feet, pleading the force of his passion, entreating with all the
exaggeration of the current language; the Abbe arguing about the
splendid position I should secure for my son and myself, and the way I
should be overthrown if I held out against the Prince; d’Aubepine raging
and threatening. I had lost myself already, by my absence and goings on,
the estate; the Prince had but to speak the word, and I should be in the
Bastille.

‘Let him,’ I said.

‘It is of no use to dally with her,’ cried Armand. ‘I will hold her
while the rite is performed.’

I looked at him. I was quite as tall as he, and, I believe, quite as
strong; at any rate he quailed, and called out:

‘Have you any spirit, Lamont? Here, one of you fellows, come and help to
hold her.’

‘At your peril!’ I said. ‘Gentlemen, I am the widow of your brave
officer, Captain de Bellaise, killed at Freibourg. Will you see this
wrong done?’

‘I command you, as your officer--forward!’ he said; and though one
wavered, the others stepped forward.

Then I saw there was only one thing to do. A big stone image stood near
me. Before they could touch me I had fallen on my knees, and wound
my arms so closely round it that they could not unloose them without
absolute violence and injury. I knew that in such a position it was
impossible even to go through the semblance of marrying me. I felt
Armand’s hand and the Abbe’s try to untwist my arms and unclasp my
hands, but they could not prevail against that grip with which I held,
and I spoke not one word.

At last they drew back, and I heard them say one to the other: ‘It is of
no use. She must yield in time. Leave her.’

I heard them all clank out with their spurs, and lock the door, and then
I looked up. There was no other way out of the little convent chapel,
which looked as if it had been unused for years, except perhaps for
an annual mass, but the altar had been dressed in preparation for the
sacrilege that was intended. Then I turned to the figure to which I had
clung, and I was encouraged by seeing that it bore the emblems of St.
Margaret, my own patroness. I knew very well that my brother and sister
would shake their heads, and say it was a superstitious fancy, if they
called it by no harder name; but they did not understand our feelings
towards the saints. Still it was not to St. Margaret I turned to help
me, but to St. Margaret’s Master and mine, when I prayed to be delivered
from the mouth of the dragon, though I did trust that she was entreating
for me.

I would not move away from her, I might need to clasp her at any moment;
but I prayed fervently before the altar, where I knelt till I grew faint
with weariness; and then I sat at her feet, and thought over all the
possibilities of being rescued. If my sister were free I knew she would
leave no stone unturned to deliver me, and that my rescue could be only
a matter of time; but she might also have been seized, and if so--?
Anyhow, I was absolutely determined that they should kill me before I
consented to become the wife of M. de Lamont, or to give him any right
over my son.

After a time the door was cautiously opened, and one of the dragoons
came in, having taken off his boots and spurs that he might move more
noiselessly.

‘Madame,’ he said, ‘pardon me. I loved our brave captain; I know you.
You sent me new linen in the hospital. Captain de Bellaise was a brave
man.’

‘And you will see no wrong done to his widow and child, my good friend?’
I cried.

‘Ah, Madame, you should command all of us. But we are under orders.’

‘And that means doing me unmanly violence, unworthy of a brave soldier!
You cannot help me?’

‘If Madame would hear me! The gentlemen are at dinner. They may sit
long over their wine to give them courage to encounter Madame again.
My comrade, Benlot, is on duty. I might find a messenger to Madame’s
friends.’

Then he told me what I had little guessed, that we had been driven
round and round, and were really only in the Faubourg St. Medand, in
the Priory of the Benedictines, giving title and revenue to the Abbe St.
Leu, which had contained no monks ever since the time of the Huguenots.
He could go into Paris and return again before his turn to change guard
was likely to come.

Should I send him, or should I thus only lose a protector? He so far
reassured me that he said his comrades were, like himself, resolved not
to proceed to extremities with the widow of their captain--above all in
a chapel. They would take care not to exert all their strength, and if
they could, without breach of discipline, they would defend me.

I decided. I knew not where my sister might be searching, or if she
might not be likewise a prisoner; so I directed him first to the house
of M. Darpent, who was more likely to know what to do than Sir Francis
Ommaney. Besides, the Rue des Marmousets, where stood Maison Darpent,
was not far off.

I heard a great clock strike four, five, six, seven, eight o’clock,
and by and by there was a parley. M. de Lamont opened the door of the
chapel, and as I shuddered and kept my arm on my patroness, he implored
me to believe that no injury was intended to me--the queen of his
thoughts, or some such nonsense--I might understand that by the presence
of my brother-in-law. He only besought me not to hurt my precious
health, but to leave the cold chapel for a room that had been prepared
for me, and where I should find food.

‘No,’ I said; ‘nothing should induce me to leave my protectress.’

At least, then, he conjured me to accept food and wine, if I took
it where I was. I hastily considered the matter. There was nothing
I dreaded so much as being drugged; and yet, on the other hand, the
becoming faint for want of nourishment might be equally dangerous, and
I had taken nothing that day except a cup of milk before we set out from
home; and it was now a matter of time.

I told him, therefore, that I would accept nothing but a piece of bread
and some pure water, if it were brought me where I was.

‘Ah, Madame! you insult me by your distrust,’ he cried.

‘I have no reason to trust you,’ I said, with a frigidity that I hoped
would take from him all inclination for a nearer connection; but he
only smote his forehead as if it had been a drum, and complained of
my cruelty and obduracy. ‘Surely I had been nurtured by tigresses,’ he
said, quoting the last pastoral comedy he had seen.

He sent M. d’Aubepine to conduct some servant with a tray of various
meats and drinks; I took nothing but some bread and water, my
brother-in-law trying to argue with me. This was a mistake on their
part, for I was more angry with him than with his friend, in whom there
was a certain element of extravagant passion, less contemptible than
d’Aubepine’s betrayal of Phillipe de Bellaise’s widow merely out of
blind obedience to his Prince. He assured me that resistance was
utterly useless, that bets had passed at the Prince’s court on the
Englishwoman’s being subdued by Lamont before mid-night, and the Prince
himself had staked, I know not how much, against those who believed in
my obstinacy. Therefore Armand d’Aubepine, who was flushed with wine,
and not in the least able to perceive how contemptible he was, urged me
to yield with the best grace I could, since there was no help for it.
And so saying he suddenly pinioned both my arms with his own.

No help! Was there no help in Heaven above, or earth below? Was my
dragoon on his way?

The doors opened. Again the Abbe opened his book.

‘Brave dragoons!’ I cried out; ‘if there be not a man among you who
will stir a hand to save me, bear witness that I, Margaret de Ribaumont,
widow of Philippe de Bellaise, your own officer, protest against this
shameful violence. Whatever is here done is null and void, and shall be
made known to M. l’Abbe’s superiors.’

There was a dead pause. Then Lamont whispered something to the priest,
who began again. I felt Armand’s held relaxing, and making a sudden
struggle, I shook myself free with such force that he staggered back,
while I bounded forward and snatched the book from the priest’s hand,
throwing it on the floor, and then, regaining once more the statue of
St. Margaret, I stood grasping her with one arm with desperate energy,
while I cried: ‘A moi, soldiers of Freibourg!’

‘Drag her away,’ said d’Aubepine to the men.

‘By your leave, my captain,’ said their sergeant, ‘except in time of
war, it is not permitted to lay hands on any one in sanctuary. It is not
within our discipline.’

D’Aubepine swore an oath that they would see what their Colonel said
to their insubordination; but the sergeant replied, not without some
malice:

‘It falls within the province of the reverend Father.’

‘I command you, then!’ shrieked the Abbe, in a furry.

‘Nay, Monsieur l’Abbe is not our officer,’ said the sergeant, saluting
with great politeness.

‘Madame,’ cried Lamont, ‘will you cause these men to be put to death for
disobedience to their officer?’

I scarcely believed him. And yet--

There was a sound at the outside.

‘Make haste!’ cried d’Aubepine. ‘Here is the Prince come to see whether
he has won his wager.’



CHAPTER XXII. -- ST. MARGARET AND THE DRAGON

(By Annora)



A fine country to live in was la belle France, where a godly, modest,
discreet, and well-living widow could be spirited away by main force
from her sister and her servants, on the King’s highway in broad
daylight, and by soldiers wearing the King’s own uniform! ‘In the name
of the Prince!’ said they. Verily, I think it was in the name of the
Prince of darkness. They tore poor Meg from me, though we both fought
and struggled as hard as we could, in hopes of some one coming to our
rescue. Luckily my gloves were off, and I think I gave a few tolerable
scratches to somebody’s face, in spite of his abominable cache-nez. If
the servants had had a tenth part of the valour of our poor fellows who
lie dead at Newburry and Alresford we could have brought her off;
but these were but Frenchmen, and were overawed by those dragoons, or
dragons, in their cuirasses.

When poor Meg was dragged out, I held her fast, and tumbled out with
her; but even as we fell, she was rent from me, and I think I must have
been half-stunned. At any rate, I found myself flung back into our own
carriage, and the door shut upon me, while the horses were turned round,
and we were made to gallop back by the road we had come.

Our women, screaming and crying like mad things, helped me up from the
bottom of the carriage. I bade them hold their tongues and stop the
horses. The one they could not do, the other they would not. So I was
forced to open the door myself, and shout to the coachman to stop that
instant. He would not at first, but happily I saw a pistol, which one of
the wretches had dropped in the scuffle, and I threatened him with
it. Then, when my voice could be heard, I ordered the two outriders to
gallop after the coach in which my sister had been carried off, and see
where she was taken, while we made as much speed as we could after them;
but the cowardly rogues absolutely began to cry, and say that the leader
of the party had turned the horses’ heads, and declared that he would
shoot any one dead who attempted to follow.

Luckily I was in a close-fitting black cloth suit, being still in
mourning for our blessed martyr, and intending to make my toilette at
Rambouillet. I bade one of the fellows who had dismounted to give me
his cloak, and while they were still staring at me, I sprang into the
saddle, arranged the cloak, and rode off in pursuit. I knew I could keep
my seat even on a man’s saddle, for cavaliers’ daughters had had to do
strange things, and it was thus that I was obliged to come away from
my dear Berenger’s side. But then I rode between my father and Eustace.
Now, if I did not find out where my poor Margaret was gone, who was to
deliver her?

The men had heart of grace enough to follow me, more of them, indeed,
than I wanted, as of course it was better to go quietly than to have
them clattering with me. I told them to keep a little in the rear, and
I rode on, trying to see above the hedges the glancing of the helmets
of the dragoons. Across some vineyards I once caught sight of something
like a carriage and a troop of horse, quite in a different direction
from what I expected, and presently, when I came to a cross-road, I saw
by the marks in the mud and more that they must have turned that way.
I must follow by such guidance as these supplied, and fortunately
there had recently been rain, so that the wheel and hoof marks could be
tracked. To my amazement they led through many turns and twists at last
towards Paris; but to my dismay, when I came to the paved roads that
surround the city, I lost all traces. I knew I was a remarkable figure
when we were on the high roads, and so I kept back, making one of the
servants inquire at a little cabaret on the road whether a carriage,
attended by dragoons, had passed that way.

‘Yes,’ they brought me word. ‘A close carriage, no doubt containing
a state prisoner, had been escorted by dragoons on the way to the
Bastille.’

The man brought me back the answer, weeping. I scolded the fellow well
for thinking that these rogues SAYING Madame was at the Bastille made
it so, and yet it echoed my own alarm. I had at least ascertained one
point. She had not been transported to some solitary castle in the
country, but must be near at hand.

I must now go home, and see what help was to be had; but as they would
never let me pass the gates of Paris looking as I knew I must look,
I was obliged to ride back and meet the carriage, which had bidden to
follow us, and return to it in order to re-enter the city.

My mother was at St. Germain with our own Queen; who would be my
resource? I thought I had better first go home and see what Sir
Francis Ommaney’s counsel would be, and whether he thought the
English ambassador, Sir Richard Browne, could give any help, though,
unfortunately, poor Meg was no longer an English subject. There was
consternation enough when I came in with my terrible news, but at least
there was common-sense, and not shrieking. Sir Francis recommended me at
once to dress myself to go to St. Germain, while he would repair to
the embassy, since Sir Richard was the most likely person to be able
to advise him. We also thought of sending a courier to Solivet, who
was with the army on the frontier; and I put on a dress fit to obtain
admission at St. Germain. Lady Ommaney was scolding me into taking
some food before starting, and crying, because she had a bad attack of
rheumatism, and her husband would not let her go with us, when there was
a knock, and one of the women ran in. ‘News, news, Mademoiselle! News of
Madame la Vicomtesse! But ah! she is in a sad plight.’

Down I ran headlong, and whom should I find but the dear and excellent
Madame Darpent. She, who never left her home but for Church, had come to
help us in our extremity. It seemed that Meg’s dragoon (about whom she
has told her own story) had disguised himself as soon as he came within
Paris, and come in hot haste to M. Darpent, telling him how once my
brave sister had repulsed the whole crew of villains, and how he had
hurried away while the gentlemen (pretty gentlemen, indeed!) were
drinking wine to get up their courage for another encounter, in which
they were determined to succeeded since they were heavy bets at the
Prince’s camp that the pride of la grand Anglaise should be subdued
before midnight. The dragoon had not ventured to come any farther than
Maison Darpent, lest he should be missed and his comrades should not be
able to conceal his absence but he assured M. Darpent that though they
might appear to obey orders, they were resolved to give the lady every
opportunity of resistance. Was she not the wife of the best captain they
had ever had, and had she not knelt like one of the holy saints in a
mystery play?

I was for setting forth at once with Sir Francis, sure that the iniquity
could not proceed when it was made public. Of course we would have
risked it, but we might not have been able to force our way in without
authority, since the vile Abbe was on his own ground, and Madame Darpent
told us her son had devised a better plan. He had gone to the Coadjutor,
who in the dotage of his uncle, the Archbishop of Paris, exercised
all his powers. As one of their monkish clergy, this same Abbe was not
precisely under his jurisdiction, but the celebration of a marriage, and
at such an hour, in a Priory Chapel, was an invasion of the privileges
of the parish priest, and thus the Bishop of the See had every right to
interfere. And this same Coadjutor was sure to have an especial delight
in detecting a scandal, and overthrowing a plan of the Prince of Conde
and the ruling party at Court, so that if he could be found there was
little doubt of his assistance.

In order to lose no time, Clement Darpent had gone instantly in search
of him, and his good mother had come at once in her sedan to see if I
were returned, relieve our minds about my sister, and if my mother
were within reach, prepare her to go in search of Margaret, since the
Coadjutor, Bishop though he were, was still young, and not at all the
sort of man who could be suffered to bring her home without some elder
matron as her escort. Or if my mother were out of reach, Madame Darpent
was prepared, as an act of charity and goodness, to go herself in quest
of our poor Meg. The carriage had followed her to the door for the
purpose as soon as it could be got ready, and to add to my exceeding
gratitude, she was willing to take me with her. Sir Francis insisted
on going to my mother. He said it was right, but we doubted whether it
would do any good. We waited only for tidings which her son had promised
to send, and they came at last in a small billet sent by one of his
clerks. The Coadjutor had absolutely fired at the notion of such a hit
to the opposite party, and was only getting together what were called
the “First of Corinthians,” namely, the corps who had belonged to him
during the siege, and had obtained the nickname because he was titular
Archbishop of Corinth.

Clement would not leave him a moment, lest he should be diverted from
his purpose, but sent word to Madame Darpent that she, or whoever was to
escort Madame de Bellaise, was to meet him at seven o’clock in the
open space by the Barriere, showing a green light through the carriage
window, when he would show a red one.

Oh! what might not had happened before we could get there! I thought I
was used enough to suspense, I who had heard the rattle of the musketry
in more than one battle, but I should have been wild had not that best
of women held my hands and soothed me and helped me to say my prayers.

Hours seemed to go by as we sat in the dark with our lamp behind the
green curtain over the window, but at last the trampling of horses was
heard and the red light appeared. Presently Clement came to our door,
and exchanged a few words, but he said he must return to the Coadjutor,
who was in the best humour in the world.

The gates were closed, but the Coadjutor had no difficulty in passing
them, and we followed in his train. It was a dark night, but mounted
servants carried flambeaux, and we saw the light glance on the
Corinthians who guarded us. At last we stopped. We could not see then,
but I visited the place afterwards, and saw it was a tall brick house,
with a high wall round a courtyard. Here the Coadjutor’s carriage drew
up, and entrance was demanded for “Monseigneur l’Archeveque de Corinthe,
Coadjutor de Paris.” It may be supposed that the dragoon who kept the
door made no difficulty.

The carriage moved on, we drew up, and Clement, who had waited, handed
us out saying: ‘He tells me we are just in time. Be as silent as
possible.’

We found the court lighted with torches, the Coadjutor’s chaplain
arranging his purple robe, as he walked on through the doors that were
opened for him. Sir Francis led Madame Darpent, Clement gave me his had,
as we followed closely and noiselessly.

The chapel had its great wax candles alight on the altar. We could see
in, as we paused in the darkness of the antechapel, outside the screen,
while the Coadjutor advanced the door. My Margaret knelt, clinging
closely to a great stone image. The vile coward d’Aubepine was
commanding--for we heard him--his soldiers to seize her. The Abbe stood
finding the place in his book; Lamont was at a safe distance, however,
trying to induce her to rise. The Coadjutor’s clear voice was heard.

‘Benedicite, Messieurs,’ he said, and oh! the start they gave! ‘What
hole function am I interrupting, M. l’Abbe? The lady is in the attitude
of a penitent, but I was not aware that it was one of the customs of
your order to absolve thus in public.’

‘Monseigneur,’ said the Abbe, ‘neither was I aware that Episcopal
surveillance extended to religious houses.’

 Margaret  here broke in.  She had risen to her feet, and looking at
the Archbishop, with eyes beaming in her pale face, she cried: ‘Oh!
Monseigneur, you are come to save me! These wicked men are striving to
marry me against my will.’

‘To celebrate the marriage sacrament,’ continued the Coadjutor, in his
calm sneering tone; ‘then M. l’Abbe, I suppose you have procured the
necessary permission from the curate of the parish to perform the rite
at this strange time and place? I am sorry, Messieurs, to break up so
romantic a plan, savouring of the fine days of the quatre fils Aymon,
but I must stand up for the claims of the diocese and the parish.’

M. de Lamont turned round to my sister, and made one of his lowest bows,
such as no one but a French courtier CAN make (thank Heaven!).

‘Madame,’ he said, ‘we are disconcerted, but I shall still put my trust
in the truth that beauty ever pardons the efforts of love.’

‘So it may be Monsieur,’ returned Margaret, already fully herself, and
looking as tall, white, and dignified among them as a goddess among
apes, ‘so it may be, where there is either beauty or love;’ and she made
him a most annihilating curtsey. Then turning to the Coadjutor she
said: ‘Monseigneur, I cannot express my obligations to you;’ and then
as Clement stood behind him, she added: ‘Ah, Monsieur, I knew I might
reckon on you,’ holding out her hand, English fashion. She did not see
us, but M. d’Aubepine, who was slinking off the scene, like a beaten
hound, as well he might, unaware that we were in the antechapel, caught
his foot and spur in Madame Darpent’s long trailing cloak, and came down
at full length on the stone floor, being perhaps a little flustered with
wine. He lay still for the first moment, and there was an outcry. One of
the soldiers cried out to the other as Madame Darpent’s black dress and
white cap flashed into the light:

‘It is the holy saint who has appeared to avenge the sacrilege! She has
struck him dead.’

And behold the superstition affected even the licentious
good-for-nothing Abbe. Down he dropped upon his knees, hiding his eyes,
and sobbing out: ‘Sancta Margarita, spare me, spare me! I vow thee a
silver image. I vow to lead a changed life. I was drawn into it, holy
Lady Saint. They showed me the Prince’s letter.’

He got it all out in one breath, while some of them were lifting up
d’Aubepine, and the Coadjutor was in convulsions of suppressed laughter,
and catching hold of Clement’s arm whispered: ‘No, no, Monsieur, I
entreat of you, do not undeceive him. Such a scene is worth anything!
Madame, I entreat of you,’ to Meg, who was stepping forward.

However, of course it could not last long, though as d’Aubepine almost
instantly began to swear, as he recovered his senses, Madame Darpent
unconsciously maintained the delusion, by saying solemnly in her voice,
the gravest and deepest that I ever heard in a Frenchwoman: ‘Add not
another sin, sir, to those with which you have profaned this holy
place.’

The Abbe thereupon took one look and broke into another tempest of
entreaties and vows, which Madame Darpent by this time heard. ‘M.
l’Abbe,’ she said, ‘I pray you to be silent, I am no saint, but a
friend, if Madame will allow me so to call myself, who has come to see
her home. But Oh! Monsieur,’ she added, with the wonderful dignity that
surrounded her, ‘forget not, I pray you, that what is invisible is the
more real, and that the vows and resolution you have addressed to me in
error are none the less registered in Heaven.’

Mocker as the Coadjutor habitually was, he stood impressed, and uttered
no word to mar the effect, simply saying: ‘Madame, we thank you for the
lesson you have given us! And now, I think, these ladies will be glad to
close this painful scene.’

Meg, who with Madame Darpent, had satisfied herself that the wretch
d’Aubepine had not hurt himself anything like as much as he deserved,
declared herself ready and thankful to go away. The Abbe and Lamont both
entreated that she would take some refreshment before returning home,
but she shuddered, and said she could taste nothing there, and holding
tight by my arm, she moved away, though we paused while Madame Darpent
was kneeling down and asking the Archbishop to bless her. He did so, and
her spirit seemed to have touched his lighter and gayer one, and to
have made him feel what he was, for he gave the benediction with real
solemnity and unaffected reverence for the old lady.

He himself handed her into the carriage, and he must greatly have
respected her, for though he whispered something to her son about the
grand deliverance of the victim through St. Margaret and the Dragon (an
irresistible pun on the dragoon), yet excellent story as could have been
made of the free-thinking Abbe on his knees to the old Frondeur’s widow,
he never did make it public property. I believe that it is quite true,
as my sister’s clever friend Madame de Sevigne declares, that there
was always more good in Cardinal de Retz, as he now is called, than was
supposed.

Poor Meg had kept up gallantly through all her terrible struggle of many
hours, but when we had her safely in the carriage in the dark, she sank
back like one exhausted, and only held my hand and Madame Darpent’s to
her lips by turns. I wanted to ask whether she felt ill or hurt in any
way, but after she had gently answered, ‘Oh, no, only so thankful, so
worn out,’ Madame Darpent advised me not to agitate her by talking to
her, but to let her rest. Only the kind, motherly woman wanted to know
how long it was since she had eaten, and seeing the light of a little
CABARET on the road, she stopped the carriage and sent her son to fetch
some bread and a cup of wine.

For I should have said that M. Darpent had been obliged to return in the
same carriage with us, since he could not accompany the Coadjutor on
his way back. He wished to have gone outside, lest his presence should
incommode our poor Meg; but it had begun to rain, and we could not
consent. Nor was Meg like a Frenchwoman, to want to break out in fits
the moment the strain was over.

He brought us out some galettes, as they call them, and each of us
sisters had a draught of wine, which did us a great deal of good.
Then we drove on in the dark as fast as we could, for the Coadjutor’s
carriage had passed us while we were halting, and we wanted to enter the
gates at the same time with him.

I sat beside my sister, holding her hand, as it seemed to give her a
sense of safety; Madame Darpent was on her other side, Clement opposite.
We kept silence, for Madame Darpent declared that no questions ought to
be asked of Madame de Bellaise till the next morning.

Presently we heard an unmistakable snoring from the old lady’s corner,
and soon after I felt my sister’s fingers relax and drop mine, so that
I knew she slept. Then I could not but begin to tell, in the quiet and
stillness, how my dear brother would thank and bless him for what he had
done for us.

I am an old woman now, but I have only to shut my eyes and it all comes
back on me--the dark carriage, the raindrops against the window glancing
in the light of the flambeaux, the crashing of the wheels, and the
steady breathing of the sleepers, while we two softly talked on, and our
hearts went out to one another, so that we knew our own feelings for one
another.

I think it came of talking of Eustace and his not being able to keep
back, that, though Eustace was in some sort the guiding star of his
life, yet what he had done for us was not merely for my brother’s sake,
but for another much more unworthy, had he only known it.

Then he found he had betrayed himself, and asked my pardon, declaring
that he had only meant to watch me at a distance (poor me), knowing well
the vast gulf between our stations. What could I answer but that
this was only French nonsense; that we knew better in England what a
gentleman meant, and that I was sure that my brother would freely and
joyfully give me to him, poor, broken, ruined cavalier exile as I was?
And then we got hold of each other’s hands, and he called me all sorts
of pretty names in French and in English; and I felt myself the proudest
and happiest maiden in France, or England to boot, for was not mine the
very noblest, most upright and disinterested of hearts?

Only we agreed that it would be better to let no one at Paris know what
was between us until my brother should return. We knew that he would
be the most likely person to obtain my mother’s consent, and he really
stood in the place of a father to me; while if we disclosed it at once
there was no knowing what my mother might not attempt in his absence,
and his mother would never permit us to be in opposition to mine. She
would not understand that, though I might not disobey my mother, it was
quite impossible that my feelings and opinions should be guided by one
of different religion, nation, and principles altogether.

However, we agreed to write to my brother in Holland as soon as we could
find a safe conveyance, and when there were signs of waking on the
part of our companions we unlocked the hands that had been clasping one
another so tightly.


(Finished by Margaret.)


So you thought I was asleep, did you, Mistress Nan? I suppose after all
these years you will not be ready to box my ears for having heard? It
was no feigning; I really was so worn and wearied out that I lay back on
the cushions they had arranged for me in a sort of assoupissement, only
at first able to feel that I was safe, and that Annora was with me.
She says that I dropped her hand. Well, perhaps I may have dozed for a
moment, but it seems to me that I never lost the knowledge of the sound
of the wheels, nor of the murmuring voices, though I could not stir,
nor move hand nor foot, and though I heard it all, it was not till I
was lying in bed the next morning that I recollected any part of it, and
then it was more as if I had dreamt it than as a reality.

Moreover, Annora was hovering over me, looking perfectly innocent, and
intent on making me rest, and feeding me upon possets, and burning to
hear my story. Then came my mother from St. Germain, having received a
courier who had been dispatched at dawn. She embraced me and wept over
me, and yet--and yet I think there mingled with her feeling something of
vexation and annoyance. If I were to be carried off at all by a man of
rank and station, it would have been almost better if he had succeeded
in marrying me than that the affair should be a mere matter of gossip.
Certainly, that my rescue should be owing to one of the factious
lawyers, and to that mischievous party leader the Coadjutor, was an
unmixed grievance. After all my follies at Nid de Merle, I was quite
sufficiently in ill odour with the Court to make it needful to be very
careful. If I had only waited till morning, the Queen would have taken
care to deliver me without my having given a triumph which the Frondeurs
would not fail to make the most of.

‘Where should I have been in the morning?’ I said. ‘Did she not know
that the horrible wager related to midnight?’

She supposed any woman could take care of herself. At any rate I had
contrived to offend everybody. The Prince was paramount at Court, and
carried all before him. Mademoiselle, in her devotion to him, and the
Queen-Regent would never forgive my trafficking with the Frondeurs.
On the whole, my mother really thought that the best way to regain my
favour or even toleration, would be to accept M. de Lamont with a good
grace, since he was certainly distractedly in love with me, and if I
fell into disgrace with the authorities, I might have my son and the
administration of his property taken away from me in a still more
distressing manner, whereas it would only depend on myself to rule M. de
Lamont.

‘I have only to say,’ observed Annora, ‘that if she were to do such a
thing I should never speak to her again.’

Whereupon my mother severely reproved my sister, declaring that it was
all her fault, and that she had gone beyond all bounds when left to
herself, and would be a disgrace to the family.

Annora coloured furiously, and said she did not know what might be
esteemed a disgrace in France, but she should certainly do nothing that
would disgrace her English name. Then it flashed on me that what had
passed in the carriage had been a reality, and I saw what she meant.

Of course, however, I did not betray my perception. Disputes between my
mother and sister were what we all chiefly dreaded; it was so impossible
to make them see anything from the same point of view, so I thought it
best to turn the conversation back to my own affairs, by saying that I
thought that to marry M. de Lamont would only make matters worse, and
that no loss of favour or any other misfortune could be equal to that of
being bound to such a husband as he had shown himself.

I had them all against me except my sister and my English friends, and
my saintly guide, Father Vincent de Paul, who assured me that I was by
no means bound to accept a man like that; and as for silencing scandal,
it was much better to live it down. That devout widow, Madame de
Miramion, had endured such an abduction as mine at hands of Bussy
Rabutin, and had been rescued by her mother-in-law, who had raised the
country-people. No one thought a bit the worse of her for it, and she
was one of the foremost in her works of charity.

This gave me the comfort of knowing that I was right, and I knew besides
that such a marriage would be a sore grief to my brother, so I resolved
to hold out against all persuasions; but it was a wretched time that now
began, for Lamont would not desist from persecuting me with his suit,
and I had no remission from him either at Court or in my own house, for
if I excluded him my mother admitted him. My mother dragged me to Court
as a matter of form, but I was unwelcome there, and was plainly shown
that it was so.

The Queen could not forgive me for being rescued by the Frondeurs;
Mademoiselle was in the Prince’s interest; the Prince was dominant, and
all his satellites made it a point of honour that none of them should
fail in carrying any point. Even Cecile d’Aubepine followed the stream.
Her husband was very angry with her, and said I had put on grand airs,
and made myself ridiculous; and the foolish little thing not only obeyed
but believed him, though he neglected her as much as ever. I never dared
to drive, scarcely ever to walk out, without escort enough to prevent
any fresh attempt at abduction; and even my poor Gaspard was in
disgrace, because he was not courtier enough to bear in silence taunts
about his mother.

I had only one thing to look forward to, and that was the return of my
brother. The new King of England had arrived, and we trusted that he
would appear with him; but alas! no, he was detained on the King’s
business in Jersey, and could not come.

Meantime Annora kept her own counsel, and though she was my only
supporter, except of course of Ommaneys, in my resistance, the want of
confidence made a certain separation between us. I do not think she had
any secret communication with Clement Darpent--they were too honourable
for that--but she drew more to old Lady Ommaney than to me during this
time.

Reports began to circulate that the Prince’s insolence had gone too
far, and that the Cardinal had been holding secret conferences with the
Coadjutor, to see whether his help and that of Paris could be relied
on for the overthrow of the Prince. I remember that Annora was in high
spirits, and declared that now was the time for honest men if they only
knew how to profit by it.



CHAPTER XXIII. -- THE LION AND THE MOUSE



We were greatly amazed when late one January evening Cecile rushed into
my room like one distracted, crying:

‘The monsters, they have arrested him!’

We knew there was only on of the nobler sex in the eyes of my poor
Cecile, and my first question was:

‘What has he done?’ expecting to hear that he had been fighting a duel,
or committing some folly. My surprise was greater when I heard her
answer:

‘He was going to carry off the Cardinal’s nieces.’

‘He seems to have a turn for such exploits,’ Annora said. ‘Who wanted to
marry them?’

‘It was for no such thing!’ Cecile said, with as much heat as she could
show; ‘it was to take them as hostages.’

‘As hostages!’

‘Oh, yes! Do not you know? For the Prince.’

Our astonishment was redoubled.

‘Eh, quoi! Messieus les Prince de Conde and Conty, and the Duke of
Longueville, are all arrested, coming from the council, by the treason
of the Cardinal. They are sent off no one knows where, but my husband,
you understand, was with M. de Boutteville and a hundred other brave
officers in the garden of the Hotel de Conte when the news came. M.
de Boutteville immediately proposed to gallop to Val de Grace and
then seize on the Demoiselles Mazarin and Mancini as the best means
of bringing the Cardinal to reason, and instantly it is done; but the
cunning Cardinal had foreseen everything; the young ladies had been
seized and carried off, I know not where,’ and she burst into a flood of
tears.

With some difficulty we elicited from her that she had learned the
tidings from a sergeant who had been in attendance on the Count, and had
fled when he was taken. At the same time horrible noises and shouts were
heard all over the city.

‘Treason! Treason! Down with the Cardinal! Beaufort is taken! The
Coadjutor! Vengeance! Vengeance!’

Sir Francis hurried out to learn the truth, and then my mother in her
fright cried out:

‘Will no one come and protect us? Oh! where is M. Darpent?’ while Annora
called to me to take our cloaks and come up to the roof of the house to
see what was going on. She was in high spirits, no doubt laughing within
herself to see how every danger made my mother invoke M. Darpent, and
finding in a tumult a sure means of meeting him, for she could trust to
him to come and offer his protection.

I SAW that she heard his voice on the stairs before he actually made his
appearance, telling my mother that he had hastened to assure her that we
were in no danger. The rising was due to M. de Boutteville, who, being
disappointed in his plan of seizing the Cardinal’s nieces as hostages,
had gone galloping up and down Paris with his sword drawn, shouting that
the two darlings of the people, M. de Beaufort and the Coadjutor, had
been seized. He wildly hoped that the uproar this was sure to excite
would frighten the Queen-Regent into releasing the Princes as she had
before released Broussel.

But the Coadjutor had come out with torches carried before him, and had
discovered the name of the true prisoners, whose arrogance had so deeply
offended the populace. He had summoned the Duke of Beaufort--the King of
the Markets, as he was called--and he was riding about the streets with
a splendid suite, whose gilded trappings glistened in the torchlight.

So deeply had the Prince’s arrogance offended all Paris that the whole
city passed from rage into a transport of joy, and the servants came
and called us up to the top of the house to see the strange sight of the
whole city illuminated. It was wonderful to behold, every street and all
the gates marked out by bright lights in the windows, and in the open
spaces and crossings of the street bonfires, with dark figures dancing
wildly round them in perfect ecstasies of frantic delight; while guns
were fired out, and the chorus of songs came up to us; horrid, savage,
abusive songs, Sir Francis said they were, when he had plodded his way
up to us on the roof, after having again reassured my mother, who had
remained below trying to comfort the weeping Cecile.

Sir Francis said he had asked a tradesman with whom he dealt, ordinarily
a very reasonable and respectable man, what good they expected from
this arrest that it should cause such mad delirium of joy. The man was
utterly at a loss to tell him anything but that the enemies of Paris
were fallen. And then he began shouting and dancing as frantically as
ever.

It was to his wife and me that the English knight told his adventures;
Annora and M. Darpent had drawn apart on the opposite side of the
paraget. If to Madame d’Aubepine this great stroke of policy meant
nothing but that her husband was in prison, to my sister a popular
disturbance signified chiefly a chance of meeting Clement Darpent; and
Lady Ommaney and I exchanged glances and would not look that way. Nay,
we stayed as long as we could bear the cold of that January night to
give them a little more time. For, as I cannot too often remind you, my
grand-daughters, we treated an English maiden, and especially one who
had had so many experiences as my sister, very differently from a simple
child fresh from her convent.

Nicolas at last came up with a message from Madame la Baronne to beg
that we would come down. We found that the Intendante Corquelebois (erst
Gringrimeau) had brought the children in a panic, lest the houses of the
partisans of the Princes should be attacked. She had put on a cloak and
hood, made them look as like children of the people as she could, and
brought them on foot through the streets; and there stood the poor
little things, trembling and crying, and very glad to find their mother
and cling to her. She had never thought of this danger, and was shocked
at herself for deserting them. And it was a vain alarm; for, as M.
Darpent assured her, M. d’Aubepine was not conspicuous enough to have
become a mark for public hatred.

She was a little affronted by the assurance, but we appeased her, and
as the tumult was beginning to die away, M. Darpent took his leave,
promising my mother to let her know of any measure taken on the morrow.
He offered to protect Madame d’Aubepine and her children back to their
own hotel, but we could not let the poor wife go back with her grief,
nor the children turn out again on the winter’s night. I was glad to see
that she seemed now on perfectly good terms with herdame de compagnie,
who showed herself really solicitous for her and her comfort, and did
not seem displeased when I took her to my room. I found my poor little
sister-in-law on the whole less unhappy than formerly. People do get
accustomed to everything, and she had somehow come to believe that it
was the proper and fashionable arrangement, and made her husband more
distinguished, that he should imitate his Prince by living apart from
her, and only occasionally issuing his commands to her. He had not
treated her of late with open contempt, and he had once or twice take
a little notice of his son, and all this encouraged her in her firm
and quiet trust that in process of time, trouble, age, or illness
would bring him back to her. Her eyes began to brighten as she wondered
whether she could not obtain his liberty by falling at the Queen’s
feet with a petition, leading her children in her hands. ‘They were
so beautiful. The Queen must grant anything on the sight of her little
chevalier!’

And then she had a thousand motherly anecdotes of the children’s
sweetness and cleverness to regale me with till she had talked herself
tolerably happily to sleep.

We kept her with us, as there were reports the next day of arrests
among the ladies of the Princes’ party. The two Princesses of Conde
were permitted to retire to Chantilly, but then the Dowager-Princess was
known to be loyal, and the younger one was supposed to be a nonentity.
Madame de Longueville was summoned to the Palace, but she chose instead
to hide herself in a little house in the Faubourg St. Germain, whence
she escaped to Normandy, her husband’s Government, hoping to raise the
people there to demand his release and that of her brothers.

The Prince’s INTENDANT was taken, and there was an attempt to arrest the
whole Bouillon family, but the Duke and his brother, M. de Turenne, were
warned in time and escaped. As to the Duchess and her children, their
adventures were so curious that I must pause to tell their story. A
guard was sent to her house under arms to keep her there. There were
four little boys, and their attendants, on seeing the guards, let them
straight out through the midst of them, as if they were visitors, the
servants saying: ‘You must go away. Messieurs les petits Princes cannot
play to-day. They are made prisoners.’ They were taken to the house
of Marshal de Guesbriant, where they were dressed as girls, and thus
carried off to Bellechasse, whence they were sent to Blois.

There the little Chevalier of seven years old (Emmanuel Theodore was his
name, and he is now a Cardinal) fell ill, and could not go on with his
brothers when they were sent southwards, but was left with a lady named
Flechine. By and by, when the Court came to Guienne, Madame de Flechine
was afraid of being compromised if she was found to have a son of the
Duke of Bouillon in the house. She recollected that there was in a very
thick wood in the park a very thick bush, forming a bower or vault,
concealed by thorns and briers. There she placed the little boy with
his servant Defargues, giving them some bread, wine, water, a pie, a
cushion, and an umbrella in case of rain, and she went out herself very
night to meet Defargues and bring him fresh provisions. His Eminence
has once told me all about it, and how dreadfully frightened he was
a thunderstorm in the valet’s absence, and when a glow-worm shone out
afterwards the poor child thought it was lightning remaining on the
ground, and screamed out to Defargues not to come in past it. He says
Defargues was a most excellent and pious soul, and taught him more
of his religion than ever he had known before. Afterwards Madame de
Flechine moved them to a little tower in the park, where they found a
book of the LIVES OF THE SAINTS, and Defargues taught his little master
to make wicker baskets. They walked out on the summer nights, and
enjoyed themselves very much.

As to poor Madame de Bouillon, her baby was born on that very day of the
arrest. Her sister-in-law and her eldest daughter remained with her, and
Madame Carnavalet; the captain of the guards had to watch over them all.
He was of course a gentleman whom they already knew, and he lived with
them as a guest. As soon as Madame de Bouillon had recovered, they
began to play at a sort of hide-and-seek, daring him to find them in the
hiding-places they devised, till at last he was not at all alarmed at
missing them. Then M. de Boutteville and her daughter escaped through a
cellar-window, and they would have got safely off, if the daughter
had not caught the smallbox. Her mother, who was already on the way to
Boxdeaux, came back to nurse her, and was taken by the bedside, and shut
up in the Bastille.

The two Princesses were at Chantilly, and rumours reached us that the
younger lady was about to attempt something for the deliverance of he
husband, and thereupon M. d’Aubepine became frantic to join them, and to
share in their councils. We tried to convince her that she could be
of no use, but no--suppose they were going to raise their vassals, she
could do the same by those of d’Aubepine, and she, who had hitherto been
the most timid and helpless of beings, now rose into strong resolution
and even daring. It was in vain that I represented to her that to raise
one’s vassals to make war on the King was rank rebellion. To her there
was only one king--the husband who deserved so little from her. She had
given him her whole devotion, soul and body, and was utterly incapable
of seeing anything else. And Madame Croquelebois, being equally devoted
to M. le Comte, was thus more in her confidence than we were. She told
us at last with a thousand thanks that she had resolved on offering her
services to the Princesses, and that she should send the children with
Madame Croquelebois into Anjou; where she thought they would be safer
than at Paris. We were sorry, but there was a determination now in our
little Cecile that made her quite an altered woman. So she repaired
to Montroud, where the younger Princess of Conde had retired, and was
acting by the advice of M. Lenet, the Prince’s chief confidant.

The next thing we heard of her was astonishing enough. The Princess,
a delicate sickly woman, together with our little Countess, had left
Montroud in the night with fifty horses. The Princess rode on a pillion
behind M. de Coligny, Cecile in the same way, and the little Duke of
Enghien was on a little saddle in front of Vialas, his equerry. On they
went, day and night, avoiding towns and villages, and seldom halting
except in the fields. Happily it was the month of May, or those two
delicate beings never could have lived through it, but Cecile afterwards
told us that she had never felt so well in her life.

Near the town of Saint Cere they met the Dukes of Bouillon and La
Rochefoucauld, with eight hundred men, mostly gentlemen, who were ready
to take up their cause. The Princess, hitherto so shy, gracefully and
eagerly greeted and thanked them, and the little Duke made his little
speech. ‘Indeed I am not afraid of Mazarin any more, since I see you
here with so may brave men. I only expect the liberty of my good papa
through their valour and yours.’

There were great acclamations at this pretty little address, and then
the boy rode with his mother through the eight squadrons in which the
troop was drawn up, saluting the officers like a true little Prince,
with his hat in his hand, while there were loud shouts of ‘Vive le Roi!
Vivent les Prince!’ and such a yell of ‘Down with Mazarin!’ as made
Cecile tremble.

She was expecting her own share in the matter all along, and presently
she had the delight of seeing twenty more men coming with Croquelebois
at their head, and by his side, on a little pony, her own little
Maurice, the Chevalier d’Aubepine. Was not Cecile a proud woman then? I
have a letter of hers in which she says (poor dear thing!) that he was
a perfect little Prince Charmant; and he really was a pretty little
fellow, and very well trained and good, adoring her as she deserved.

I will go on with her story, though only at second hand, before I
proceed with my own, which for a time took me from the scene of my
friend’s troubles. This is written for her grandchildren as much as my
own and my sister’s, and it is well they should know what a woman she
truly was, and how love gave her strength in her weakness.

The Prince of Conde, whose history and whose troubles were only too like
her own, already loved her extremely, and welcomed her little son as a
companion to the Duke of Enghien. The Duke of Bouillon took them to
his own fortress-town of Turenne, where they remained, while the little
bourg of Brive la Gaillarde was taken from the royal troops by the
Dukes. The regiment sent by the Cardinal to occupy the place was Prince
Thomas of Savoy’s gendarmes, and as of course they loved such generals
as Turenne and Conde better than any one else, the loyalty of most of
them gave way, and they joined the Princess’s little army.

The Duke of Bouillon entertained his guests splendidly, though his poor
Duchess was absent in the Bastille. The ladies had to dine every day
in the great hall with all the officers, and it was a regular banquet,
always beginning and ending with Conde’s health. Great German goblets
were served out to everybody, servants and all, and the Duke of Bouillon
began by unsheathing his sword, and taking off his hat, while he vowed
to die in the service of the Princes, and never to return his sword
to the scabbard--in metaphor, I suppose--till it was over. Everybody
shouted in unison, waved the sword, flourished the hat, and then drank,
sometimes standing, sometimes on their knees. The two little boys, with
their tiny swords, were delighted to do the same, though their mothers
took care that there should be more water than wine in their great
goblets.

I afterwards asked Cecile, who was wont to shudder at the very sight of
a sword, how she endured all these naked weapons flourishing round her.
‘Oh,’ she said, ‘did not I see my husband’s liberty through them?’

The ladies were then escorted, partly on horseback, partly by boat, to
Limeuil, and that same day their Dukes gained a victory over the royal
troops, and captured all their baggage, treasure, and plate, so that
Cecile actually heard the sounds of battle, and her husband might say,
as the Prince did at Vincennes: ‘A fine state of things that my wife
should be leading armies while I am watering pinks.’

The wives had their pinks too, for the whole road to Bordeaux was
scattered with flowers, and every one trooped out to bless the Princess
and her son. As she entered the city the 400 vessels in the port fired
all their guns three times over, and 30,000 men, escorting a splendid
carriage, in which she went along at a foot’s pace, came forth to
welcome her. Her son was dressed in white taffety turned up with black
and white feathers. He was held in a gentleman’s arms at the window, and
continually bowed, and held out his little hands to be kissed, saying
that his father and grandfather had been quite right to love people who
had such an affection for their house as these seemed to have. Maurice
d’Aubepine, at the opposite window, was nodding away with a good-will
at the people who were obliged to put up with him instead of the little
Duke.

They came to a handsome house, which had been appointed for the Prince’s
gentleman, took great care of them, though the two Dukes remained
outside with their little army. The next day the Princess, attended
of course by Madame d’Aubepine, and a whole train of noblesse and
influential people, went to the Parliament of Bordeaux with her petition
for aid. She personally addressed each counsellor in the passage to
the great hall, and represented to them the cruelty and ingratitude of
Mazarin towards her husband, while her little son kissed and embraced
and begged them for his father’s liberty.

When all had assembled in the great chamber, and they had begun to
deliberate, the Princess burst in on them, threw herself on her knees,
and began a speech. When she broke off, choked by tears, her little son
fell on his knees and exclaimed: ‘Gentlemen, be instead of a father to
me; Cardinal Mazarin has taken away mine!’

Then there was a general weeping, and the Parliament promised the
Princess their protection. There was more hesitation about admitting the
two Dukes, but at last it was done. There were the headquarters of the
army that resisted the Crown. At least this was the principle on which
the Duke of Bouillon acted. His family had from the first tried to
maintain the privileges which the old feudal vassals attributed to
themselves, and he was following up their traditions, as well as
fighting for the deliverance of his wife from her captivity.

The Duke of Rochefoucauld was throughout more the lover of Madame de
Longueville then anything else, and the Princess of Conde simply thought
of obtaining her husband’s release, and nothing else. She had no notions
of State policy nor anything else of the kind, any more than had Madame
d’Aubepine, who assisted daily at her little agitated court. They were
the two gentlest, simplest, weakest conspirators who ever rebelled
against the Crown, and it was all out of pure loyalty to the two
husbands who had never shown a spark of affection, scarcely of courtesy,
to either of them.

Well, the Queen herself and her son and all the Court came to reduce
Bordeaux, Mademoiselle and all, for she had been for the time detached
from the adoration of the Prince, by, of all things in the world, hopes
given her of marrying her little cousin, the King, though he was only
twelve and she was double that age. So Bordeaux was besieged, and held
out against the royal troops for some days, being encouraged by the
resolute demeanour of the Princess; but at last, when on the faubourgs
had been taken, the Parliament, uneasy in conscience at resisting the
Crown, decided on capitulating, and, to the bitter disappointment and
indignation of the ladies, made no stipulations as to the liberty of the
husband.

No attempt was made on the liberty of the lady herself, and she was
ordered to depart to Chantilly. Though unwell, she had visited every
counsellor in his own house, and done her utmost to prepare for the
renewal of the resistance in case her husband was not released; and she
was almost exhausted with fatigue when she went on board a vessel which
was to take her to Larmont, whence she meant to go to Coutras, where she
was to be permitted to stay for three days.

Many nobles and people of condition, and half the population of
Bordeaux, came down to the port with her, uttering lamentations,
benedictions on her and her boy, and curses on Mazarin.

While about to embark she met Marshal de la Meilleraye, who advised her
to go and see the Queen at Bourg, and she accordingly put herself under
his direction, Cecile of course accompanying her as her attendant. The
Duke of Damville came to fetch them in a carriage, and after alighting
at Marshal de la Meilleraye’s quarters, kind messages of inquiry were
sent them by the Court, even by the King and Queen. By every one indeed
except Mademoiselle, who kept up her dislike.

My son, who was present, described all to me, and how his blood boiled
at the scornful airs of Mademoiselle and the stiffness of the Queen. He
said, however, that his aunt looked quite like a changed woman as she
entered, leading Maurice in the rear of the other mother and son.

The poor Princess had been bled the day before, and had her arm in a
scarf, and Mademoiselle actually tittered at the manner in which it was
put on, when this devoted wife was presented to the Queen, leading her
little son.

Falling on her knees before the Queen she made her a really touching
speech, begging her to excuse the attempts of a lady who had the honour
of being married to the first Prince of the blood, when she strove to
break his fetters. ‘You see us on our knees, Madame, to beg for the
liberty of what is dearest to us. Grant it to the great actions the
Monsieur mon mari has performed for the glory of your Majesty, and the
life he has ventured so often in the service of the State, and do not
refuse our tears and humble prayers.’

The Queen answered coldly enough. Cecile told me afterwards that it was
like ice, dashing all her hopes, to see the stern, haughty dignity of
Anne of Austria unmoved by the tender, tearful, imploring form of Claire
Clemence de Breze, trembling all over with agitation, and worn down with
all she had attempted. ‘I am glad, cousin,’ said the Queen, ‘that you
know your fault. You see you have taken a bed method of obtaining what
you ask. Now your conduct is to be different, I will see whether I can
give you what you desire.’

In spite of her fright and the Queen’s chilly pride, Cecile, feeling
that this was her only chance, fell almost on her face before the Queen,
with Maurice by her side, and cried: ‘Grace, grace, great Queen, for my
husband.’

My little Marquis, as he told me, could not bear to see them thus alone,
so he ran forward, and knelt on her other side, holding her hand. And
he heard a horrid little laugh, something about a new edition and an
imitation; but the Queen, who had forgotten all about her, asked who she
was and what her husband was.

Then, when it was explained that the Count d’Aubepine had drawn his
sword and tried to aid Boutteville, there was another smile. Perhaps
it was that the contrast might mortify the poor Princess, but the Queen
said:

‘There! stand up, Madame la Comtesse! We will send orders that the Count
shall be released. He has expiated his own zeal, and will know better
another time.’

Can any one conceive our Cecile’s joy? She rose up and embraced both the
boys passionately, and Gaspard could not refrain from congratulating her
with the words, scarcely complimentary: ‘My aunt, is it not indeed the
lion and the mouse? Now my uncle must love you, as my papa loved my
mama.’

The Princess, always too sweet and gentle for envy, kissed and
congratulated Madame d’Aubepine, and left her on retiring to Milly. Nor
did Cecile quit the Court till she actually was the bearer of an order
for the release of her husband.



CHAPTER XXIV. -- FAMILY HONOUR



I have gone on with the d’Aubepine side of the story, but while these
two devoted wives were making exertions at Bordeaux so foreign to their
whole nature, which seemed changed for their husband’s sake, I was far
away at the time, even from my son.

It was in March that we received a letter from my brother, Lord Walwyn,
bidding us adieu, being, when we received it, already on the high seas
with the Marquis of Montrose, to strike another blow for the King.
He said he could endure inaction no longer, and that his health had
improved so much that he should not be a drag on the expedition.
Moreover, it was highly necessary that the Marquis should be accompanied
by gentlemen of rank, birth, and experience, who could be entrusted with
commands, and when so many hung back it was the more needful for some
to go. It was a great stroke to us, for besides that Sir Andrew Macniven
went on reiterating that it was mere madness, and there was not a hope
of success--the idea of Eustace going to face the winds of spring in the
islands of Scotland was shocking enough.

‘The hyperborean Orcades,’ as the Abbe called them, made us think of
nothing but frost and ice and savages, and we could not believe Sir
Andrew when he told us that the Hebrides and all the west coast of
Scotland were warmer than Paris in the winter.

After this we heard nothing--nothing but the terrible tidings that the
Great Marquis, as the Cavaliers called him, had been defeated, taken by
treachery, and executed by hanging--yes, by hanging at Edinburgh! His
followers were said to be all dispersed and destroyed, and our hearts
died within us; but Annora said she neither would nor could believe that
all was over till she had more positive news, and put my mother in mind
how many times before they had heard of the deaths of men who appeared
alive and well immediately after. She declared that she daily expected
to see Eustace walk into the room, and she looked round for him whenever
the door was opened.

The door did open at last to let in tidings from the Hague, but not
brought by Eustace. It was Mr. Probyn, one of the King’s gentlemen,
however, who told me he had been charged to put into my hands the
following letter from His Majesty himself:--


‘Madame--If you were still my subject I should command you, as you are
ever my old playfellow. Meg, I entreat you to come without delay to
a true subject and old playfellow of mine, who, having already sorely
imperiled his neck and his health, and escaped, as they say, by the skin
of his teeth, would fain follow me into the same jeopardy again did
I not commit him to such safe warship as that of Madame de Bellaise.
Probyn will tell you further. He also bears a letter that will secure
you letters and passports from the Queen-Regent. When next you hear of
me it will be with one of my crowns on my head.

CHARLES R.’


Therewith was a brief note from Eustace himself:--


‘Sweet Meg--Be not terrified at what they tell you of me. I have been
preserved by a miracle in the miserable destruction of our armament and
our noble leader. Would that my life could have gone for his! They take
such a passing ailment as I have often before shaken off for more than
it is worth, but I will write more from shipboard. Time presses at
present. With my loving and dutiful greetings to my mother, and all love
to my sister,                                    ‘Thine,
                                        ‘E. WALWYN AND RIBAUMONT.’


Mr. Probyn told us more, and very sad it was, though still we had cause
for joy. When Montrose’s little troop was defeated and broken up at
the Pass of Invercharron my brother had fled with the Marquis, and had
shared his wanderings in Ross-shire for some days; but, as might only
too surely have been expected, the exposure brought back his former
illness, and he was obliged to take shelter in the cabin of a poor
old Scotchwoman. She--blessings be on her head!--was faithful and
compassionate, and would not deliver him up to his enemies, and thus his
sickness preserved him from being taken with his leader by the wretched
Macleod of Assynt.

Just as he grew a little better her son, who was a pedlar, arrived at
the hut. He too was a merciful man, and, moreover, was loyal in heart to
the King, and had fought in Montrose’s first rising; and he undertook to
guide my brother safely across Scotland and obtain his passage in one
of the vessels that traded between Leith and Amsterdam. Happily Eustace
always had a tongue that could readily catch the trick of dialects, and
this excellent pedlar guarded him like his own brother, and took care
to help him through all pressing and perplexing circumstances.
Providentially, it was the height of summer, and the days were at their
longest and warmest, or I know not how he could have gone through it at
all; but at last he safely reached Leith, passing through Edinburgh with
a pack on his back the very day that the Marquis of Huntly was executed.
He was safely embarked on board at Dutch lugger, making large engagement
of payment, which were accepted when he was known to have estates in
France as well as in England; and thus he landed at Amsterdam, and made
his way to the Hague, where all was in full preparation for the King’s
expedition to Scotland on the invitation of the nation.

So undaunted was my dear brother’s spirit that, though he was manifestly
very ill from the effects of exposure and fatigue, and of a rough voyage
in a wretched vessel, he insisted that he should recover in a few days,
and would have embarked at once with the King had not absolute orders to
the contrary, on his duty as a subject, been laid upon him. Mr. Probyn
did not conceal from us that the learned Dutch physician, Doctor
Dirkius, though his condition very serious, and that only great care
could save his life.

Of course I made up my mind at once to set forth and travel as quickly
as I could--the King had kindly secured my permission--and to take
Tryphena with me, as she knew better than any one what to do for
Eustace. Annora besought permission to accompany me, and, to my
surprise, my mother consented, saying to me in confidence that she did
not like leaving her in Lady Ommaney’s care while she herself was with
the Queen of England. Lady Ommaney was not of sufficient rank, and had
ideas. In effect, I believe my mother had begun to have her suspicions
about Clement Darpent, though separation a good thing, never guessing,
as I did, that one part of Nan’s eagerness to be with her brother was in
order to confide in him, and to persuade him as she had never been able
to do by letter. There remained my son to be disposed of, but I had full
confidence in the Abbe, who had bred up his father so well, and my boy
would, I knew, always look up to him and obey him, so that I could leave
him in his care when not in waiting, and they were even to spend the
summer together in a little expedition to Nid de Merle. I wanted to see
my son love his country home as English gentlemen lover theirs; but
I fear that can never be, since what forms affection is the habit
of conferring benefits, and we are permitted to do so little for our
peasants.

Thus, then, it was settled. I went to Mademoiselle, who was always
good-natured where her vanity was not concerned, and who freely-granted
me permission to absent myself. The Queen-Regent had been prepared by
her nephew, and she made no difficulties, and thus my great traveling
carriage came again into requisition; but as an escort was necessary, we
asked Sir Andrew Macniven to accompany us, knowing that he would be glad
to be at the Hague in case it should be expedient to follow His English
Majesty to Scotland. We sent a courier to find my brother Solivet at
Amiens, that he might meet and come part of the way with us. As to M. de
Lamont, I was no longer in dread of him, as he had gone off to join the
troops which the Duke of Bouillon and Rochefoucauld were collecting
to compel the deliverance of the Princes; but the whole time was a
dangerous one, for disbanded soldiers and robbers might lurk anywhere,
and we were obliged to take six outriders armed to the teeth, besides
the servants upon the carriage, of all of whom Sir Andrew took the
command, for he could speak French perfectly, having studied in his
youth in the University of Leyden.

Thus we took leave of Paris and of my mother, many of our friends coming
out with us the first stage as far as St. Denys, where we all dined
together. I could have excused them, as I would fain have had my son all
to myself, and no doubt my sister felt the same, for Clement Darpent had
also come, for the Frondeurs, or those supposed to be Frondeurs, were at
this time courted by both parties, by the friends of the Prince in
order to gain their aid in his release, and by the Court in order to be
strengthened against the Prince’s supporters; and thus the lawyers were
treated with a studied courtesy that for the time made it appear as if
they were to be henceforth, as in England, received as gentlemen, and
treated on terms more like equality; and thus Clement joined with those
who escorted us, and had a few minutes, though very few, of conversation
with my sister, in which he gave her a packet for my brother.

I was not obliged to be cautious about knowing anything now that I
should be out of reach of my mother, and all was to be laid before my
brother. I could say nothing on the road, for our women were in the
coach with us. the posts were not to be so much relied on as they are at
present, and we had to send relays of horses forward to await us at
each stage in order to have no delay, and he, who had made the journey
before, managed all this excellently for us.

At night we two sisters shared the same room, and then it was that I
asked Nan to tell me what was in her heart.

‘What is the use?’ she said; ‘you have become one of these proud French
nobility who cannot see worth or manhood unless a man can count a
lineage of a hundred ancestors, half-ape, half-tiger.’

However, the poor child was glad enough to tell me all, even though I
argued with her that, deeply English as she was in faith and in habits
and modes of thought, it would hardly result in happiness even if she
did extort permission to wed one of a different nation and religion,
on whom, moreover, she would be entirely dependent for companionship;
since, though nothing could break the bonds of sisterly affection
between her and me, all the rest of the persons of her own rank would
throw her over, since even if M. Darpent could be ennobled, or would
purchase an estate bringing a title, hers would still be esteemed a
mesalliance, unworthy the daughter of Anselme de Ribaumont the Crusader,
and of the ‘Bravest of Knights,’ who gained the chaplet of pearls before
Calais.

‘Crusader!’ said Annora; ‘I tell you that his is truly a holy war
against oppression and wrong-doing. Look at your own poor peasants, Meg,
and say if he, and those like him, are not doing their best to save this
country from a tyranny as foul as ever was the Saracen grasp on the Holy
Sepulchre!’

‘He is very like to perish in it,’ I said.

‘Well,’ said Nan, with a little shake in her voice, ‘if they told those
who perished in the Crusades that they died gloriously and their souls
were safe, I am sure it may well be so with one who pleads the cause of
the poor, and I despite of his own danger never drew his sword against
his King.’

There was no denying, even if one was not in love, and a little tete
montee besides, like my poor Nan, that there was nobility of heart in
Clement Darpent, especially as he kept his hands clear of rebellion; and
I would not enter into the question of their differing religions. I left
that for Eustace. I was certain that Annora knew, even better than
I did, that the diversity between our parents had not been for the
happiness of their children. In my own mind I saw little chance for the
lovers, for I thought it inevitable that the Court and the Princes would
draw together again, and that whether Cardinal Mazarin were sacrificed
or not, the Frondeurs of Paris would be overthrown, and that Darpent,
whose disinterestedness displeased all parties alike, was very likely
to be made the victim. Therefore, though I could not but hope that the
numerous difficulties in the way might prevent her from being linked to
his fate, and actually sharing his ruin.

She was not in my hands, and I had not to decide, so I let her talk
freely to me, and certainly, when we were alone together, her tongue ran
on nothing else. I found that she hoped that Eustace would invite her
lover to the Hague, and let them be wedded there by one of the refugee
English clergy, and then they would be ready to meet anything together;
but that M. Darpent was withheld by filial scruples, which actuated him
far more than any such considerations moved her, and that he also had
such hopes for his Parliament that he could not throw himself out of
the power of serving it at this critical time, a doubt which she
appreciated, looking on him as equal to any hero in Plutarch’s LIVES.

Our brother De Solivet met us, and conducted into Amiens, where he had
secured charming rooms for us. He was very full of an excellent marriage
that had been offered to him for one of his little daughters, so good
that he was going to make the other take the veil in order that her
sister’s fortune might be adequate to the occasion; and he regretted my
having left Paris, because he intended to have set me to discover which
had the greatest inclination to the world and which the chief vocation
for the cloister. Annora’s Protestant eyes grew large and round with
horror, and she exclaimed at last:

‘So that is the way in which you French fathers deliberate how to make
victims of your daughters?’

He made her a little bow, and said, with is superior fraternal air:

‘You do not understand, my sister. The happiest will probably be she who
leads the peaceful life of a nun.’

‘That makes it worse,’ cried Annora, ‘if you are arranging a marriage in
which you expect your child to be less happy than if she were a nun.’

‘I said not so, sister,’ returned Solivet, with much patience and
good-humour. ‘I simply meant what you, as a Huguenot, cannot perceive,
that a simple life dedicated to Heaven is often happier than one exposed
to the storms and vicissitudes of the world.’

‘Certainly you take good care it should prove so, when you make
marriages such as that of the d’Aubepines,’ said Nan.

Solivet shrugged his shoulders by way of answer, and warned my
afterwards to take good care of our sister, or she would do something
that would shock us all. To which I answered that the family honour
was safe in the hand of so high-minded a maiden as our Annora, and he
replied:

‘Then there is, as I averred, no truth in the absurd report that she
was encouraging the presumptuous advances of that factious rogue and
Frondeur, young Darpent, whom our brother had the folly to introduce
into the family.’

I did not answer, and perhaps he saw my blushes, for he added:

‘If I thought so for a moment, she may be assured that his muddy
bourgeois blood should at once be shed to preserve the purity of the
family with which I have the honour to be connected.’

He was terribly in earnest, he, a Colonel in His Majesty’s service, a
father of a family, a staid and prudent man, and more than forty years
old! I durst say no more but that I though Eustace was the natural
protector and head of the Ribaumont family.

‘A boy, my dear sister; a mere hot-headed boy, and full of unsettled
fancies besides. In matters like this it is for me to think for the
family. My mother depends on me, and my sister may be assured that I
shall do so.’

I wondered whether my mother had given him a hint, and I also considered
whether to put Annora upon her guard; but there was already quite enough
mutual dislike between her and our half-brother, and I thought it better
not to influence it. Solivet escorted us as far as his military duties
permitted, which was almost to Calais, where we embarked for the
Meuse, and there, when our passports had been examined and our baggage
searched, in how different a world we found ourselves! It was like
passing from a half-cultivated, poverty-stricken heath into a garden,
tilled to the utmost, every field beautifully kept, and the great
haycocks standing up tall in the fields, with the hay-makers round them
in their curious caps, while the sails of boats and barges glided along
between the trees in the canals that traversed them unseen; and as to
the villages, they were like toys, their very walks bright with
coloured tiles, and the fronts of the houses shining like the face of a
newly-washed child. Indeed, as we found, the maids do stand in front of
them every morning and splash them from eaves to foundation with buckets
of water; while as to the gardens, and with palings painted of fanciful
colours. All along the rivers and canals there were little painted
houses, with gay pavilions and balconies with fanciful carved railings
overhanging the water, and stages of flower-pot arranged in them.
Sometimes a stout Dutch vrow with full, white, spotless sleeves,
many-coloured substantial petticoats, gold buckles in her shoes, and a
great white cap with a kind of gold band round her head, sat knitting
there; or sometimes a Dutchman in trunk hose was fishing there. We saw
them all, for we had entered a barge or trekschuyt, towed by horses on
the bank, a great flat-bottomed thing, that perfectly held our carriage.
Thus we were to go by the canals to the Hague, and no words can describe
the strange silence and tranquillity of our motion along still waters.

My sister and her nurse, who had so often cried out against both the
noisiness and the dirtiness of poor France, might well be satisfied now.
They said they had never seen anything approaching to it in England. It
was more like being shut up in a china closet than anything else, and
it seemed as if the people were all dumb or dead, as we passed through
those silent villages, while the great windmills along the banks kept
waving their huge arms in silence, till Annora declared she felt she
must presently scream, or ride a tilt with them like Don Quixote.

And all the time, as we came nearer and nearer, our hearts sank more and
more, as we wondered in what state we should find our dear brother, and
whether we should find him at all.



CHAPTER XXV. -- THE HAGUE



At last we passed a distant steeple and large castle, which we were told
belonged to Ryswyk, the castle of the Prince of Orange; then we went
along through long rows of trees, and suddenly emerging from them we
beheld a vast plain, a great wood, and a city crowned with towers and
windmills.

Sir Andrew had been there before, and after showing our passports, and
paying our fare to the boatman, who received it in a leathern bag, he
left the servants to manage the landing of the carriage at the wharf,
and took us through the streets, which were as scrupulously clean and
well-washed, pavement and all, as if they had been the flags of
an English kitchen, and as silent, he said, as a Sunday morning in
Edinburgh. Even the children looked like little models of Dutchmen and
Dutchwomen, and were just as solid, sober, and silent; and when Sir
Andrew, who could speak Dutch, asked a little boy our way to the street
whence my brother had dated his letter, the child gave his directions
with the grave solemnity of a judge.

At last we made out way to the Mynheer Fronk’s house, where we had been
told we should find my Lord Walwyn’s lodgings. It was a very tall
house, with a cradle for a stork’s nest at the top, and one of the birds
standing on a single long thin leg on the ridge of the very high roof.
There were open stalls for cheese on either side of the door, and a
staircase leading up between. Sir Andrew made it known to a Dutchman, in
a broad hat, that we were Lord Walwyn’s sisters come to see him, and he
thereupon called a stout maid, in a snowy round cap and kerchief, who in
the first place looked at our shoes, then produced a brush and a cloth,
and, going down on her knees, proceeded to wipe them and clean them. Sir
Andrew submitted, as one quite accustomed to the process, and told us
we might think ourselves fortunate that she did not actually insist on
carrying us all upstairs, as some Dutch maids would do with visitors,
rather than permit the purity of their stairs and passages to be soiled.

He extracted, meantime, from the Dutchman, that the Englishman had been
very ill with violent bleedings at the lungs, but was somewhat better;
and thus we were in some degree prepared, when we had mounted up many,
many stairs, to find our Eustace sitting in his cloak, though it was a
warm summer day, with his feet up on a wooden chair in front of him, and
looking white, wasted, weak, as I had never seen him.

He started to his feet as the door opened and he beheld us, and would
have sprung forward, but he was obliged to drop back into his chair
again, and only hold out his arms.

‘My sisters, my sisters!’ he said; ‘I had thought never to have seen you
again!’

‘And you would have sailed again for Scotland!’ said Annora.

‘I should have been strong in the face of the enemy,’ he replied, but
faintly.

There was much to be done for him. The room was a very poor and bare
one, rigidly clean, of course, but with hardly and furniture in it but
a bed, table, and two chairs, and the mistress or her maid ruthlessly
scoured it every morning, without regard to the damp that the poor
patient must inhale.

It appeared that since his expedition to Scotland the estate in Dorset
had been seized, so that Harry Merrycourt could send him no more
remittances, and, as the question about the Ribaumont property in
Picardy was by no means decided, he had been reduced to sad straits. His
Dutch hostess was not courteous, and complained very much that all the
English cavaliers in exile professed to have rich kindred who would
make up for everything, but she could not see that anything came of
it. However, she did give him house-room, and, though grumbling, had
provided him with many comforts and good fare, such as he was sure could
not be purchased out of the very small sum he could give her by the
week.

‘And how provided?’ he said. ‘Ah! Nan, can you forgive me? I have had to
pledge the last pearl of the chaplet, but I knew that Meg would redeem
it.’

He had indeed suffered much, and we were eager to do our utmost for
his recovery. We found the house crowded with people, and redolent of
cheese. This small, chilly garret chamber was by no means proper for a
man in his state of health, nor was there room for us in the house. So,
leaving Nan with him, I went forth with Sir Andrew to seek for fresh
lodgings. I need not tell how we tramped about the streets, and asked at
many doors, before we could find any abode that would receive us. There
were indeed lodgings left vacant by the gentlemen who had attended the
King to Scotland, but perforce, so many scores had been left unpaid that
there was great reluctance to receive any cavalier family, and the more
high-sounding the name, the less trust there was in it. Nothing but
paying down a month beforehand sufficed to obtain accommodation for us
in a house belonging to a portly widow, and even there Nan and I would
have to eat with the family (and so would my brother if he were well
enough), and only two bedrooms and one sitting-room could be allotted
to us. However, these were large and airy; the hangings, beds, and linen
spotless; the floors and tables shining like mirrors; the windows clean,
sunny, and bright; so we were content, and had our mails deposited there
at once, though we could not attempt to move my brother so late in the
day.

Indeed, I found him so entirely spent and exhausted by his conversation
with Annora, that I would not let him say any more that night, but left
him to the charge of Tryphena, who would not hear of leaving him, and
was very angry with Mistress Nan, who, she said, in her English speech,
would talk a horse’s head off when once she began. In the morning Sir
Andrew escorted us to the lodgings, where we found my brother already
dressed, by the help of Nicolas, and looking forward to the change
cheerfully. I have given Sir Andrew my purse, begging him, with his
knowledge of Dutch, to discharge the reckoning for me, after which he
was to go to find a chair, a coach, or anything that could be had to
convey my brother in, for indeed he was hardly fit to walk downstairs.

Presently the Scottish knight knocked at the door, and desired to speak
with me. ‘What does this mean, Madame?’ he said, looking much amused.
‘My Lord here has friends. The good vrow declares that all his charges
have been amply paid by one who bade her see that he wanted for nothing,
and often sent dainty fare for him.’

‘Was no name given?’

‘None; and the vrow declares herself sworn to secrecy; but I observed
that by a lapsus linguoe she implied that the sustenance came from a
female hand. Have you any suspicions that my lord has a secret admirer?’

I could only say that I believed that many impoverished cavaliers had
met with great and secret kindness from the nobility of Holland;
that the King of England, as he knew, had interested himself about my
brother, and as we all had been, so to say, brought up in intimacy with
the royal family, I did not think it impossible that the Princess of
Orange might have interested herself about him, though she might not
wish to have it known, for fear of exciting expectations in others. Of
course all the time I had other suspicions, but I could not communicate
them, though they were increased when Sir Andrew went with Eustace’s
pledge to redeem the pearl; but he came back in wrath and despair,
telling me that a rascally Dutch merchant had smelt it out, and had
offered a huge price for it, which the goldsmith had not withstood,
despairing of its ransom.

Eustace did not ask who the merchant was, but I saw the hot blood
mounting in his pale cheek. Happily Annora was not present, so
inconvenient questions were avoided. He was worn out with the being
carried in a chair and then mounting the stairs, even with the aid of
Sir Andrew’s arm.

Tryphena, however, had a nourishing posset for him, and we laid him on a
day-bed which had been made ready for him, where he smiled at us,
said, ‘This is comfort,’ and dropped asleep while I sat by him. There
I stayed, watching him, while Nan, whose nature never was to sit
still, went forth, attended by Sir Andrew and Nicolas, to obtain some
needments. If she had known the language, and if it had been fitting for
a young demoiselle of her birth, she might have gone alone; these were
the safest streets, and the most free from riot or violence of any kind
that I ever inhabited.

While she was gone, Eustace awoke, and presently began talking to me,
and asking me about all that had passed, and about which we had not
dared to write. Nan, he said, had told him her story, and he was
horrified at the peril I had incurred. I replied that was all past, and
was as nothing compared with the consequences, of which my sister had no
doubt informed him. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I did not think it of Darpent.’
I said I supposed that the young man could not help the original
presumption of loving Annora, and that I could bear testimony that they
had been surprised into confessing it to one another. He sighed, and
said: ‘True. I had thought that the barrier between the robe and the
sword was so fixed in a French mind that I should as soon have expected
Nicolas to aspire to Mademoiselle de Ribaumont’s hand as Clement
Darpent.’

‘But in her own eyes she is not Mademoiselle de Ribaumont so much as
Mistress Annora Ribmont,’ I said; ‘and thus she treated him in a manner
to encourage his audacity.’

‘Even so,’ said Eustace, ‘and Annora is no mere child, not one of your
jeunes filles, who may be disposed of at one’s will. She is a woman
grown, and has been bred in the midst of civil wars. She had refused
Harry Merrycourt before we left home, and she knows how to frighten away
all the suitors our mother would find for her. Darpent is deeply worthy.
We should esteem and honour him as a gentleman in England; and were
he there, and were our Church as once it was, he would be a devout and
thankful member of it. Margaret, we must persuade my mother to consent.’

I could not help rejoicing; and then he added: ‘The King has been well
received, and is about to be crowned in Scotland. It may well be that
our way home may be opened. In that case, Meg, you, my joint-heiresses,
would have something to inherit, and before going to Scotland I had
drawn up a will giving you and your Gaspard the French claims, and
Annora the English estates. I know the division is not equal; but
Gaspard can never be English, and Annora can never be French; and may
make nearly as much of an Englishman of Darpent as our grandfather was.’

‘Nay, nay, Eustace,’ I said; ‘the names of Walwyn and Ribaumont must not
be lost.’

‘She may make Darpent deserve a fresh creation, then,’ he answered,
smiling sadly. ‘It will be best to wait a little, as I have told her, to
see how matters turn out at home.’

I asserted with all my heart, and told him what our brother Solivet had
said.

‘Yes,’ he said; ‘Solivet and our mother will brook the matter much
better if she is to live in England, the barbarous land that they can
forget. And if I do not live, I will leave them each a letter that they
cannot quite disregard.’

I said I was glad he had not consented to Annora’s notion of bringing
Darpent to Holland, since Solivet might lie in wait for him, and
besides, it would not be treating our mother rightly.

‘No,’ said Eustace; ‘if I am ever strong enough again I must return to
Paris, and endeavour to overcome their opposition.’ And he spoke with a
weary sigh, though I augured that he would soon improve under our
care, and that of Tryphena, who had always been better for him than
any doctor. Then I could not help reproaching him a little with having
ventured himself in that terrible climate and hopeless cause.

‘As to the climate, that was not so much amiss,’ said Eustace. ‘Western
Scotland is better and more wholesome than these Dutch marshes. The
sea-gull fares better than the frog.’

‘But the cause,’ I said. ‘Why did you not wait to go with the King?’

‘There were reasons, Meg,’ he said. ‘The King was hounding--yes,
hounding out the Marquis to lead the forlorn hope. Heaven forgive me for
my disloyalty in thinking he wished to be quit of one so distasteful to
the Covenanters who have invited him.’

And when I broke forth in indignation, Eustace lowered his voice, and
said sadly that the King was changed in many points from the Prince of
Wales, and that listening to policy was not good for him. Then I asked
why, if the King hounded, as he called it, the Marquis, on this unhappy
expedition, should Eustace have share in it?

‘It was enough to anger any honest man,’ said Eustace, ‘to see the
flower of all the cavaliers thus risked without a man of rank or weight
to back him, with mere adventurers and remnants of Goring’s fellows, and
Irishmen that could only do him damage with the Scots. I, with neither
wife nor child, might well be the one to share the venture.’

‘Forgetting your sisters,’ said I. ‘Ah, Eustace, was there no other
cause to make you restless?’

‘You push me hard, Meg. Yes, to you I will say it, that there was a face
among the ladies here which I could not look on calmly, and I knew it
was best for her and for myself that I should be away.’

‘Is she there still?’ I asked.

‘I know not. Her husband had taken her to his country-house last time I
heard, and very few know that I am not gone with the King. It was but at
the last moment that he forbade me. It is better so.’

I thought of what his hostess had told me, but I decided for the present
to keep my own counsel.

We thought it right to pay our respects to the Princess of Orange, but
she was keeping very little state. Her husband, the Stadholder, was
on bad terms with the States, and had just failed in a great attack
on Amsterdam; and both he and she were indisposed. The Princess Royal
replied therefore to our request for admittance, that she could not
refuse to see such old friends of her family as the ladies of Ribaumont,
but that we must excuse her for giving us a private reception.

Accordingly we were conducted through numerous courts, up a broad
staircase of shining polished wood, through a large room, to a cabinet
hung with pictures, among which her martyered father held the foremost
place. She was a thin woman, with a nose already too large for her face,
inherited no doubt from her grandfather, the Grand Monarque, and her
manner had not the lively grace of her mother’s, but seemed as if it
had been chilled and made formal by her being so early transported
to Holland. She was taken thither at ten years old, and was not yet
nineteen; and though I had once or twice played with her before my
marriage, she could not be expected to remember me. So the interview was
very stiff at first, in spite of her kind inquiries for my brother, whom
she said the King loved and valued greatly. I wondered whether it could
have been she who had provided for his needs, and threw out a hint to
see if so it were, but she evidently did not understand me, and our
visit soon ended.

Our way of life at the Hague was soon formed. Eustace was our first
thought and care, and we did whatever we thought best for his health. I
would fain have taken him back to Paris with us, but autumn was setting
in, and he was not in a state to be moved, being only able to walk
from one room to the other, and I could hardly hope that he would
gain strength before the winter set in, since a sea voyage would be
necessary, as we could not pass through the Spanish Netherlands that
lay between us and France. Besides, while the King was in Scotland, he
always entertained the hope of a summons to England. Other exiles were
waiting in the same manner as ourselves, and from time to time we saw
something of them. The gentlemen would come and sit with my brother,
and tell him of the news, and we exchanged visits with the ladies,
whom Annora recognised at the room where an English minister held their
service; but they were a much graver and quieter set of exiles than
those we had known at Paris. They could hardly be poorer than those;
indeed, many were less strained, but they did not carry off their
poverty in the same gay and lively manner, and if they had only torn
lace and soiled threadbare garments, they shut themselves up from all
eyes, instead of ruffling gaily as if their rags were tokens of honour.

Besides, more than one event occurred to sadden that banished company.
The tidings came of the death of the young Lady Elisabeth, who had pine
away in the hands of her keepers, and died a week after her arrival at
Carisbrooke, where her father had been so long a prisoner, her cheek
resting her open Bible.

Annora, who had known her as a grave, sweet, thoughtful child, grieved
much for her, broken-hearted as she seemed to have been for her father;
and the Princess of Orange, knowing that Nan had seen the poor young
lady more lately than herself, sent for her to converse and tell of the
pretty childish ways of that ‘rosebud born in snow,’ as an English poet
prettily termed the young captive.

Ere long the poor Princess was in even more grievous trouble. Her
husband, the young Prince of Orange, died of smallpox, whereupon she
fell into such transports of grief that there was the greatest anxiety
respecting her, not only from compassion, but because she was the
staunch supporter of her exiled family to the best of her ability.

Eight days later, on her own nineteenth birthday, her son was born; and
in such gloom, that it was a marvel that mother or babe survived, for
the entire rooms were hung with black, and even the cradle of the child
was covered completely with black velvet, so that the poor little puny
infant seemed as if he were being put into a coffin. We saw the doleful
chamber ourselves, for Eustace sent us to pay our respects, and Queen
Henrietta honoured me with commands to write her a report of her widowed
daughter and first grandson.

For we were still at the Hague, Eustace gradually regaining strength,
and the bleedings had almost entirely ceased; but the physician who
attended him, the best I think whom I have even known, and whose regimen
did him more good than any other he had adopted, charged me, as I valued
his life, not to attempt a journey with him till after the winter should
be over, and summer entirely set in. If the effusion of blood could
be prevented he might even yet recover and live to old age, but if it
recurred again Dr. Dirkius would not answer for his life for an hour;
nor must he do aught that would give him a rheum or renew his cough.

After all, we were very peaceful and happy in those rooms at the Hague,
though Eustace was very anxious about the King, Annora’s heart was at
Paris, and I yearned after my son, from whom I had never thought to be
so long parted; but we kept our cares to ourselves, and were cheerful
with one another. We bought or borrowed books, and read them together,
we learned to make Holland lace, studied Dutch cookery, and Annora, by
Eustace’s wish, took lessons on the lute and spinnet, her education in
those matters having been untimely cut short. By the way, she had a real
taste for music, and the finding that her performance and her singing
amused and refreshed him gave her further zeal to continue the study and
conquer the difficulties, though she would otherwise have said she was
too old to go to school.

Then the frost set in, and all the canals and sluggish streams were
sheets of ice, to which the market people skated, flying along upon the
ice like birds. We kept my brother’s room as warm as it was in our power
to do, and made him lie in bed till the house was thoroughly heated, and
he did not suffer much or become materially worse in the winter, but he
was urgent upon us to go out and see the curious sights and share the
diversions as far as was possible for us. Most of the Dutch ladies
skated beautifully, and the younger ones performed dances on the ice
with their cavaliers, but all was done more quietly than usual on
account of the mourning, the Prince of Orange being not yet buried, and
his child frail and sickly. The Baptism did not take place till January,
and then we were especially invited to be present. Though of course my
brother could not go, Annora and I did so. The poor child had three
sets of States-General for his godfathers, his godmothers being his
grandmother, the elder Princess of Orange, and his great aunt, Queen
Elisabeth of Bohemia. The Duke of York, who had lately arrived, was
asked to carry the little Prince to church, but he shuddered at the
notion of touching a baby, as much as did his sister a the idea of
trusting her precious child with him, so the infant was placed in the
arms of one of his young aunts, Mademoiselle Albertine of Nassau.

I saw no more than a roll of ermine, and did not understand much of the
long sermon with which the Dutch minister precluded the ceremony, and
which was as alien to my sister’s ideas of a christening as it was to
mine. Many other English ladies were mingled with the Dutch ones in the
long rows that lined the aisle, and I confess that my eyes wandered a
good deal, guessing which were my countrywomen. Nearly opposite to me
was one of the sweetest faces I have ever seen, the complexion quite
pearly white, the hair of pale gold, in shining little rings over
the brow, which was wonderfully pure, though with an almost childish
overtone. There was peace on the soft dark eyes and delicately-moulded
lips and the fair, oval, though somewhat thin cheeks. It was a perfect
refreshment to see that countenance, and it reminded me of two most
incongruous and dissimilar ones--namely, the angelic face of the
Dutchess de Longueville when I had first seen her in her innocent,
untainted girlhood, and of the expression on the worn old countenance of
Madame Darpent.

I was venturing a glance now and then to delight myself without
disconcerting that gentle lady, when I felt Annora’s hand on my arm,
squeezing so hard, poor maid, that her fingers left a purple mark there,
and though she did not speak, I beheld, as it were, darts and arrows in
the gleam of her eyes. And then it was that I saw on the black velvet
dress worn by the lady a part of a necklace of large pearls--the pearls
of Ribaumont--though I should not have known them again, or perhaps
would Nan, save for the wearer.

‘Flaunting them in our very faces,’ muttered poor Nan; and if eyes could
have slain, hers would have killed the poor Vrow van Hunker on the spot.
As it was, the dark eyes met her fierce glance and sunk beneath it,
while such a painful crimson suffused the fair cheeks that I longed
to fly to the rescue, and to give at least a look of assurance that I
acquitted her of all blame, and did not share my sister’s indignation.
But there was no uplifting of the eyelids again till the ceremony was
ended, and we all had to take our places again in one of the thirty
state coaches in which the company had come to the christening.

I saw Madame van Hunker led out by a solid, wooden-faced old Dutchman,
who looked more like her father than her husband; and I told Annora that
I was sure she had worn the pearls only because he compelled her.

‘Belike,’ said my sister. ‘She hath no more will of her own than a hank
of flax! That men can waste their hearts on such moppets as that!’

But though we did not at all agree on the impression Madame van Hunker
had made on us, we were of one mind to say nothing of it to Eustace.

Another person laid her hand on Annora’s arm as she was about to enter
our carriage. ‘Mistress Ribmont!’ she exclaimed; ‘I knew not that you
were present in this land of our exile.’

I looked and saw a lady, as fantastically dressed as the mourning would
permit, and with a keen clever face, and Nan curtsied, saying: ‘My Lady
Marchioness of Newcastle! let me present to you my sister, Madame la
Vicomtesse de Bellaise.’

She curtsied and asked in return for Lord Walwyn, declaring that her
lord would come and see him, and that we must come to visit her. ‘We are
living poorly enough, but my lord’s good daughter Jane Doth her best for
us and hath of late sent us a supply; so we are making merry while it
lasts, and shall have some sleighing on ice-hills to-morrow, after the
fashion of the country. Do you come, my good lad is cruelly moped in
yonder black-hung place, with his widowed sister and her mother-in-law,
and I would fain give him a little sport with young folk.’

Lady Newcastle’s speech was cut short by her lord, who came to insist on
her getting into the coach, which was delaying for her, and on the way
home Nan began to tell me of her droll pretensions, which were like an
awkward imitation of the best days of the Hotel Rambouillet.

She also told me about the noble-hearted Lady Jane Cavendish, the
daughter of the Marquis’s first marriage--how she held out a house of
her father against the rebels, and acted like a brave captain, until
the place was stormed, and she and her sister were made prisoners. The
Roundhead captain did not treat them with over-ceremony, but such was
the Lady Jane’s generous nature that when the Royalists came to her
relief, and he was made captive in his turn, she saved his life by her
intercession.

She had since remained in England, living in a small lodge near the
ruins of her father’s house at Bolsover, to obtain what she could for
his maintenance abroad, and to collect together such remnants of
the better times as she might, such as the family portraits, and the
hangings of the hall. I longed to see this very worthy and noble lady,
but she was out of our reach, being better employed in England. Nan gave
a little sigh to England, but not such a sigh as she would once have
heaved.

And we agreed on the way home to say nothing to my brother of our
meeting with poor Millicent.

My Lord Marquis of Newcastle showed his esteem for my brother by coming
to see him that very day, so soon as he could escape from the banquet
held in honour of the christening, which, like all that was done by the
Dutch, was serious and grim enough, though it could not be said to be
sober.

He declared that he had been ignorant that Lord Walwyn was at the Hague,
or he should have waited on him immediately after arriving there, ‘since
nothing,’ said the Marquis, ‘does me good like the sight of an honest
cavalier.’ I am sure Eustace might have said the same; and they sat
talking together long and earnestly about how it fared with the King in
Scotland, and how he had been made to take the Covenant, which, as they
said, was in very truth a dissembling which must do him grievous ill,
spiritually, however it might serve temporally. My Lord repeated his
lady’s invitation to a dinner, which was to be followed up by sleighing
on hills formed of ice. Annora, who always loved rapid motion as an
exhilaration of spirits, brightened at the notion, and Eustace was
anxious that it should be accepted, and thus we found ourselves pledged
to enter into the diversions of the place.



CHAPTER XXVI. -- HUNDERSLUST



So to my Lord Marquis of Newcastle’s dinner we went, and found ourselves
regaled with more of good cheer than poor cavaliers could usually offer.
There was not only a good sirloin of beer, but a goose, and many choice
wild-fowl from the fens of the country. There was plum porridge too,
which I had not seen since I left England at my marriage. Every one was
so much charmed at the sight that I thought I ought to be so too, but
I confess that it was too much for me, and that I had to own that it
is true that the English are gross feeders. The Duke of York was there,
looking brighter and more manly than I had yet seen him, enlivened
perhaps by my Lady Newcastle, who talked to him, without ceasing, on
all sorts of subjects. She would not permit the gentlemen to sit after
dinner, because she would have us all out to enjoy her sport on the
ice-hills, which were slopes made with boards, first covered with snow,
and then with water poured over them till they were perfectly smooth and
like glass. I cannot say that I liked the notion of rushing down them,
but it seemed to fill Annora with ecstasy, and my lady provided her with
a sleigh and a cavalier, before herself instructing the Duke of York in
the guidance of her own sledge upon another ice-hill.

My Lord Marquis did me the honour to walk with me and converse on my
brother. There was a paved terrace beneath a high wall which was swept
clear of snow and strewn with sand and ashes, so that those who had no
turn for the ice-hills could promenade there and gaze upon the sport.
When his other duties as a host called him away, his lordship said, with
a smile, that he would make acquainted with each other two of his own
countrywomen, both alike disguised under foreign names, and therewith he
presented Madame van Hunker to me. Being on the same side of the table
we had not previously seen one another, nor indeed would she have known
me by sight, since I had left England before her arrival at Court.

She knew my name instantly, and the crimson colour rushed into those
fair cheeks as she made a very low reverence, and murmured some
faltering civility.

We were left together, for all the other guest near us were Hollanders,
whose language I could not speak, and who despised French too much to
learn it. So, as we paced along, I endeavoured to say something
trivial of the Prince’s christening and the like, which might begin the
conversation; and I was too sorry for her to speak with the frigidity
with which my sister thought she ought to be treated. Then gradually she
took courage to reply, and I found that she had come in attendance on
her stepdaughter Cornelia, who was extremely devoted to these sleighing
parties. The other daughter, Veronica, was at home, indisposed, having,
as well as her father, caught a feverish cold on a late expedition
into the country, and Madame would fain have given up the party, as she
thought Cornelia likewise to be unwell, but her father would not hear
of his favourite Keetje being disappointed. I gather that the Yung-vrow
Cornelia had all the true Dutch obstinacy of nature. By and by she
ventured timidly, trying to make her voice sound as if she were only
fulfilling an ordinary call of politeness, to hope that my Lord Walwyn
was in better health. I told her a little of his condition, and she
replied with a few soft half-utterance; but before we had gone far
in our conversation there was a sudden commotion among the sleighing
party--an accident, as we supposed--and we both hurried forward in
anxiety for our charges. My sister was well, I was at once reassured
by seeing her gray and ermine hood, which I knew well, for it was
Mademoiselle van Hunker who lay insensible. It was not from a fall, but
the cold had perhaps struck her, they said, for after her second descent
she had complained of giddiness, and had almost immediately swooned
away. She was lying on the sledge, quite unconscious, and no one seemed
to know what to do. Her stepmother and I came to her; I raised her head
and put essences to her nose, and Madame van Hunker took off her gloves
and rubbed her hands, while my Lady Newcastle, hurrying up, bade them
carry her into the house, and revive her by the fire; but Madame van
Hunker insisted and implored that she should not be taken indoors, but
carried home at once, showing a passion and vehemence quite unlike one
so gentle, and which our good host and hostess withstood till she hinted
that she feared it might be more than a swoon, since her father and
sister were already indisposed. Then, indeed, all were ready enough to
stand aloof; a coach was procured, I know not how, and poor Cornelia was
lifted into it, still unconscious, or only moaning a little. I could not
let the poor young stepmother go with her alone, and no one else would
make the offer, the dread of contagion keeping all at a distance, after
what had passed. At first I think Madame van Hunker hardly perceived who
was with her, but as I spoke a word or two in English, as we tried to
accommodate the inanimate form between us, she looked up and said: ‘Ah!
I should not have let you come, Madame! I do everything wrong. I pray
you to leave me!’ Then, as I of course refused, she added: ‘Ah, you
know not--’ and then whispered in my ear, though the poor senseless
girl would scarce have caught the sound, the dreadful word ‘smallpox.’
I could answer at once that I had had it--long, long ago, in my childish
days, when my grandmother nursed me and both my brothers through it, and
she breathed freely, I asked her why she apprehended it, and she told
me that some weeks ago her husband had taken the whole party down to his
pleasure-house in the country, to superintend some arrangement in his
garden, which he wished to make before the frost set in.

He and his daughter Veronica had been ailing for some days, but it was
only on that very morning that tidings had come to the Hague that the
smallpox had, on the very day of their visit, declared itself in the
family of the gardener who kept the house, and that two of his children
were since dead. Poor Millicent had always had a feeble will, which
yielded against her judgment and wishes. She had not had the malady
herself, ‘But oh! my child,’ she said, ‘my little Emilia!’ And when I
found that the child had not been on the expedition to Hunderslust,
and had not seen her father or sister since they had been sickening,
I ventured to promise that I would take her home, and the young mother
clasped my hand in fervent gratitude.

But we were not prepared for the scene that met us when we drove into
the porte cochere. The place seemed deserted, not a servant was to
be seen but one old wrinkled hag, who hobbled up to the door saying
something in Dutch that made Madame van Hunker clasp her hands and
exclaim: ‘All fled! Oh, what shall we do?’

At that moment, however, Dr. Dirkius appeared at the door. He spoke
French, and he explained that he had been sent for about an hour ago,
and no sooner had he detected smallpox than Mynheer’s valet had fled
from his master’s room and spread the panic throughout the household, so
that every servant, except one scullion and this old woman, had deserted
it. The Dutch have more good qualities than the French, their opposites,
are inclined to believe, but they have also a headstrong selfishness
that seems almost beyond reach. Nor perhaps had poor Mynheer van Hunker
been a master who would win much affection.

I know not what we should have done if Dr. Dirkius had not helped me to
carry Cornelia to her chamber. The good man had also locked the little
Emilia into her room, intending, after having taken the first measures
for the care of his patients, to take or send her to the ladies at Lord
Newcastle’s, warning them not to return. Madame van Hunker looked deadly
pale, but she was a true wife, and said nothing should induce her to
forsake her husband and his daughters; besides, it must be too late
for her to take precautions. Dirkius looked her all over in her pure
delicate beauty, muttering what I think was: ‘Pity! pity!’ and then
agreed that so it was. As we stood by the bed where we had laid
Cornelia, we could hear at one end old Hunker’s voice shouting--almost
howling--for his vrow; and likewise the poor little Emilia thumping
wildly against the door, and screaming for her mother to let her out.
Millicent’s face worked, but she said: ‘She must not touch me! She had
best not see me! Madame, God sent in you an angle of mercy. Take her; I
must go to my husband!’

And at a renewed shout she ran down the corridor to hide her tears.
The doctor and I looked at one another. I asked if a nurse was coming.
Perchance, he said; he must go and find some old woman, and old Trudje
must suffice meantime. There would as yet be no risk in my taking
the child away, if I held her fast, and made her breathe essences all
through the house.

It was a strange capture, and a dreadful terror for the poor little
girl. By his advice I sprinkled strong essences all over the poor little
girl’s head, snatched her up in my arms, and before she had breath to
scream hurried down stairs with her. She was about three years old, and
it was not till I was almost at the outer door that she began to kick
and struggle. My mind was made up to return as soon as she was safe. It
was impossible to leave that poor woman to deal alone with three such
cases, and I knew what my brother would feel about it. And all fell
out better than I could have hoped, for under the porte cochere was the
coach in which we had come to Lady Newcastle’s. My sister, learning that
I had gone home with Madame van Hunker, had driven thither to fetch me,
and Nicolas was vainly trying to find some one to tell me that she was
waiting. I carried the child, now sobbing and calling for her mother,
to the carriage, and explained the state of affairs as well as I could
while trying to hush her. Annora was quick to understand, and not slow
to approve. ‘The brutes!’ she said. ‘Have they abandoned them? Yes, Meg,
you are safe, and you cannot help staying. Give me the poor child! I
will do my best for her. O yes! I will take care of Eustace, and I’ll
send you your clothes. I wish it was any one else, but he will be glad.
So adieu, and take care of yourself! Come, little one, do not be afraid.
We are going to see a kind gentleman.’

But as poor little Emilia knew no English, this must have failed to
console her, and they drove away amid her sobs and cries, while I
returned to my strange task. I was not altogether cut off from home, for
my faithful Nicolas, though uncertain whether he had been secured from
the contagion, declared that where his mistress went he went. Tryphena
would have come too, but like a true old nurse she had no confidence
in Mistress Nan’s care of my brother, or of the child, and it was far
better as it was, for the old women whom the doctor found for us were
good for nothing but to drink and to sleep; whereas Nicolas, like a
true French laquais, had infinite resources in time of need. He was poor
Madame’s only assistant in the terrible nursing of her husband; he made
the most excellent tisanes and bouillons for the patients, and kept us
nurses constantly supported with good meats and wines, without which we
never could have gone through the fatigue; he was always at hand, and
seemed to sleep, if he slept at all, with one ear and one eye open
during that terrible fifteen days during which neither Madame van
Hunker, he, nor I, ever took off our clothes. Moreover, he managed our
communication with my family. Every day in early morning he carried a
billet from me which he placed in a pan of vinegar at their door; and,
at his whistle, Annora looked out and threw down a billet for me, which,
to my joy and comfort, generally told me that my brother was no worse,
and that the little maid was quite well, and a great amusement to him.
He was the only one who could speak any Dutch, so that he had been able
to do more with her than the others at her first arrival; and though she
very soon picked up English enough to understand everything, and to make
herself understood in a droll, broken baby tongue, she continued to be
devoted to him. She was a pretty, fair child of three years old, with
enough of Dutch serenity and gravity not to be troublesome after the
first shock was over, and she beguiled many of his weary hours of
confinement by the games in which he joined her. He sent out to by for
her a jointed baby, which Annora dressed for her, and, as she wrote, my
lord was as much interested about the Lady Belphoebe’s robes (for so had
he named her) as was Emilia, and he was her most devoted knight, daily
contriving fresh feasts and pageants for her ladyship. Nan declared that
she was sometimes quite jealous of Belphoebe and her little mistress;
but, on the whole, I think she enjoyed the months when she had Eustace
practically to herself.

For we were separated for months. Poor Cornelia’s illness was very
short, the chill taken at the sleighing party had been fatal to her at
the beginning of the complaint, and she expired on the third day, with
hardly any interval of consciousness.

Her sister, Veronica, was my chief charge. I had to keep her constantly
rolled in red cloth in a dark room, while the fever ran very high,
and she suffered much. I think she was too ill to feel greatly the
discomfort of being tended by a person who could not speak her language,
and indeed necessity enabled me to understand a tongue so much like
English, which indeed she could herself readily speak when her brain
began to clear. This, however, was not for full a fortnight, and in the
meantime Mynheer van Hunker was growing worse and worse, and he died on
the sixteenth day of his illness. His wife had watched over him day and
night with unspeakable tenderness and devotion, though I fear he never
showed her much gratitude in return; he had been too much used to think
of woman as mere housewifely slaves.

She had called me in to help in her terror at the last symptoms of
approaching death, and I heard him mutter to her: ‘Thou hast come to
be a tolerable housewife. I have taken care thou dost not lavish all on
beggarly stranger.’

At least so the words came back on me afterwards; but we were absorbed
in our attendance on him in his extremity, and when death had come at
last I had to lead her away drooping and utterly spent. Alas! it was not
exhaustion alone, she had imbibed the dreadful disease, and for another
three weeks she hung between life and death. Her stepdaughter left her
bed, and was sent away to the country-house to recover, under the care
of the steward’s wife, before Millicent could open her eyes or lift her
head from her pillow; but she did at last begin to revive, and it was in
those days of slow convalescence that she and I became very dear to one
another.

We could talk together of home, as she loved to call England, and of her
little daughter, of whom Annora sent me daily reports, which drew out
the mother’s smiles. She could not be broken-hearted for Mynheer van
Hunker, nor did she profess so to be, but she said he had been kind to
her--much kinder since she had really tried to please him; and that, she
said--and then broke off--was after he--your brother--my lord--And she
went no further, but I knew well afterwards what that chance meeting had
done for her--that meeting which, with such men as I had too often seen
at Paris, might have been fatal for ever to her peace of mind and purity
of conscience by renewing vain regrets, not to be indulged without a
stain. Nay, it had instead given her a new impulse, set her in the way
of peace, and helped her to turn with new effort to the path of duty
that was left to her. And she had grown far happier therein. Her
husband had been kinder to her after she ceased to vex him by a piteous
submission and demonstrative resignation; his child had been given to
brighten her with hope; and that she had gained his daughter’s affection
I had found by Veronica’s conversation about her, and her tears when
permitted to see her--or rather to enter her dark chamber for a few
moments before going to Hunkerslust, the name of the country-house near
Delf. Those days of darkness, when the fever had spent itself, and the
strength was slowly returning, were indeed a time when hearts could
flow into one another; and certainly I had never found any friend who
so perfectly and entirely suited me as that sweet Millicent. There was
perhaps a lack of strength of resolute will; she had not the robust
temper of my high-spirited Annora, but, on the other hand, she was not
a mere blindly patient Grisel, like my poor sister-in-law, Cecily
d’Aubepine, but could think and resolve for herself, and hold staunchly
to her duty when she saw it, whatever it might cost her; nor did terror
make her hide anything, and thus she had won old Hunker’s trust, and he
had even permitted her to attend the service of exiled English ministers
at the Hague.

One of them came to see her two or three times--once when she seemed
to be at the point of death, and twice afterwards, reading prayers with
her, to her great comfort. He spoke of her as an angel of goodness,
spending all the means allowed her by her husband among her poor exiled
countrymen and women. And as she used no concealment, and only took
what was supplied to her for her own ‘menus plaisirs,’ her husband might
grumble, but did not forbid. I knew now that my brother had loved in her
something more than the lovely face.

And oh for that beauty! I felt as though I were trying to guard a
treasure for him as I used every means I had heard of to save it from
disfigurement, not permitting one ray of daylight to penetrate into the
room, and attempting whatever could prevent the marks from remaining.
And here Millicent’s habits of patience and self-command came to her
aid, and Dr. Dirkius said he had never had a better or a gentler sick
person to deal with.

Alas! it was all in vain. Millicent’s beauty had been of that delicate
fragile description to which smallpox is the most fatal enemy, with its
tendency not only to thicken the complexion, but to destroy the refined
form of the features. We were prepared for the dreadful redness
at first, and when Millicent first beheld herself in the glass she
contrived to laugh, while she wondered what her little Emilia would
say to her changed appearance, and also adding that she wondered how it
fared with her step-mother, a more important question, she tried to say,
than for herself, for the young lady was betrothed to a rich merchant’s
son, and would be married as soon as the days of mourning were over.
However, as Veronica had never been reckoned a beauty, and les beaux
yeux de sa cassette had been avowedly the attraction, we hoped that
however it might be, there would not be much difference in her lot.

We were to joint her at Hunkerslust to rid ourselves of infection, while
the house was purified from it. Before we went, Annora daily brought
little Emilia before the window that her mother might see the little
creature, who looked so grown and so full of health as to rejoice our
hearts. My brother and sister seemed to have made the little maid much
more animated than suited a Dutch child, for she skipped, frolicked, and
held up her wooden baby, making joyous gestures in a way that astonished
the solemn streets of Graavehage, as the inhabitants call it. She was to
come to us at Hunkerslust so soon as the purification was complete;
and then I was to go back to my brother and sister, for as the spring
advanced it was needful that we should return to France, to our mother
and my son.

It was April by the time Madame van Hunker was fit to move, and the
great coach came to the door to carry us out the three or four miles
into the country. I shall never forget the charm of leaving the
pest-house I had inhabited so long, and driving through the avenues,
all budding with fresh young foliage, and past gardens glowing with the
gayest of flowers, the canals making shining mirrors for tree, windmill,
bridge, and house, the broad smooth roads, and Milicent, holding one of
my hands, lay back on the cushions, deeply shrouded in her widow’s veil,
unwilling to speak, but glad of the delight I could not help feeling.

We arrived at the house, and entered between the row of limes clipped in
arches. Never did I behold such a coup d’oeil as the garden presented,
with its paved and tiled paths between little beds of the most gorgeous
hyacinths and tulips, their colours assorted to perfection, and all in
full bloom. I could not restrain a childish cry of wonder and absolute
joy at the first glance; it was such a surprise, and yet I recollected
the next moment that there was something very sad in the display, for
it was in going to superintend this very garden that poor Mymheer van
Hunker had caught his death, and here were these his flowers blooming
away gaily in the sun unseen by him who had cared for them so much.

Veronica had come to meet us, and she and her step-mother wept in each
other’s arms at the sight and the remembrances it excited; but their
grief was calm, and it appeared that Veronica had had a visit from her
betrothed and his mother, and had no reason to be dissatisfied with
their demeanour. Indeed, the young lady’s portion must be so much
augmented by her sister’s death that it was like to compensate for the
seams in her cheeks.

No matter of business had yet come before the widow, but it was
intimated to her that the notary, Magister Wyk, would do himself the
honour of coming to her at Hunkerslust so soon as she felt herself
strong enough to receive him, and to hear the provisions of the will.

Accordingly he came, the whole man impregnated with pungent perfumes
and with a pouncet-box in his hand, so that it almost made one sneeze to
approach him. He was by no means solicitous of any near neighbourhood to
either of the ladies, but was evidently glad to keep the whole length
of the hall-table between them and himself, at least so I heard, for of
course I did not thrust myself into the matter, but I learned afterwards
that Mynheer van Hunker had left a very large amount of money and lands,
which were divided between his daughters, subject to a very handsome
jointure to his wife, who was to possess both the houses at the Hague
and at Hunkerslust for her life, but would forfeit both these and her
income should she marry any one save a native of the States of Holland.
Her jewels, however, were her own, and the portion she had received from
her father, Sir James Wardour.

As she said to me afterwards, her husband hated all foreigners, and she
held him as having behaved with great kindness and liberality to her;
but, she added with a smile, as she turned bravely towards a mirror
behind her, he need not have laid her under the restriction, for such
things were all over for her. And happily he had not forbidden her to do
as she pleased with her wealth.

That very evening she began to arrange for packets of dollars from
unknown hands to find themselves in the lodgings of the poorest
cavaliers; and for weekly payments to be made at the ordinaries that
they might give their English frequenters substantial meals at a nominal
cost. She became quite merry over her little plots; but there was a
weight as of lead on my heart when I thought of my brother, and that her
freedom had only begun on such terms. Nay, I knew not for what to hope
or wish!

Permission had been given for Emilia to return to her mother, and as
Veronica had some purchases to make in the city, she undertook to drive
in in the coach, and bring out her little sister. I should have availed
myself of the opportunity of going back with her but that Millicent
would have had to spend the day alone, and I could see that, though her
mother’s heart hungered for the little one, yet she dreaded the child’s
seeing her altered face. She said she hoped Veronica might not return
till twilight or dusk, so that Emilia might recognize her by her voice
and her kisses before seeing her face.

She had been bidden to be out in the air, and she and I had walked down
the avenue in search of some cukoo-flowers and king-cups that grew by
the canal below. She loved them, she said, because they grew at home
by the banks of the Thames, and she was going to dress some beaupots to
make her chamber gay for Emilia. The gardens might be her own, but
she stood in too much awe of the gardener to touch a tulip or a
flower-de-luce, scarce even a lily of the valley; but when I taxed
her with it, she smiled and said she should ever love the English
wild-flowers best.

So we were walking back under the shade of the budding lime-tress when a
coach came rolling behind us. The horses were not the fat dappled grays
of the establishment, but brown ones, and Millicent, apprehending a
visit from some of her late husband’s kindred, and unwilling to be seen
before they reached the house, drew behind a tree, hoping to be out of
sight.

She had, however, been descried. The carriage stopped. There was a
joyful cry in good English of ‘Mother! mother! mother!’ and the little
maiden flew headlong into her arms, while at the same moment my dear
brother, looking indeed thin, but most noble, most handsome, embraced
me. He explained in a few words that Mademoiselle van Hunker was dining
with her future mother-in-law, and that she had permitted him to have
the honour of giving up his charge to Madame.

Millicent looked up at him with the eyes that could not but be sweet,
and began to utter her thanks, while he smiled and said that the
pleasure to him and Annora had been so great that the obligation was
theirs.

The little girl, now holding her hand, was peering up curiously under
her hood, and broke upon their stiffness and formality by a sudden
outcry:

‘No! no! mother is not ugly like Vronikje. She shall not be ugly. She is
Emilia’s own dear pretty mother, and nobody shall say no.’

No doubt the little one felt the inward attraction of child to mother,
that something which so infinitely surpasses mere complexion, and as she
had been warned of the change, and had seen it in her sister, she was
really agreeable surprised, and above all felt that she had her mother
again.

Millicent clasped her to her bosom in a transport of joy, while Eustace
exclaimed:

‘The little maid is right; most deeply right. That which truly matters
can never be taken away.’

Then Millicent raised her eyes to him and said, with quivering lip: ‘I
had so greatly dreaded this moment. I owe it to you, my lord, that she
has come to me thus.’

Before he could answer Emilia had seen the golden flowers in her
mother’s hand, and with a childish shriek of ecstasy had claimed them,
while Millicent said:

‘I had culled them for thee, sweetheart.’

‘I’ll give some to my lord!’ cried the child. ‘My lord loves king-cups.’

‘Yes,’ said Eustace, taking the flowers and kissing the child, but with
his eyes on her mother’s all the time; ‘I have loved king-cups
ever since on May day when there was a boat going down the river to
Richmond.’

Her eyes fell, and that strange trembling came round her mouth. For, as
I learned afterwards from my sister, it was then that they had danced
in Richmond Park, and he had made a crown of king-cups and set it on her
flaxen hair, and then and there it was that love had first begun between
those two, whom ten years had so strangely changed. But Eustace said no
more, except to tell me that he had come to ask if I could be ready to
return to Paris the second day ensuing, as Sir Edward Hyde was going,
and had a pass by which we could all together go through the Spanish
Netherlands without taking ship. If Madame van Hunker could spare me on
such sudden notice he would like to take me back with him at once.

There was no reason for delay. Millicent had her child, and was really
quite will again; and I had very little preparation to make, having
with me as little clothing as possible. She took Eustace to the tiled
fireplace in the parlour, and served him with manchet-cake and wine,
but prayed him to pardon her absence while she went to aid me. I think
neither wished for a tete-a-tete. They had understood one another over
the king-cups, and it was no time to go farther. I need not tell of
the embraces and tears between us in my chamber. They were but
natural, after the time we had spent together, but at the end Millicent
whispered:

‘You will tell him all, Margaret! He is too noble, but his generous soul
must feel no bondage towards one who has nothing--not even a face or a
purse for him.’

‘Only a heart,’ I said. But she shook her head in reproof, and I felt
that I had done wrong to speak on the matter.

After a brief time we took leave with full and stately formality. I
think both she and I were on our guard against giving way before my
brother, who had that grave self-restrained countenance which only
Englishmen seem able to maintain. He was thin, and there was a certain
transparency of skin about his cheeks and hands; but to my mind he
looked better than when he left us at Paris, and I could not but trust
that the hope which had returned to him would be an absolute cure for
all his ill-health. I saw it in his eyes.

We seated ourselves in the carriage, and I dreaded to break the silence
at first, but we had not long turned into the high road from the avenue
when hoofs came behind us, and a servant from Hunkerslust rode up to the
window, handing in a packet which he said had been left behind.

I sat for a few minutes without opening it, and deemed it was my Book of
Hours, for it was wrapped in a kerchief of my own; but when I unfolded
that, behold I saw a small sandal-wood casket, and turning the key, I
beheld these few words--‘Praying my Lord Walwyn to permit restitution to
be made.--M. van H.’ And beneath lay the pearls of Ribaumont.

‘No! no! no, I cannot!’ cried my brother, rising to lean from the window
and beckon back the messenger; but I pulled him by the skirts, telling
him it was too late, and whatever he might think fit to do, he must not
wound the lady’s feelings by casting them back upon her in this sudden
manner, almost as if he were flinging them at her head. He sat down
again, but reiterated that he could not accept them.

I told him that her jewels were wholly her own, subject to no
restrition, but this only made him ask me with some displeasure whether
I had been privy to this matter; the which I could wholly deny, since
not a word had passed between us, save on the schemes for sending aid to
the distressed families.

‘I thought not,’ he returned; and then he began to show me, what needed
little proof, how absolutely inexpedient it was for his honour or for
hers, that he should accept anything from her, and how much more fitting
it was that they should be absolutely out of reach of all intercourse
with one another during her year of mourning, or until he could fitly
address her.

‘No,’ he said; ‘the pearls must remain hers unless she can come
with them; or if not, as is most like, we shall be the last of the
Ribaumonts--and she may do as she will with them.’

‘You have no doubts, Eustace?’ I cried. ‘You care not for her wealth,
and as to her face, a year will make it as fair and sweet as ever.’

‘As sweet in my eyes, assuredly!’ he said. But he went on to say that
her very haste in this matter was a token that she meant to have no more
to do with him, and that no one could wish her to give up her wealth
and prosperity to accept a poor broken cavalier, health and wealth alike
gone.

I would have argued cheeringly, but he made me understand that his own
Dorset estates, which Harry Merrycourt had redeemed for him before, had
been absolutely forfeited by his share in Montrose’s expedition. The
Commonwealth had in a manner condoned what had been done in the service
of King Charles, but it regarded as treason the espousing the cause
of his son; and it was possible that the charge on the Wardour estates
might be refused to Millicent should she unite herself with one who was
esteemed a rebel.

My mother’s jointure had been charged on the Ribaumont estate, and if
Eustace failed to gain the suit which had been lingering on so long,
there would hardly be enough rents to pay this to her, leaving almost
nothing for him. Nor, indeed, was it in my power to do much for their
assistance, since my situation was not what it would have been if my
dear husband had lived to become Marquis de Nidemerle. And we were
neither of us young enough to think that even the most constant love
could make it fit to drag Millicent into beggary. Yet still I could see
that Eustace did not give up hope. The more I began to despond, the more
cheerful he became. Was not the King in Scotland, and when he entered
England as he would certainly do next summer, would not all good
Cavaliers--yes, and all the Parliament men who had had enough of the
domineering of General Cromwell--rise on his behalf? My brother was
holding himself in readiness to obey the first summons to his standard,
and when he was restored, all would be easy, and he could offer himself
to Millicent worthily.

Moreover, my mother had written something about a way that had opened
for accommodating the suit respecting the property in Picardy, and
Eustace trusted the report all the more because our brother Solivet had
also written to urge his recall, in order to confer with his antagonist,
the Comte de Poligny, respecting it. So that, as the dear brother
impressed on me, he had every reason for hoping that in a very different
guise; and his hopes raised mine, so that I let them peep through the
letter with which I returned the jewels to Millicent.



CHAPTER XXVII. -- THE EXPEDIENT

(Annora’s Narrative)



And what was this expedient of their? Now, Madame Meg, I forewarn you
that what I write here will be a horror and bad example to all your
well-brought-up French grandchildren, demoiselles bien elevees, so that
I advise you to re-write it in your own fashion, and show me up as a
shocking, willful, headstrong, bad daughter, deserving of the worst fate
of the bad princesses in Madame d’Aulnoy’s fairly tales. Nay, I am
not sure that Mademoiselle de Nidemerle might not think I had actually
incurred a piteous lot. But chacun a son gout.

Well, this same expedient was this. M. de Poligny, who claimed the best
half of the Picardy estates in right of a grant from Henry III. when in
the power of the League, had made acquaintance with our half-brother,
Solivet, who had presented him to our mother, and he had offered, with
the greatest generosity possible--said my mother--to waive his claims
and put a stop to the suit (he knew it could not hold for a moment),
provided she would give her fair daughter to his son, the Chevalier de
Poligny, with the reversion of the Ribaumont property, after my brother,
on whom, vulture that he was, he had fixed his eyes, as a man in failing
health. My mother and her eldest son were absolutely enraptured, and
they expected Eustace to be equally delighted with this escape from
all difficulties. They were closeted with him for two hours the morning
after our return, while Meg was left to enjoy herself with her son, and
to converse with M. d’Aubepine. That poor little thing’s Elysium had
come to an end as soon as the Princes were released from prison. No
sooner did her husband find that his idol, the Prince on Conde, showed
neither gratitude nor moderate civility to the faithful wife who had
fought so hard for him, than his ape must needs follow in his track and
cast off Cecile--though, of course, she still held that his duty kept
him in attendance on the Prince, and that he would return to her.

I do not know whether they were afraid of me, for not a word did any of
them say of the results of their conferences, only I was informed that
we were to have a reception in the evening, and a new white taffeta
dress, with all my mother’s best jewels, was put out for me, and my
mother herself came to preside at my toilette and arrange my curls. I
did not suspect mischief even then, for I thought it was all in honour
of Solivet’s poor little Petronille, whom he had succeeded in marrying
to a fat of Duke. What a transformation it was from the meek little
silent persionnaire without a word to say for herself, into a gay
butterfly, with a lovelock on her shoulder, a coquettish twist of her
neck, and all the language of the fan, as well as of tongue, ready
learned! I do not think her father was quite happy about her manners,
but then it served him right, and he had got a dukedom for his
grandchildren by shutting up his other poor daughter in a convent.

By and by I saw my brother bowing with extra politeness, and then
Solivet found me out, and did himself the honour to present to me
Monsieur le Comte de Poligny, who, in his turn, presented M. le
Chevalier. The Count was a rather good-looking Frenchman, with the
air of having seen the world; the Chevalier was a slight little
whipper-snapper of a lad in the uniform of the dragoons, and looking
more as if he were fastened to his sword and spurs than they to him.
I think the father was rather embarrassed not to find me a little prim
demoiselle, but a woman capable of talking about politics like other
people; and while I rejoiced that the Cardinal had been put to flight by
the Prince, I told them that no good would come of it, unless some one
would pluck up a spirit and care more for his fellow-creatures than for
his own intrigues.

Solivet looked comically dismayed to hear such independent sentiments
coming out of my mouth; I know now that he was extremely afraid that M.
de Poligny would be terrified out of is bargain. If I had only guessed
at his purpose, and that such an effect might be produced, I would
almost have gone the length of praising Mr. Hampden and Sir Thomas
Fairfax to complete the work; instead of which I stupidly bethought me
of Eustace’s warning not to do anything that might damage Margaret and
her son, and I restrained myself.

The matter was only deferred till the next morning, when I was
summoned to my mother’s chamber, where she sat up in bed, with her best
Flanders-lace nightcap and ruffles on, her coral rosary blessed by the
Pope, her snuff-box with the Queen’s portrait, and her big fan that had
belonged to Queen Marie de Medicis, so that I knew something serious was
in hand; and, besides, my brothers Solivet and Walwyn sat on chairs by
the head of her bed. Margaret was not there.

‘My daughter,’ said my mother, when I had saluted her, and she had
signed to me to be seated, ‘M. le Comte de Poligny has done you the
honour to demand your hand for his son, the Chevalier; and I have
accepted his proposals, since by this means the proces will be
terminated respecting the estates in Picardy, and he will come to
a favourable accommodation with your brother, very important in the
present circumstances.’

I suppose she and Solivet expected me to submit myself to my fate like
a good little French girl. What I did was to turn round and exclaim:
‘Eustace, you have not sold me for this?’

He held out his hand, and said: ‘No, sister. I have told my mother and
brother that my consent depends solely on you.’

Then I felt safe, even when Solivet said:

‘Nor does any well-brought-up daughter speak of her wishes when her
parents have decided for her.’

‘You are not my parent, sir,’ I cried; ‘you have no authority over me!
Nor am I what you call a well-brought-up girl--that is, a poor creature
without a will!’

‘It is as I always said,’ exclaimed my mother. ‘She will be a scandal.’

But I need not describe the whole conversation, even if I could remember
more than the opening. I believe I behaved very ill, and was in danger
of injuring my own cause by my violence; my mother cried, and said I
should be a disgrace to the family, and Solivet looked fierce, handled
the hilt of his sword, and observed that he should know how to prevent
that; and then Eustace took my hands, and said he would speak with me
alone, and my mother declared that he would encourage me in my folly and
undutifulness; while Solivet added: ‘Remember we are in earnest. This is
no child’s play!’

A horrible dread had come over me that Eustace was in league with them;
for he always imperatively cut me short if I dared to say I was already
promised. I would hardly speak to him when at last he brought me to
his own rooms and shut the door; and when he called me his poor Nan, I
pushed him away, and said I wanted none of his pity, I could not have
thought it of him.

‘You do not think it now,’ he said; and as I looked up into his clear
eyes I was ashamed of myself, and could only murmur, what could I think
when I saw him sitting there aiding in their cruel manoeuvres,--all for
your own sake, too?

‘I only sat there because I hoped to help you,’ he said; and then he
bade me remember that they had disclosed nothing of these intentions of
theirs in the letters which spoke of an accommodation. If they had done
so, he might have left me in Holland with some of the English ladies so
as to be out of reach; but the scheme had only been propounded to him on
the previous morning. I asked why he had not refused it at once, and he
pointed out that it was not for him to disclose my secret attachment,
even had it been expedient so to do. All that he had been able to do
was to declare that the whole must depend on my free consent. ‘And,’ he
said, with a smile, ‘methought thereby I had done enough for our Nan,
who has no weak will unless by violence she over-strain it.’

I felt rebuked as well as reassured and strengthened, and he again
assured me that I was safe so long as he lived from being pressed into
any marriage contract displeasing to me.

‘But I am promised to M. Darpent,’ was my cry. ‘Why did you hinder me
from saying so?’

‘Have you not lived long enough in France to know that it would go for
nothing, or only make matters worse?’ he said. ‘Solivet would not heed
your promise more than the win that blows, except that he might visit it
upon Darpent.’

‘You promised to persuade my mother,’ I said. ‘She at least knows how
things go in England. Besides, she brought him here constantly. Whenever
she was frightened there was a cry for Darpent.’

Eustace, however, thought my mother ought to know that my word was
given; and we told her in private the full truth, with the full
approbation of my mother, the head of the family, and he reminded her
that at home such a marriage would be by no means unsuitable. Poor
mother! she was very angry with us both. She had become so entirely
imbued with her native French notions that she considered the word of a
demoiselle utterly worthless, and not to be considered. As to my having
encouraged Avocat Darpent, une creature comme ca, she would as soon have
expected to be told that I had encouraged her valet La Pierre! She was
chiefly enraged with me, but her great desire was that I should not be
mad enough, as she said, to let it be known that I had done anything
so outrageous as to pass my word to any young man, above all to one of
inferior birth. It would destroy my reputation for ever, and ruin all
the chance of my marriage.

Above all, she desired that it should be concealed from Solivet. She
was a prudent woman, that poor mother of mine, and she was afraid of
her son’s chastising what she called presumption, and thus embroiling
himself with the Parliament people. I said that Solivet had no right
over me, and that I had not desire to tell him, though I had felt that
she was my mother and ought to be warned that I never would be given to
any man save Clement Darpent; and Eustace said that though he regretted
the putting himself in opposition to my mother, he should consider it
as a sin to endeavour to make me marry one man, while I loved another
to whom I was plighted. But he said that there was no need to press the
affair, and that he would put a stop to Darpent’s frequenting the house,
since it only grieved my mother and might bring him into danger. He
would, as my mother wished, keep out attachment as a secret, and would
at present take no steps if I were unmolested.

In private Eustace showed me that this was all he could do, and
counseled me to put forward no plea, but to persist in my simple
refusal, lest I should involve Clement Darpent in danger. Had not
Solivet ground his teeth and said order should be taken if he could
believe his sister capable of any unworthy attachment? ‘And remember,’
said Eustace, ‘Darpent is not in good odour with either party, and there
is such a place as the Bastille.’

I asked almost in despair if he saw any end to it, or any hope, to which
he said there always was hope. If our King succeeded in regaining his
crown we could go home, and we both believed that Clement would gladly
join us there and become one of us. For the present, Eustace said, I
must be patient. Nobody could hinder him from seeing Darpent, and he
could make him understand how it all was, and how he must accept the
ungrateful rebuffs that he had received from my mother.

No one can tell what that dear brother was to me then. He replied in
my name and his own to M. de Poligny, who was altogether at a loss to
understand that any reasonable brother should attend to the views of a
young girl, when such a satisfactory parti as his son was offered, even
though the boy was at least six years younger than I was; and as my
mother and Solivet did not fail to set before me, there was no danger
of his turning out like that wretch d’Aubepine, as he was a gentle,
well-conducted, dull boy, whom I could govern with a silken thread if I
only took the trouble to let him adore me. I thanked them, and said that
was not exactly my idea of wedded life; and they groaned at my folly.

However, it turned out that M. de Poligny really wished his little
Chevalier to finish his education before being married, and had only
hastened his proposals because he wished to prevent the suit from coming
up to be pleaded, and so it was agreed that the matter should stand over
till this precious suitor of mine should have mastered his accidence and
grown a little hair on his lip. I believe my mother had such a wholesome
dread of me, especially when backed by my own true English brother, that
she was glad to defer the tug of war. And as the proces was thus again
deferred, I think she hoped that my brother would have no excuse for
intercourse with the Darpents. She had entirely broken off with them and
had moreover made poor old Sir Francis and Lady Ommaney leave the Hotel
de Nidemerle, all in politeness as they told us, but as the house was
not her own, I should have found it very hard to forgive their expulsion
had I been Margaret.

As for me, my mother now watched over me like any other lady of her
nation. She resorted far less to Queen Henrietta than formerly, and
always took me with her whenever she went, putting an end now, in my
twenty-fourth year, to the freedom I had enjoyed all my life. She did
not much like leaving me alone with Eustace, and if it had not been for
going to church on Sunday, I should never have gone out with him. He
was not strong enough now to go to prayers daily at Sir Richard Browne’s
chapel, but he never failed that summer to take me thither on a Sunday,
though he held that it would be dishonourable to let this be a way for
any other meetings.

My mother had become devout, as the French say. She wore only black,
went much more to church, always leaving me in the charge of Madame
Croquelebois, whom she borrowed from the d’Aubepines for the purpose,
and she set all she could in train for the conversion of my brother and
myself. There was the Abbe Walter Montagu, Lord Mandeville’s brother,
and one or two others, who had despaired of our Church and joined hers,
and she was always inviting them and setting them to argue with us.
Indeed, she declared that one chief reason of her desiring this wedding
for me was that it would bring me within the fold of the true Church.
They told us that our delusion, as they called our Church, was dead;
that the Presbyterians and Fifth Monarchy men and all their rabble had
stifled the last remnant of life that had been left in her; that the
Episcopacy, even if we scouted the Nag’s Head fable, was perishing away,
and that England was like Holland or the Palatinate. But Eustace smiled
gravely at them, and asked whether the Church had been dead when the
Roman Emperors, or the heretic Arians, persecuted her, and said that he
knew that, even if he never should see it, she would revive brighter and
purer than ever--as indeed it has been given to us to behold. That dear
brother, he was so unlike the Calvinists, and held so much in common
with the French Church, that the priests always thought they were
converting him; but he stood all the firmer for knowing what was truly
Catholic. Of course it was no wonder that as Walter Montagu, like all
my Lord Mandeville’s sons, had been bred a Puritan, he should have been
amazed to perceive that the Roman Catholics were not all that they had
been painted, and should find rest in the truths that had been hidden
from him; but with us it was quite otherwise, having ever known the best
alike of ours and of theirs. The same thing was going on at the Louvre.

Queen Henrietta was bent on converting her son, the Duke of Gloucester.
He was a dear good lad of twelve years old, who had just been permitted
to join her. I think the pleasantest times I had at all in those days
were with him. He clung to us because I had known and loved his
sweet sister, the Lady Elisabeth, who had been his companion in his
imprisonment, and though he seldom spoke of her it was easy to see that
the living with her had left a strong mark on his whole character.

I knew that Eustace had seen the Darpents and made Clement understand
that I was faithful, and that he was to believe nothing that he heard of
me, except through my brother himself. That helped me to some patience;
and I believe poor Clement was so much amazed that his addresses should
be tolerated by M. le Baron de Ribaumont that he was quite ready to
endure any suspense.

There were most tremendous disturbances going on all the time out of
door. Wonderful stories came to us of a fearful uproar in the Parliament
between the Prince and the Coadjutor de Gondi, when the Duke of
Rochefoucauld got the Coadjutor between two folding-doors, let down the
iron bar of them on his neck, and was as nearly as possible the death
of him. Then there was a plot for murdering the Prince of Conde in the
streets, said to be go up by the Queen-Regent herself, after consulting
one of her priests, who told her that she might regard the Prince as an
enemy of the State, and that she might lawfully rid herself of him by
private means when a public execution was inexpedient. A fine religion
that! as I told my mother when M. d’Aubepine came in foaming at the
mouth about it; though Eustace would have persuaded me that it was not
just to measure a whole Church by one priest. The Prince fortified his
house, and lived like a man in a state of siege for some time, and then
went off to Chantilly, take d’Aubepine with him--and every one said
a new Fronde was beginning, for the Queen-Regent was furious with the
Princes, and determined to have Cardinal Mazarin back, and the Prince
was equally resolved to keep him out, while as to the Parliament, I had
no patience with it; it went on shilly-shallying between the two, and
had no substance to do anything by hang on to some selfish Court party.

There were a few who understood their real interests, like the old
Premier-President Mathieu Mole, and these hoped that by standing between
the two parties they might get the only right thing done, namely, to
convoke the States-General, which is what really answers to our own
English Parliament. People could do things then in Paris they never
dream of now; and Clement Darpent worked hard, getting up meetings among
the younger counsellors and advocates, and some of the magistrates,
where they made speeches about constitutional liberty, and talked about
Ciecero, who was always Clement’s favourite hero. My brother went to
hear him sometimes, and said he had a great gift of eloquence, but that
he was embarked on a very dangerous course. Moreover, M. Darpent had
been chosen as a deputy of the Town Council at the Hotel de Ville. This
council consisted of the mayor and echevins, as they called them, who
were something like our aldermen, all the parish priests, deputies from
the trades, and from all the sixteen quarters of the city, and more
besides. They had the management of the affairs of the city in their
hands, and Clement Darpent, owning a house, and being respected by the
respectable citizens of his department of St. Antoine, was chosen to
represent it. Thus he felt himself of use, which always rejoiced him.
As to me, I only saw him once that whole autumn, and then I met him by
accident as I was walking with Eustace and Margaret in the Cours de la
Reine. [footnote: the Champs-Elysees]

We were in high spirits, for our own King had marched into England while
Cromwell was beating the covenanting rogues in Scotland, and Eustace
was walking and riding out every day to persuade himself that he was
in perfect health and fit to join his standard. That dear brother had
promised that if he went to England I should come with him, and be left
with old Mrs. Merrycourt, Harry’s mother, till Clement could come for
me. Then Eustace, with his own lands again, could marry his Millicent,
and throw over the Dutchman’s hoards, and thus we were full to the brim
of joyous plans, and were walking out in the long avenue discussing them
most gladly together, when, to add to our delight, Clement met us in
his sober lawyer’s suit, which became him so well, coming home from a
consultation.

The Queen-Regent had promised to convoke the States-General, and he
explained to us both how all would come right there. The bourgeois
element from all the Parliaments of the provinces would be strong enough
to make a beginning towards controlling the noblesse, divided as it
was, and at feud with the Crown. Some of the clergy at least would be on
their side, and if the noblesse would bear part of the burthens of the
State, and it could be established that taxes should not be imposed
without the consent of the people, and that offices should not be sold,
all would be well for the country. Meg herself took fire, and began to
hope that a new state of things would begin in which she might do some
good to those unfortunate peasants of her son’s who weighed so heavily
on her tender heart. Eustace told him he would be another Simon de
Montfort, only not a rebel. No; he was determined to succeed by moral
force, and so was his whole party (at least he thought so). They, by
their steady loyalty, would teach the young King and his mother how to
choose between them and the two selfish factions who were ready to
fight with the King himself, provided it was also against a Conde or a
Mazarin.

It looked very beautiful indeed. I was roused from my selfish
ill-humour, felt what my Clement was worth, and went heart and soul into
the matter, and we all four were just as happy over these hopes as if we
had not seen how things had turned out at home, and that no one, either
Kings or Parliaments, or nobility either, know where to stop; but
that if you do not get an absolute tyrant, you run the risk of a Long
Parliament, a ruling army, a 30th of January, and a Lord Protector. But
we were all young and hopeful still, and that straight walk in the Cours
de la Reine was a paradise to some of us, if a fool’s paradise. For look
you! in these great States-General, who but Clement Darpent the eloquent
would make speeches, and win honours that would give him a right to
rewards for higher than the hand of a poor exiled maiden, if I were
still an exile? Though he declared that I had been his inspiration, and
helped to brace him for the struggle, and far more truly, that my dear
brother had shown him what a nobleman, bred under English law, could
be, when neither ground down by the Crown, nor forced to do nothing but
trample on his vassals.

And Meg began to hope for her Gaspard. She told how the young King was
fond of him, and really seemed fired by some emulation at finding that
a boy so much younger than himself knew more than he did. Our boy was
reading Virgil and Plutarch’s lives. He told the stories to the
young King, who delighted to listen, though the Duke of Anjou thought
everything dull except cards, tennis, and gossip. The King was even
beginning to read to himself. ‘And,’ said Clement, when he heard it,
‘let him be fired with the example of Agis or Clomenes, and what may
he not do for France?’ Oh, yes! we were very happy, though we talked of
hardly anything but politics. It was the last happy day we were to have
for a good while to come.



CHAPTER XXVIII. -- THE BOEUF GRAS

(Annora’s Narrative)



I said it was a fool’s paradise, and it did not last long. The
Queen-Regent had a convenient fashion of making nothing of her promises.
She did not think base burghers and lawyers human creatures towards whom
honour was necessary, and she naturally expected the States-General to
act our Long Parliament over again.

It seems that Kings of France come of age at fourteen; and on the day
that young Louis was thirteen he was declared to be major, and his
mother ceased to be Regent, though she managed everything just as much
as if she had still written Anne R. at the end of all the State papers.
The advantage to the Court was that no promises or engagements made in
his minority were considered to be binding. And so the whole matter of
the States-General went to the wall.

There was a magnificent ceremony at the Parliament House, the old hall
of the Augustins. The little King held a bed of justice, upon a couch
under a purple velvet canopy, with all his grandees round him. I would
not go to see it, I thought it a wicked shame to set up a poor boy to
break all the solemn pledges made in his name, and I knew it was the
downfall of Clement’s hopes; but Meg went in her Princess’s suite, and I
had her account of it, the King looking very handsome with his long fair
hair, and bowing right and left, with such a dignity and grace that no
one saw what a little bit of a fellow he really was. Poor child! the
best thing they could have taught him would have been to worshipping and
loving no one but himself. Of course Meg saw nothing so plainly as how
beautiful her little Marquis looked among the attendant young nobles,
and I must own that he was a very fine fellow, and wonderfully little
spoiled considering the sort of folk with whom he lived. On that
ceremonial day there came doleful tidings to us. Worcester had been the
scene of a massacre rather than a fight, and my brother was in despair
and misery at not having been there--as if his single arm could have
retrieved the day!--thinking shame of himself for resting at home while
sword and block were busy with our friends, and no one knew where the
King was. I know not whether it were the daunting of his hopes or the
first beginning of the winter cold; but from that time he began to
decline from the strength he had gained while I had him to myself in
Holland, free from all pressing cares.

However, he still rode out in attendance on the Duke of Gloucester, who
always preferred him to any other of the gentlemen who waited on the
Queen. One evening in October he stayed out so late that we had begun
to be anxious at his being thus exposed to the air after sunset, when
he came up to our salon in high spirits, telling us that he had been
returning with the Duke from a ride on the Amiens Road when they saw
some altercation going on at the barriers between the guard and a
gentleman on horseback, shabby and travel-stained, whom they seemed
unwilling to admit. For the Parisians, who always worship success and
trample on misfortune, had, since the disaster at Worcester, shown
themselves weary of receiving so many unlucky cavaliers, and were
sometimes scantly civil. The stranger, as he saw the others come up,
called out: ‘Ha, Walwyn, is it you? You’ll give your word for me that
the Chevalier Stuart is an honest fellow of your acquaintance, though
somewhat out at elbows, like other poor beggars.’

And then Eustace saw that it was the King, sun-burnt, thin, and
ill-clad, grown from a lad to a man, but with his black eyes glittering
gaily through all, as no one’s ever did glitter save King Charles’s.
He gave his word, and passed him through without divulging who he was,
since it would not have been well to have had all the streets turn out
to gaze on him in his present trim, having ridden on just as he crossed
from Brigthelmstone. The two brothers did not know one another, not
having met since Prince Henry was a mere infant of four or five years
old; and Eustace said he found the little fellow drawing himself up, and
riding somewhat in advance, in some princely amazement that so shabby
a stranger should join his company so familiarly and without any check
from his companion.

The King began to ask for his mother, and then, at a sign and hint from
Eustace, called out:

‘What! Harry, hast not a word for thy poor battered elder brother?’

And the boy’s face, as he turned, was a sight to see, as Eustace told
us.

He had left Queen Henrietta embracing her son in tears of joy for his
safe return, and very thankful we were, though it did but take out
first reception at the Louvre to see that though the King was as
good-humoured, gracious, and merry as ever, he was not changed for the
better by all he had gone through. He had left the boy behind him,
and now seemed like a much older man, who only laughed and got what
amusement he could out of a world where he believed in nothing noble nor
good, and looked forward to nothing.

The old ladies said he had grown like his grandfather, Henri IV., and
when this was repeated Eustace shook his head, and told Meg that he
feared it was in one way true enough, and Meg, who always hoped, bade us
remember how many years the Grand Monarque had to dally away before he
became the preserver and peace-maker of France.

However, even Meg, who had always let the King be like an old playfellow
with her, was obliged to draw back now, and keep him at the most formal
distance. I never had any trouble with him. I do not think he liked me;
indeed I once heard of his saying that I always looked like a wild
cat that had got into the salon by mistake, and was always longing to
scratch and fly. He would be quite willing to set me to defend a castle,
but for the rest---

It was not he whom I wished to scratch--at least as long as he let me
alone--but M. de Poligny, who took to paying me the most assiduous court
wherever I went, for his little schoolboy of a son, till I was almost
beside myself with fear that Clement Darpent might believe some false
report about me.

And then spring was coming on, and Eustace as yet made no sign of going
to Holland. He only told me to be patient, and patience was becoming
absolutely intolerable to my temper. Meantime, we heard that the First
President, Mathieu de Mole, who had some time before been nominated
Keeper of the Seals, but had never excised the functions of the office,
had nominated M. Darpent to be his principal secretary at Paris,
remaining there and undertaking his correspondence when he was with
the Court. Clement had been recommended for this office by his
brother-in-law, one of the Gneffiers du Roi, who was always trying
to mediate between the parties. Mole was thoroughly upright and
disinterested, and he had begged Clement to undertake the work as the
one honest man whom he could trust, and Clement had such an esteem for
him that he felt bound to do anything he could to assist him, in his
true loyalty.

‘I shall tell the King the truth,’ said the good old man, ‘and take the
consequences.’

And his being in office gave another hope for better counsels and the
States-General.

So Lady Ommaney told me, but I was anxious and dissatisfied. I had like
Clement better when he had refused to purchase an office, and stood
aloof from all the suite of the Court. She soothed me as best she could,
and, nodding her head a little, evidently was hatching as scheme.

Now the children had a great desire to see the procession in the
Mid-Lent week. It is after what we call Mothering Sunday--when the
prettiest little boy they can find in Paris rides through the streets
on the largest white ox. Now the lodgings whither Sir Francis and Lady
Ommaney had betaken themselves, when my mother had, so to speak, turned
them out, had a balcony with an excellent view all along the quais, and
thither the dear old lady invited Meg, Madame d’Aubepine, and me, to
bring Gaspard, with Maurice and Armantine; and I saw by her face that
the bouef gras was not all that there was for me to see.

We went early in the day, when the streets were still not overmuch
crowded, and we climbed up, up to the fifth story, where the good old
lady contrived to make the single room her means could afford look as
dainty as her bower at home, though she swept it with her own delicate
white hands. There was an engraving of the blessed Martyr over the
chimmey-piece, the same that is in the Eikon Basilike, with the ray of
light coming down into his eye, the heavenly crown awaiting him, the
world spurned at his feet, and the weighted palm-tree with Crescit sub
pondere virtus. And Sir Francis’s good old battle-sword and pistols
hung under it. It made me feel quite at home, and we tried to make the
children enter into the meaning of the point. At least Meg did, and
I think she succeeded with her son, who had a good deal of the true
Ribaumont in him, and whom they could not spoil even by all the misrule
that went on at Court whenever the Queen was out of sight. He stood
thoughtful by the picture while the little d’Aubepines were dancing in
and out of the balcony, shrieking about every figure they saw passing in
the road below.

Sir Francis, after receiving us, had gone out, as he said, to see what
was going on, but I think he removed himself in order to leave us more
at our ease. By and by there was a knock at the door, and who should
come in but M. Darpent, leading a little boy of five or six years old,
his nephew, he said, whom Lady Ommaney had permitted to bring to see the
sight.

I heard afterwards that it was pretty to see the different ways of the
children, and how Maurice d’Aubepine drew himself up, put on his hat,
laid his hand on his ridiculous little sword, and insisted that the
little Clement Verdon should stand behind him and his sister, where he
could see nothing, while Gaspard de Nidermerle, with an emphatic ‘Moi,
je suis getilhomme,’ put the stranger before himself and looked over his
head, as he could easily do, being two or three years older.

Well, I lost my chance; I never saw the great ox wreathed with flowers,
nor the little boy on his back, nor all the butchers with their cleavers
round him, nor the procession of the trades, the fishwomen, dames
des halles, as they called them, all in their white caps and short
petticoats, singing a ballad in honour of the Duke of Beaufort, the
faggot-carriers with sticks, the carpenters with tools, all yelling out
songs in execration of Cardinal Mazarin, who had actually entered France
with an army, and vituperating with equal virulence the Big Beard, as
they called the President Mole.

They told me the sight had been wonderful, but what was that to me when
Clement Darpent stood before me? He looked then and worn, and almost
doubtful how to address me; but Lady Ommaney said, in her hearty way:

‘Come, come, young folks, you have enough to say to one another. Sit
down there and leave the ox to the children and us old folks in our
second childhood. You believe and old woman now, M. Darpent?’

‘You never distrusted me?’ I demanded.

He said he had never distrusted my heart, but that he had heard at all
hands of the arrangement with M. de Poligny, whose lawyer had actually
stopped proceedings on that account. My brother had indeed assured
him that he did not mean to consent; and he ought, he allowed, to have
rested satisfied with that assurance, but--He faltered a little, which
made me angry. The truth was that some cruel person had spoken to him as
if my dear Eustace and his protection would soon be removed; and while
Solivet was at hand, Eustace, in his caution, he refrained from such
intercourse with Clement as could excite suspicion. Besides, he was
a good deal away at St. Germain with the Duke. All this I did not
understand. I was vexed with Clement for having seemed to doubt us, and
I did not refrain from showing my annoyance that he should have accepted
any kind of office in the rotten French State. It seemed to me a fall
from his dignity. On this he told me that it was not purchased, and it
was serving under a true and loyal man, whom he felt bound to support.
If any one could steer between the Prince and the Cardinal, and bring
some guarantee for the people out of the confusion, it was the Keeper of
the Seals, the head of the only party who cared more for the good of the
country than their private malice and hatred.

‘And,’ he said diffidently, ‘if under M. Mole’s patronage, the steps
could be gained without loss of honour or principle, you remember that
there is a noblesse de la robe, which might remove some of Madame de
Ribaumont’s objections, though I do not presume to compare it with the
blood of the Crusaders.’

I am ashamed to say that I answered, ‘I should think not!’ and then I am
afraid I reproached him for bartering the glorious independence that had
once rendered him far more than noble, for the mere tinsel show of rank
that all alike thought despicable. How I hate myself when I recall that
I told him that if he had done so for my sake he had made a mistake; and
as for loyalty rallying round the French Crown, I believed in no such
thing; they were all alike, and cared for nothing but their ambitions
and their hatreds.

Before anything had been said to soften these words--while he was still
standing grave and stiff, like one struck by a blow--in came the others
from the window. Meg, in fact, could not keep Cecile d’Aubepine back any
longer from hindering such shocking impropriety as out tete-a-tete.
We overheard her saving her little girl from corruption by a frightful
French fib that the gentleman in black was Mademoiselle de Ribaumont’s
English priest.

I am sure out parting need have excited no suspicions. We were cold and
grave and ceremonious as Queen Anne of Austria herself, and poor Lady
Ommaney looked from one to the other of us in perplexity.

I went home between wrath and shame. I knew I had insulted Clement,
and I was really mortified and angry that he should have accepted this
French promotion instead of fleeing with us, and embracing our religion.
I hated all the French politics together a great deal too much to have
any comprehension of the patriotism that made him desire to support the
only honest and loyal party, hopeless as it was. I could not tell
Meg about our quarrel; I was glad Eustace was away at the English’s
ambassador’s. I felt as if one Frenchman was as good, or as bad, as
another, and I was more gracious to M. de Poligny than ever I had been
before that evening.

My mother had a reception in honour of its being Mid-Lent week. Solivet
was there, and, for a wonder, both the d’Aubepines, for the Count had
come home suddenly with message from the Prince of Conde to the Duke of
Orleans.



CHAPTER XXIX. -- MADAME’S OPPORTUNITY

(Annora’s Narrative)



The Prince of Conde and Cardinal Mazarin were in arms against one
another. The Queen and her son were devoted to Mazarin. The loyal folk
in Paris held to the King, and were fain to swallow the Cardinal because
Conde was in open rebellion. Monsieur was trying to hold the balance
with the help of the Parliament, but was too great an ass to do any such
thing. The mob was against everybody, chiefly against the Cardinal, and
the brutal ruffians of the Prince’s following lurked about, bullying
every one who gave them umbrage, with some hope of terrifying the
Parliament magistrates into siding with them.

It was therefore no great surprise to Eustace and Sir Francis Ommaney
the next evening, when they were coming back on foot from the Louvre, to
hear a scuffle in one of the side streets.

They saw in a moment half of dozen fellows with cudgels falling on a
figure in black, who vainly struggled to defend himself with a little
thin walking rapier. Their English blood was up in a moment two masked
figures and hearing them egging on their bravoes with ‘Hola, there! At
him! Teach him to look at a lady of rank.’

The little rapier had been broken. A heavy blow had made the victim’s
arm fall, he had been tripped up, and the rascals were still belabouring
him, when Eustace and Sir Francis sprang in among them, crying, ‘Hold,
cowardly rascals!’ striking to the right and left, though with the flat
of their swords, of which they were perfect masters, for even in their
wrath they remembered that these rogues were only tools. And no
doubt they were not recognized in the twilight, for one of the masked
gentlemen exclaimed:

‘Stop, sir! this is not a matter for gentlemen. This is the way we
punish the insolence of fellows whose muddy blood would taint the swords
of a noble.’

At the same moment Eustace saw that the victim, who had begun to raise
himself, was actually Clement Darpent. He knew, too, the voice from the
mask, and, in hot wrath, exclaimed:

‘Solivet, you make me regret that you are my brother, and that I cannot
punish such a cowardly outrage.’

‘But I am no brother of yours!’ cried d’Aubepine, flying at him. ‘Thus I
treat all who dare term me coward.’

Eustace, far taller and more expert in fence, as well as with strength
of arm that all his ill-health had not destroyed, parried the thrust so
as to strike the sword out of d’Aubepine’s hand, and then said:

‘Go home, Monsieur. Thank your relationship to my sister that I punish
you no further, and learn that to use other men’s arms to strike the
defenceless is a stain upon nobility.’

And as the wretched little Count slunk away he added

‘Solivet, I had though better things of you.’

To which Solivet responded, with the pretension derived from his few
years of seniority:

‘Bah! brother, you do not understand, half a foreigner as you are. This
was the only way left to me to protect my sister from the insults your
English folly had brought on her.’

Eustace made no answer. He could not speak, for the exertion and shock
had been too much for him. His mouth was filled with blood. They were
all about him in an instant then, Solivet and Darpent both in horror,
each feeling that he might in a manner have been the cause of that
bleeding, which might in a moment be fatal. Eustace himself knew best
what to do, and sat down on the step leaning against Sir Francis, so as
not to add to the danger.

The fray had been undisturbed. In that delectable city people held
aloof from such things instead of stopping them, but a doctor suddenly
appeared on the scene, ‘attracted like a vulture,’ as Sir Francis said;
and they had some ado to prevent him from unbuttoning Eustace’s doublet
to search for a wound before they could make him understand what had
really happened. They obtained a fiacre, and Eustace was placed in it.
In this condition they brought him home and put him to bed, telling us
poor women only that he had interfered in a street fray and over-exerted
himself. It was shock enough for us to find all the improvements of a
whole year overthrown, as he lay white and still, not daring to speak.

They had agreed on the way home to keep us in ignorance, or at least to
let us think that the attack had been made by strangers, simply because
of his connection with the Big Beard. Meg’s Nicolas was first to tell us
that it was M. Darpent whom they had rescued, and that he had called at
the porter’s lodge on his way home to inquire for M. le Baron, bruised
all over, and evidently seriously hurt. And while still trying to
disbelieve this, another report arrived through the maidservants that M.
de Solivet and d’Aubepine had soundly cudgeled M. Darpent, and that M.
le Baron and M. d’Aubepine had fought a duel on the spot, in which my
brother had been wounded.

Meg was nearly as frantic as I was. We could not speak to Eustace, and
Solivet and d’Aubepine, finding themselves known, had both hurried away
at peep of day, for it was a serious thing to have nearly killed a man
in office; but Meg desired that if Sir Francis called to inquire for my
brother we should see him, and she also sent Nicolas to inquire for M.
Darpent, who, we heard, was confined to his bed with a broken arm.

Poor Clement! such was his reward for the interview where I had used
him so ill, and been so unjust to him. For, as we came to understand,
it really was all that wretched little Cecile’s fault. She would do
anything to please that husband of hers, and she communicated to him
that she understood the secret of my resistance to the Poligny match,
and had been infinitely shocked at my behaviour at Lady Ommaney’s.

The cowardly fellow had hated Clement ever since the baffling of the
attempt on Margaret. So he told Solivet, and they united in this attack,
with a half a dozen of their bravoes, got together for the occasion!
We heard the truth of the affair from Sir Francis, and it was well for
Solivet that he was out of my reach!

As for my mother, she thought it only an overflow of zeal for the honour
of the family, and held it to be my fault that her dear son had been
driven to such measures. Nothing was bad enough for the Ommaneys!
Nothing would restore my reputation but marrying the little Chevalier at
Easter. And in the midst, just as Eustace was a little better, and there
was no excuse for refusing to obey the drag of her chains, Margaret
was summoned away to attend on her absurd Princess, who was going to
Orleans, by way of keeping the Cardinal’s forces out of her father’s
city.

 Margaret had kept things straight.  I do not know how it was, but
peace always went away with her; and my mother did things she never
attempted when the real lady of the house was at home. And yet I might
thank my own hasty folly for much of what befell.

Eustace was much better, sitting up in his night-gown by the fire, and
ready, as I thought, to talk over everything, and redress my wrongs,
or at least comfort the wretchedness that had grown upon me daily since
that miserable quarrel with Clement. I poured it all out, and even was
mad enough to say it was his fault for delaying so long the journey to
the Hague. Clement, who had been well-nigh ready to join us and be a
good Protestant, was going back to the old delusions, and taking office
under the Government; and even if the bravoes had not killed him, he
would be spoilt for any honest Englishwoman; and I might as well take
that miserable little schoolboy, which I supposed was all my brother
wished. Then the estate would be safe enough.

Eustace could only assure me that the delay was as grievous to him as to
me. indeed, as I could see in a more reasonable mood, he had been unable
to get from Ribaumont the moneys needful for the journey, the steward
not venturing to send them while the roads were so unsafe; but when he
begged me to have patience, it seemed to sting my headstrong temper, and
I broke out in some such words as these: ‘Patience! Patience! I am sick
of it. Thanks to your patience, I have lost Clement. They have all but
murdered him! and for yourself, you had better take care Millicent van
Hunker does not think that such patience is only too easy when she has
neither wealth nor beauty left!’

‘Hush, Annora,’ he answered, with authority and severity in his tone,
but not half what I deserved; ‘there is great excuse for you, but I
cannot permit such things to be said.’

Here Tryphena came in and scolded me for making him talk; I saw how
flushed he was, and became somewhat frightened. They sent me away,
and oh! how long it was ere I was allowed to see him again! For in
the morning, after a night of repenting and grieving over my heat, and
longing to apologise for having reproached him for the delay which was
as grievous to him as to me, the first thing I heard was that M. le
Baron was much worse; he had had a night of fever; there was more
bleeding, and much difficulty of breathing. My mother was with him, and
I was on no account to be admitted.

And when I came out of my room, there sat Madame Croquelebois, who had
been sent for from the Hotel d’Aubepine to keep guard over me, day and
night; for she was lodged in that cabinet of my sister’s into which my
room opened, and my door on the other side was locked. It was an insult,
for which the excuse was my interview with Clement. It made me hot and
indignant enough, but there was yet a further purpose in it.

The next thing was to send for a certain Frere Allonville, a man who had
been a doctor before he was converted and became a Dominican friar, and
who still practiced, and was aid to do cures by miracle. I know this,
that it would have been a miracle if his treatment had cured my brother,
for the first thing he did was to bleed him, the very thing that Dr.
Dirkius had always told us was the sure way to kill him, when he was
losing so much blood already. Then the friar turned out Tryphena, on the
plea that he must have a nurse who understood his language. As if poor
Tryphena, after living thirteen years in France, could not understand
the tongue quite enough for any purpose, and as if she did not know
better how to take care of Eustace than any one else! But of course the
language was not the real reason that she was shut out, and kept under
guard, as it were, just as much as I was, while a Sister of Charity was
brought in to act as my brother’s nurse, under my mother, who, look you,
never had been nurse at all, and always fainted at any critical moment.

Assuredly I knew why they were thus isolating my brother from all of us.
I heard steps go upstairs, not only of the Dominican quack doctor, but
of the Abbe Montagu, who had been previously sent to convert us. The
good old Bonchamp, who had a conscience, was away at St. Germain with
Gaspard de Nidemerle, and I--I had no one to appeal to when I knew they
were harassing the very life out of my dearest, dearest brother, by
trying to make him false to the Church and the faith he had fought for.
I could do nothing--I was a prisoner; all by my own fault too; for they
would have had no such opportunity had I not been so unguarded towards
my brother. When I did meet my mother it chafed me beyond all bearing to
see her devout air of resignation and piety. Her dear son was, alas! in
the utmost danger, but his dispositions were good, and she trusted
to see him in the bosom of the true Church, and that would be a
consolation, even if he were not raised up by a miracle, which would
convince even me. Poor woman, I believe she really did expect that his
conversion would be followed by a miraculous recovery. I told her she
was killing him--and well! I don’t know what I said, but I think I
frightened her, for she sent Mr. Walter Montague to see what he could do
with me.

I told him I wondered he was not ashamed of such a conversion, supposing
he made it, which I was sure he would not, as long as my brother
retained his senses.

To which he answered that Heaven was merciful, and that so long as one
was in communion with the true Church there was power to be redeemed in
the next world, if not in this.

‘A sorry way of squeezing into Heaven,’ I said; and then he began
arguing, as he had done a hundred times before, on the blessing and rest
he had found in the Church, after renouncing his errors. And no wonder,
for it is well known that my Lord Mandeville brought up his family to
be mere Puritans. However, I said: ‘Look you here, Mr. Montagu; if my
brother, Lord Walwyn, gave himself to you of deliberate mind, with full
health and faculties, you might think him a gain indeed. Or if you like
it better, he would have a claim to the promises of your Church; but if
you merely take advantage of the weakness of a man at the point of death
to make him seem a traitor to his whole life, why, then, I should say
you trusted, more than I do, to what you call Divine promises.’

He told me--as they always do--that I knew nothing about it, and that he
should pray for me. But I had some trust that his English blood would
be guilty of no foul play. I was much more afraid of the Dominican; only
one good thing was that the man was not a priest. So went by Good Friday
and Easter Eve. They would not let me go to church for fear I should
speak to any one. Madame Croquelebois and my mother’s old smirking
tire-woman, Bellote, took turns to mount guard over me. I heard worse
and worse accounts of my dear brother’s bodily state, but I had one
comfort. One of the servants secretly handed Tryphena this little note
addressed to me, in feeble straggling characters:--

‘Do what they may to me my will does not consent. Pray for me. If word
were taken to the K. E. W. and R.’

It was some comfort that I should have that to prove what my brother was
to the last. I made me able to weep and pray--pray as I had never prayed
before--all that night and that strange sad Easter morning, when all the
bells were ringing, and the people flocking to the churches, and I sat
cut off from them all in my chamber, watching, watching in dread of
sounds that might tell me that my dearest and only brother, my one hope,
was taken from me, body and soul, and by my fault, in great part.

Oh! what a day it was, as time went on. Madame Croquelebois went to high
mass, and Bellote remained in charge. I was, you understand, a prisoner
at large. Provided some one was attending me, I went into any room in
the house save the only one where I cared to be. And I was sitting in
the salon, with my Bible and Prayer-book before me--not reading, I fear
me, but at any rate attesting my religion, when there came up a message
that Son Altesse Royale, the Duke of Gloucester, requested to be
admitted to see Mademoiselle de Ribaumont.

Nobody made any question about admitting a Royal Highness, so up he
came, the dear boy, with his bright hazel eyes like his father’s, and
his dark shining curls on his neck. He had missed me at the ambassador’s
chapel, and being sure, from my absence, that my brother must be very
ill indeed, he had come himself to inquire. He could as yet speak little
French, and not understanding what they told him at the door, he had
begged to see me.

It did not take long to tell him all, for Bellote did not understand
English; I showed him the note, and he stood considering. He was not
like his brothers, he had not lived in vain all those years with his
sister Elisabeth in captivity, for there was a grave manliness about him
though he was only thirteen. He said: ‘do you think Lord Walwyn would
see me? I am used to be with a sick person.’

Eagerly I sent up word. I knew my mother would never refuse entrance to
royal blood; nor did she. She sent word that the Duke would do her
son only too much honour by thus troubling himself. I did not miss
the chance of marshalling him upstairs, and gaining one sight of my
brother--oh! so sadly wasted in these few days, his cheeks flushed, his
breath labouring, his eyes worn and sleepless, as he lay, raised high on
his pillow. He looked up with pleasure into the Duke’s face. My mother
was making speeches and ceremonies; but after bowing in reply, the Duke,
holding Eustace’s hand, leant over him and said; ‘Can I do anything for
you? Shall I send for a chaplain?’

Eustace’s eye brightened, and he answered in a voice so faint that the
Prince only heard by bending over him:

‘An order from the King for some one to remain--Then I need not be ever
watching---’

‘I shall wait till he comes,’ said the Prince and Eustace gave SUCH a
look of thankfulness, and pressed the hand that had been laid in his.

The Duke, with politeness, asked permission of my mother to write
a billet to his brother, with a report of Lord Walwyn, at the
writing-table in the room. He wrote two--one to the King, another to
the chaplain, D. Hargood, bidding him obtain orders from King Charles to
remain with Lord Walwyn; and he despatched them by the gentleman who had
followed him, asking permission of my mother to remain a little while
with my lord.

Poor mother! she could not refuse, and she did, after all, love her son
enough to be relieved, as an air of rest and confidence stole over his
features, as the princely boy sat down by him, begging that he might
spare some one fatigue while he was there. She sent me away, but would
not go herself; and I heard afterwards that the Duke sat very still,
seldom speaking. Once Eustace asked him if he had his Book of Common
Prayer, for his own had been put out of his reach.

‘This is my sister’s,’ said the Duke, taking out a little worn velvet
book. ‘Shall I read you her favourite Psalm?’

He read in a low gentle voice, trained by his ministry to his sweet
sister. He read the Easter Epistle and Gospel too; and at last Eustace,
relaxing the weary watch and guard of those dreadful days, dropped into
a calm sleep.

If a miracle of recovery could be said to have been wrought, surely it
was by Duke Henry of Gloucester.

Long and patiently the boy say there; for, as it turned out, the King
was in the Cours de la Reine playing at bowls, and it was long before he
could be found, and when Dr. Hargood brought it at last the Prince had
actually watched his friend for four hours. He might well say he had
been trained in waiting! And he himself gave the bouillon, when Eustace
awoke without the red flush, and with softer breathing!

The King had actually done more than the Duke had asked; for he had not
only given orders that the chaplain should come, and, if desired, remain
with Lord Walwyn, but he had also sent the Queen’s physician, the most
skilful man at hand, to oust the Dominican. We heard that he had sworn
that it was as bad as being in a Scotch conventicler to have cowls and
hoods creeping about your bed before you were dead, and that Harry had
routed them like a very St. George.



CHAPTER XXX. -- THE NEW MAID OF ORLEANS

(Margaret’s Narrative)



I was summoned to the Luxembourg Palace on the Tuesday in Holy Week,
the 25th of March. My dear brother was then apparently much better, and
gaining ground after the attack of hemorrhage caused by his exertions to
save M. Darpent from the violence of his assailants.

He did not appear to need me, since he could not venture to talk more
than a few words at a time; and, besides, my year’s absence had left
me in such arrears of waiting that I could not ask for leave of absence
without weighty grounds. My mother was greatly displeased with me for
not having cut short the interview between Darpent and Annora, although
it seemed to have served her purpose by embroiling them effectually; but
she could not overlook so great an impropriety; and I confess that I
was not sorry to avoid her continual entreaties to me to give up all
intercourse alike with the Darpents and Ommneys, and all our English
friends. I had satisfied myself that M. Darpent was in no danger, and
I was willing to let the matter blow over, since Lady Ommaney, though
imprudent, had only done a good-natured thing from the English point of
view.

I found my Princess in great excitement. Cardinal Mazarin had rejoined
the King and Queen, and they were at the head of one army, the Prince of
Conde was at the head of another. The Parliament view both Cardinal and
Prince as rebels, and had set a price upon the Cardinal’s head. On the
whole, the Prince was the less hated of the two, yet there were scruples
on being in direct opposition to the King. The Cardinal de Retz was
trying to stir the Duke of Orleans to take what was really his proper
place as the young King’s uncle, and at the head of the Parliament,
to mediate between the parties, stop the civil war, convoke the
States-General, and redress grievances. But to move Monsieur was a mere
impossibility; he liked to hear of his own power, but whenever anything
was to be done that alarmed him, he always was bled, or took physic, so
as to have an excuse for not interfering.

And now the royal army was approaching Orleans, and Monsieur could not
brook that the city, his own appanage, should be taken from him. Yet
not only was he unwilling to risk himself, but the Coadjutor and he were
alike of opinion that he ought not to leave Paris and the Parliament.
So he had made up his mind to send is daughter, who was only too much
charmed to be going anywhere or doing anything exciting, especially if
it could be made to turn to the advantage of the Prince of Conde, whom
she still dreamt of marrying.

I found her in a state of great importance and delight, exclaiming: ‘My
dear Gildippe, I could not do without you! We shall be in your element.
His Royal Highness and M. le Cardinal de Retz have both been breaking
my head with instructions, but I remember none of them! I trust to my
native wit on the occasion.’

We all got into our carriages, a long train of them, at the Luxembourg,
with Monsieur looking from the window and waving his farewell to his
daughter, and the people called down benedictions on her, though I
hardly know what benefit they expected from her enterprise. We had only
two officers, six guards, and six Swiss to escort us; but Mademoiselle
was always popular, and we were quite safe.

We slept at Chartres, and there met the Duke of Beaufort, who rode by
the carriage-window; and by and by, at Etampes, we found 500 light horse
of Monsieur’s regiment, who all saluted. Mademoiselle was in ecstasies;
she insisted on leaving her carriage, and riding at their head, with all
the ladies who could sit on horseback; and thus we came to Toury, where
were the Duke de Nemours and others of the Prince’s party.

My heart was heavy, I hardly knew why, with fore-bodings about what
might be passing at home, or I should have enjoyed the comedy of
Mademoiselle’s extreme delight in her own importance, and the councils
of war held before her, while the Dukes flattered her to the top of her
bent, laughed in their sleeve, and went their own way. She made us all
get up at break of day to throw ourselves into Orleans, and we actually
set out, but we had to move at a foot’s pace, because M. de Beaufort
had, by accident or design, forgotten to command the escort to be in
attendance.

By and by a message was brought by some gentlemen, who told Mademoiselle
that the citizens of Orleans had closed their gates and were resolved
to admit nobody; that the Keeper of the Seals was on the farther side,
demanding entrance for the royal troops; and they were afraid of the
disorderly behaviour of any soldiers. They were in a strait between the
King and their Duke’s daughter, and they proposed to her to go to some
neighbouring house and pretend illness until the royal forces should
have passed by, when they would gladly admit her.

Mademoiselle was not at all charmed by this proposal, and she answered
with spirit: ‘I shall go straight to Orleans. If they shut the gates I
shall not be discouraged. Perseverance will gain the day. If I enter the
town my presence will restore the courage of all who are well affected
to His Royal Highness. When persons of my rank expose themselves, the
people are terribly animated, and they will not yield to people of small
resolution.’

So into the carriage she got, taking me with her, and laughing at all
who showed any alarm. Message upon message met us, supplicating her not
to come on, as she would not be admitted; but her head only went higher
and higher, all the more when she heard that the Keeper of the Seals was
actually at the gates, demanding entrance in the name of the King.

About eleven o’clock we reached the Porte Banniere, and found it closed
and barricaded. The guards were called on to open to Mademoiselle
d’Orleans Montpensier, the daughter of their lord; but all in vain,
though she had not a soldier with her, and promised not to bring in
either of the Dukes of Nemours or Beaufort.

We waited three hours. Mademoiselle became tired of sitting in the
carriage, and we went to a little inn, where we had something to eat,
and, to our great amusement, the poor, perplexed Governor of the town
sent her some sweetmeats, by way, I suppose, of showing his helpless
good-will. We then began to walk about the suburbs, and I though of the
Battle of the Herrings and the Maid of Orleans, and wondered which
was the gate by which she entered. One of the gentlemen immediately
complimented Mademoiselle on being a second Maid of Orleans, and pointed
out the gate, called Le Port de Salut, as connected with the rescue of
the place. We saw the Marquis d’Allins looking out at the window of the
guardroom, and Mademoiselle made signs to him to bring her the keys,
and let her in, but he replied by his gestures that he could not. The
situation was a very strange one. Mademoiselle, with her little suite
of ladies, parading along the edge of the moat, vainly trying to obtain
admission, while the women, children, and idlers of Orleans were peeping
over the ramparts at us, shouting:

‘Vive le Roi! Vivent les Princes! Point de Mazarin!’ and Mademoiselle
was calling back: ‘Go to the town hall, call the magistrates, and fetch
the keys!’ Nobody stirred, and at last we came to another gate, when the
guard presented arms, and again Mademoiselle called to the captain to
open. With a low bow and a shrug, he replied: ‘I have no keys.’

‘Break it down, then,’ she cried. ‘You owe more obedience to your
master’s daughter than to the magistrates.’

He bowed.

The scene became more and more absurd; Mademoiselle began to threaten
the poor man with arrest.

He bowed.

He should be degraded.

He bowed.

He should be drummed out of the service.

He bowed.

He should be shot.

He bowed.

We were choking with laughter, and trying to persuade her that threats
were unworthy; but she said that kindness had no effect, and that she
must now use threats, and that she knew she should succeed, for an
astrologer had told her that everything she did between this Wednesday
and Friday should prosper--she had the prediction in her pocket. By this
time we had coasted along the moat till we came to the Loire, where a
whole swarm of boatmen, honest fellows in red caps and striped shirts,
came up, shouting, ‘Vive Monsieur!’ ‘Vive Mademoiselle!’ and declaring
that it was a shame to lock her out of her fathers own town.

She asked them to row her to the water-gate of La Faux, but they
answered that there was an old wooden door close by which they could
more easily break down. She gave them money and bade them do so, and
to encourage them climbed up a steep mound of earth close by all over
bushes and briars, while poor Madame de Breaute stood shrieking below,
and I scrambled after.

The door was nearly burst in, but it was on the other side of the moat.
The water was very low, so two boats were dragged up to serve as a
bridge, but they were so much below the top of the ditch that a ladder
was put down into one, up which Mademoiselle dauntlessly mounted,
unheeding that one step was broken, and I came after her. This was our
escalade of Orleans.

She ordered her guards to return to the place where the carriages had
been left, that she might show how fearless she was. The boatmen managed
at last to cut out two boards from the lower part of the door. There
were two great iron bars above them, but the hole was just big enough to
squeeze through, and Mademoiselle was dragged between the splinters by
M. de Grammont and a footman. As soon as her head appeared inside the
gate the drums beat, there were loud vivats, a wooden arm-chair was
brought, and Mademoiselle was hoisted on the men’s shoulders in it
and carried along the street; but she soon had enough of this, caused
herself to be set down, and we all joined her, very dirty, rather
frightened, and very merry. Drums beat before us, and we arrived at the
Hotel de Ville, where the police bows and the embarrassed faces of the
Governor and the magistrates were a sight worth seeing.

However, Mademoiselle took the command, and they all made their excuses
and applied themselves to entertaining her and her suit, as carriages
were not admitted, for we were in a manner besieged by the Keeper of the
Seals; and in the early morning, at seven o’clock, Mademoiselle had to
rise and go through the streets encouraging the magistrates to keep him
out.

She was a sort of queen at Orleans, and we formed a little Court. I
really think this was the happiest time in her life, while she had a
correspondence with the Prince of Conde on the one hand, and her father
on the other; and assisted at councils of war outside the gates, as she
kept her promise, and admitted none of the leaders of the belligerent
parties into the city.

They were stormy councils. At one of these the Duke of Beaufort and
Nemours had a dispute, drew their swords, and were going to attack one
another, when Mademoiselle, by entreaties and commands, forced them to
lay down their arms.

All this time I had no news from my family. We were in a strange
condition. Here was I following Mademoiselle, who represented her father
and the neutral party, but was really devoted to the Prince; my son was
in attendance on the King, whom we were keeping out of his own city;
my mother, brother, and sister were in Paris, which held for the
Parliament. My half-brother, Solivet, had repaired to M. de Turenne’s
army, which was fighting for the King, and my brother-in-law,
d’Aubepine, was on the staff of the Prince.

There was scarcely any family that was not divided and broken up in the
same way, and it was hard to say why there was all this war and misery,
except that there was irreconcilable hatred between the Prince and the
Cardinal, and the Queen was determined to cling to the latter.

I knew nothing of what was passing at home till a day or two after
Easter Sunday, when one of the gentlemen of the household of the Duke of
Orleans, who had come with letters for Mademoiselle, seemed surprised to
see me, and on my pressing him for intelligence, he told me that my dear
brother was at the point of death. He was quite sure of it, for he had
spoken with M. de Poligny, who told him that M. de Ribaumont was daily
visited by the Abbe Montagu, was in the best possible dispositions, and
would receive the last sacraments of our Church.

I knew not what to believe. All I was sure of was that I must be wanted,
and that it would break my heart not to see my dearest brother again.
Mademoiselle was a kind mistress, and she consented to my leaving her,
and there was no danger in ladies traveling, though a good deal of
difficulty in getting horses.

At last, however, I found myself at my own door, and in one moment
satisfied myself that my brother was living, and better. My mother
was in the salon, in conversation with M. de Poligny, who had the good
judgment to withdraw.

‘Ah! my dear,’ she said, ‘we have had frightful scenes! I had almost
gained my dear son’s soul, but alas! it might have been at the cost
of his life, and I could not but be weak enough to rejoice when your
sister’s obstinacy snatched him from me. After all one is a mother!
and the good Abbe says a pure life and invincible ignorance will merit
acceptance! Besides, the Duke of Gloucester did him the honour to sit an
hour by him every day.’

I asked for my sister, and heard that she was with him. For, though my
mother said poor Annora’s ungovernable impetuosity had done him so much
harm, nay, nearly killed him, he was now never so tranquil as when she
was in his sight, and the English physician, who had been sent by the
King himself, declared that his life still depended on his being kept
free from all agitation.

‘Otherwise,’ said my mother, ‘I could bring about the marriage with the
little Chevalier. Annora has renounced her disobedient folly, and would
make no more resistance; but M. de Poligny, of course, cannot proceed
further till your brother is in condition to settle the property on
her.’

I asked in wonder whether my sister had consented, but my mother seemed
to think that the break with Darpent had settled that matter for ever.

And when I saw my poor Annora, she was altered indeed. The bright colour
had left her cheeks, her eyes looked dim and colourless, her voice had
lost its fresh defiant ring; she was gentle, submissive, listless, as if
all she cared for in life had gone from her except the power of watching
Eustace.

He looked less ill than I had dreaded to see him. I think he felt at
rest after the struggle he had undergone to preserve the faith he really
loved. He had never relaxed his guard for a single moment till the Duke
of Gloucester had come, fearing that if he ceased his vigilance, that
might be done which we felt to be mercy, but which he could not submit
to. He always had a calmly resolute will, and he knew now that he must
avoid all agitation until he was able to bear it; so he would not ask
any questions. He only showed me that he was glad of my return, pointed
to Nan, saying: ‘She has been sorely tried, take care of her,’ and asked
me if I could find out how it fared with Darpent.

It was too late to do anything that evening, and I went to mass as early
as I could in the morning, that the streets might be quiet; and when
I rose from my knees I was accosted by a Sister of Charity who told me
that there was terrible need at the Hotel Dieu. Men were continually
brought in, shockingly injured in the street frays that were constantly
taking place, and by the violences of the band of robbers and bravoes
with whom the Duke of Orleans surrounded his carriage, and there was
exceedingly little help and nursing for them, owing to the absence of
the Queen, and of so many of the great ladies who sometimes lavished
provisions, comforts, and attendance on the patients.

I had three hours to spare before any one would be up, so I went home,
got together all the old linen and provisions I could muster, told my
sister where I was going, and caused my chairmen to carry me to the
hospital. The streets were perfectly quiet then, only the bakers’ boys
running about with their ells of bread, the water-carriers and the
faggot-men astir, and round the churches a few women hurrying to their
prayers, looking about as if half dreading a tumult.

Poor people! I had never seen the hospital so full, or in so sad a
condition. The Sisters and the priests of St. Lazare were doing their
utmost, and with them a very few ladies. I had staid long enough to fear
that I must be needed at home when I saw another lady coming to take my
place, and recognized Madame Darpent. We met with more eagerness than
the good old devout dame usually allowed herself to show, for each
accepted the appearance of the other as a token of the improvement of
out patients at home. She said her son was nearly well in health, but
that his arm was still unserviceable, having been cruelly twisted by the
miscreants who had attacked him; and when I told her that my brother was
likewise recovering, she exclaimed:

‘Ah! Madame, I dare not ask it; but if Madame la Vicomtesse could kindly
leave word of the good news as she passes our house, it would be a true
charity to my poor son. We have heard sad accounts of the illness of M.
de Ribaumont. The servants at the Hotel de Nidemerle confirmed them,
and my son, knowing that M. le Baron was hurt in his behalf, has been
devoured with misery. If Madame could let him know at once it would
spare him four or five hours of distress, ere I can leave these poor
creatures.’

‘Perhaps he would like to see me,’ I said; and the old lady was ready
to embrace me. She would not have dared to ask it; but I knew how glad
Eustace would be to have a personal account of him.

It was still early, and I met with no obstruction. My message was taken
in to ask whether M. Darpent would see me, and he came down himself to
lead me upstairs, looking very pale and worn, and giving me his left
hand, as in a broken voice he made polite speeches on the honour I had
done him.

‘At least, Madame,’ he said, trembling, so that he was obliged to lean
on the chair he was setting for me, ‘let me hear that you are come to
tell me no bad news.’

I assured him of the contrary, and made him sit down, while I told him
of my brother’s improvement, and anxiety respecting himself.

‘I may tell him that you are a convalescent, and able to employ yourself
in deep studies,’ I said, glancing at a big black book open on the table
beside the arm-chair where he had been sitting.

‘It is St. Augustine,’ he said. ‘I have been profiting by my leisure. I
have almost come to the conclusion that there is nothing to be done for
this unhappy France of ours but to pray for her. I had some hopes of the
young King; but did Madame hear what he did when our deputies presented
their petition to the States-General? He simply tore the paper, and
said: ‘Retire, Messieur.’ He deems despotism his right and duty, and
will crush all resistance. Men, like the Garde des Sceaux, have done
their best, but we have no strength without the nobility, who simply use
us as tools to gratify their animosity against one another.’

‘Only too true!’ I said. ‘There is not even permission given to us
nobles to do good among our own peasants.’

‘There is permission for nothing but to be vicious sycophants,’ cried he
bitterly. ‘At least save for the soldier, who thinks only of the enemies
of France. Ah! my mother is right! All we can do to keep our hands
unstained is to retire from the world, and pray, study, and toil like
the recluses of Port Royal.’

‘Are you thinking of becoming one of them?’ I exclaimed.

‘I know not. Not while aught remains to be done for my country. Even
that seems closed to me,’ he answered sadly. ‘I am unfortunate man,
Madame,’ he added; ‘I have convictions, and I cannot crush them as I
see others, better than I, can do--by appealing to simple authority and
custom.’

‘They kept you from your Counsellor’s seat, I know,’ said I.--‘And
made every one, except M. le Premier President, mistrust me for a
conceited fellow. Well, and now they must keep me from casting in my lot
with the recluses who labour and pray at Port Royal aux Champs, unless
I can satisfy myself on scruples that perhaps my Huguenot breeding,
perhaps my conversations with M. votre frere, have awakened in me.
And--and--though I have the leisure, I know my head and heart are far
from being cool enough to decide on points of theology,’ he added,
covering his face for a moment with his hand.

‘You a recluse of Port Royal! I cannot believe in it,’ I said. ‘Tell me,
Monsieur, is your motive despair? For I know what your hopes have been.’

‘Ah, Madame, then you also know what their overthrown has been, though
you can never know what it has cost me. Those eyes, as clear-sighted as
they are beautiful, saw only too plainly the folly of expecting anything
in the service I was ready to adopt, and scorned my hopes of thus
satisfying her family. I deserved it. May she find happiness in the
connection she has accepted.’

‘Stay, sir,’ I said. ‘What has she accepted? What have you heard?’

He answered with a paler look and strange smile that his clerk had been
desired by M. de Poligny’s notary to let him see the parchments of the
Ribaumont estate, preparatory to drawing up the contract of marriage, to
be ready to be signed in a week’s time.’

‘Ah, sir,’ I said, ‘you are a lawyer, and should know how to trust to
such evidence. The contract is impossible without my brother, who is
too ill to hear of it, and my sister has uttered no word of consent, nor
will she, even though she should remain unmarried for life.’

‘Will she forgive me?’ he exclaimed, as though ready to throw himself at
my feet.

I told him that he must find out for himself, and he returned that I was
an angel from heaven. On the whole I felt more like a weak and talkative
woman, a traitress to my mother; but then, as I looked at him, there was
such depth of wounded affection, such worth and superiority to all the
men I was in the habit of seeing, that it was impossible not to feel
that if Annora had any right to choose at all she had chosen worthily.

But I thought of my mother, and would not commit myself further, and I
rose to leave him; I had, however, waited too long. The mob were surging
along the streets, as they always did when the magistrates came home
from the Parliament, howling, bellowing, and yelling round the unpopular
ones.

‘Death to the Big Beard!’ was the cry, by which they meant good old
Mathieu Mole, who had incurred their hatred for his loyalty, and then
they halted opposite to the Maison Darpent to shout: ‘Death to the Big
Beard and his jackal!’

‘Do not fear, Madame, it will soon be over,’ said Darpent. ‘It is a
little amusement in which they daily indulge. The torrent will soon pass
by, and then I will do myself the honour of escorting you home.’

I thought I was much safer than he, and would have forbidden him, but he
smiled, and said I must not deny him the pleasure of walking as far as
the door of the Hotel de Nidemerle.

‘But why do they thus assail you and the Garde des Sceaux?’ I asked.

‘Because so few in this unfortunate country can distinguish between
persons and causes,’ he said. ‘Hatred to Mazarin and to the Queen as his
supporter is the only motive that sways them. If he can only be kept out
they are willing to throw themselves under the feet of the Prince that
he may trample them to dust. Once, as you know, we hoped that there was
public spirit enough in the noblesse and clergy, led by the Coadjutor,
to join with us in procuring the assembling of the States-General, and
thus constitutionally have taken the old safeguards of the people. They
deceived us, and only made use of us for their own ends. The Duke of
Orleans, who might have stood by us, is a broken reed, and now, in the
furious clash of parties, we stand by, waiting till the conqueror shall
complete our destruction and oppression, and in the meantime holding
to the only duty that is clear to us--of loyalty to the King, let that
involve what it may.’

‘And because it involves the Cardinal you are vituperated,’ I said. ‘The
Court ought to reward your faithfulness.’

‘So I thought once, but it is more likely to reward our resistance
in its own fashion if its triumph be once secured,’ he answered. ‘Ah,
Madame, are visions of hope for one’s country mere madness?’

And certainly I felt that even when peace was made between him and my
sister, as it certainly soon would be, the future looked very black
before them, unless he were too obscure for the royal thunderbolts to
reach.

However, the mob had passed by, to shriek round the Hotel de Ville.

Food and wine were dealt out to them by those who used them as their
tools, and they were in a frightful state of demoralization, but the
way was clear for the present, and Clement Darpent would not be denied
walking by my chair, though he could hardly have guarded me, but he took
me through some by-streets, which avoided the haunts of the mob; and
though he came no further than our door, the few words I ventured to
bring home reassured Eustace, and made Annora look like another being.



CHAPTER XXXI. -- PORTE ST. ANTOINE

(Margaret’s Narrative)



When I try to look back on the time that followed, all is confusion. I
cannot unravel the threat of events clearly in my own mind, and can
only describe a few scenes that detach themselves, as it were, from a
back-ground of reports, true and false, of alarms, of messages to and
fro, and a horrible mob surging backwards and forwards, so that when
Mademoiselle returned to Paris and recalled me, I could only pass
backwards and forwards between the Louvre and the Hotel de Nidemerle
after the servants had carefully reconnoitred to see that the streets
were safe, and this although I belonged to the Orleans’ establishment,
which was in favour with the mob. Their white scarves were as much
respected as the tawny colours of Conde, which every one else wore who
wished to be secured from insult.

I longed the more to be at home because my very dear brother, now
convalescent, was preparing everything for his journey to the Hague.
He had an interview with M. de Poligny, and convinced him that it was
hopeless to endeavour to gain Annora’s consent to the match with his
son, and perhaps the good gentleman was not sorry to withdraw with
honour; and thus the suit waited till the Parliament should be at
leisure to attend to private affairs.

My mother was greatly disappointed, above all when my brother, in
his gentle but authoritative manner, requested her to withdraw her
opposition to my sister’s marriage with Darpent, explaining that the had
consented, as knowing what his father’s feeling would have been towards
so good a man. She wept, and said that it certainly would not have been
so bad in England, but under the nose of all her friends--bah! and she
was sure that Solivet would kill the fellow rather than see canaille
admitted into the family. However, if the wedding took place at the
Hague, where no one would hear of it, and Annora chose to come back and
live en bourgeoise, and not injure the establishment of the Marquis de
Nidemerle, she would not withhold her blessing. So Annora was to go
with Eustace, who indeed had not intended to leave her behind him, never
being sure what coercion might be put on her.

In the meantime it was not possible for any peaceful person, especially
one in my brother’s state of health, to leave Paris. The city was
between two armies, if not three. On the one side was that of the
Princes, on the other that of M. le Marechal de Turenne, with the Court
in its rear, and at one time the Duke of Lorraine advanced, and though
he took no one’s part, he felled the roads with horrible marauders
trained in the Thirty Year’s War. The two armies of Conde and Turenne
skirmished in the suburbs, and it may be imagined what contradictory
reports were always tearing us to pieces. Meantime Paris was strong
enough to keep out either army, and that was the one thing that the
municipality and the Paliarment were resolved to do. They let single
officers of the Prince’s army, himself, the Duke of Beaufort, Nemours,
the Court d’Aubepine, and the rest, come in and out, but they were
absolutely determined not to be garrisoned by forces in direct rebellion
to the King. They would not stand a siege on their behalf, endure
their military license, and then the horrors of an assault. The Duke of
Orleans professed to be of the same mind, but he was a mere nonentity,
and merely acted as a drag on his daughter, who was altogether devoted
to the Prince of Conde. Cardinal de Retz vainly tried to persuade him to
take the manly part of mediation, that would have been possible to him,
at the head of the magistracy and municipality of Paris.

The Prince--Heaven forgive him--and the Duke of Beaufort hoped to
terrify the magistracy into subservience by raising the populace against
them. Foolish people! as if their magistrates were not guarding them
from horrible miseries. In fact, however, the mobs who raved up and down
the streets, yelling round the Hotel de Ville, hunting the magistrates
like a pack of wolves, shouting and dancing round Monsieur’s carriage,
or Beaufort’s horse--these wretches were not the peaceable work-people,
but bandits, ruffians, disbanded soldiers, criminals, excited by
distributions of wine and money in the cabarets that they might
terrify all who upheld law and order. If the hotels of the nobles and
magistrates had not been constructed like little fortresses, no doubt
these wretches would have carried their violence further. It seems
to me, when I look back at that time, that even in the Louvre or the
Luxembourg, one’s ears were never free from the sound of howls and
yells, more or less distant.

Clement Darpent, who had been separated from his work by his injury,
and had not resumed it, so far as I could learn, was doing his best as a
deputy at the Hotel de Ville to work on those whom he could influence to
stand firm to their purpose of not admitting the King’s enemies, but, on
the other hand, of not opening their gates to the royal arm itself till
the summons to the States-General should be actually issued, and the
right of Parliament to refuse registration acknowledged. His friends
among the younger advocates and the better educated of the bourgeois had
rallier round him, and in the general anarchy made it their business to
protect the persons whom the mob placed in danger. My mother, in these
days of terror, had recurred to her former reliance on him, and admitted
him once more. I heard there had been no formal reconciliation with
Annora, but they had met as if nothing had happened; and it was an
understood thing that he should follow her to the Hague so soon as there
should be an interval of peace; but he had a deep affection for his
country and his city, and could not hear of quitting them, even for
Annora’s sake, in this crisis of fate, while he had still some vision of
being of use, and at any rate could often save lives. Whenever any part
of the mob was composed of real poor, who had experienced his mother’s
charities, he could deal with them; and when they were the mere savage
bandits of the partisans, he and his friends scrupled not to use force.
For instance, this I saw myself. The Duke of Orleans had summoned the
Prevot des Marchands and two of the echevins to the Luxembourg, to
consult about supplies. The mob followed them all the way down the
street, reviling them as men sold to Mazarin, and insisting that
they should open the gates to the Prince. When they were admitted the
wretches stood outside yelling at them like wolves waiting for their
prey. I could not help appealing to Mademoiselle’s kindness of heart,
and asking if they could not be sheltered in the palace, till the
canaille grew tired of waiting. She shrugged her shoulders, and called
them miserable Mazarinites, but I think she would have permitted them to
remain within if her father had not actually conducted them out, saying,
‘I will not have them fallen upon IN HERE,’ which was like throwing them
to the beasts. We ladies were full of anxiety, and all hurried up to the
roof to see their fate.

Like hungry hounds the mob hunted and pelted these respectable
magistrates down the Rue de Conde, their robes getting torn as they fled
and stumbled along, and the officers, standing on the steps of the hotel
of M. le Prince, among whom, alas! was d’Aubepine. Waved their yellow
scarves, laughed at the terror and flight of the unhappy magistrates,
and hounded on the mob with ‘Ha! There! At him! Well thrown!’

Suddenly a darker line appeared, advancing in order; there was a
moment’s flash of rapiers, a loud trumpet call of ‘Back, ye cowards!’
The row of men, mostly in black hats, with white collars, opened, took
in among them the bleeding, staggering, cruelly-handled fugitives, and
with a firm front turned back the vile pursuers. I could distinguish
Clement Darpent’s figure as he stood in front, and I could catch a tone
of his voice, though I could not made out his words, as he reproached
the populace for endeavouring to murder their best friends. I felt that
my sister’s choice had been a grand one, but my heart sank as I heard
the sneer behind me: ‘Hein! The conceited lawyers are ruffling it
finely. They shall pay for it!’

There was a really terrible fight on the steps of the Parliament House,
when the mob forced the door of the great chamber, and twenty-five
people were killed; but Darpent and his little party helped out a great
many more of the counsellors, and the town-guard coming up, the mob was
driven off. That evening I saw the Cardinal de Retz. He was in bad odour
with Monsieur and Mademoiselle, because he was strongly against the
Prince, and would fain have stirred the Duke of Orleans to interfere
effectively at the head of the Parliament and city of Paris; but a man
of his rank could not but appear at times at the Duke’s palace, and
on this fine May evening, when all had gone out after supper into the
alleys of the garden of the Luxembourg, he found me out. How young,
keen, and lively he still looked in spite of his scarlet! How far from
one’s notions of an Eminence!

‘That was a grand exploit of our legal friend, Madame,’ he said; ‘but
I am afraid he will burn his fingers. One is not honest with impunity
unless one can blindly hang on to a party. Some friend should warn
him to get out of the way when the crash comes, and a victim has to be
sacrificed as a peace-offering. Too obscure, did Madame say? Ah! that is
the very reason! He has secured no protector. He has opposed the Court
and the Prince alike, and the magistrates themselves regard him as a
dangerous man, with those notions a lui about venality, and his power
and individuality, and therefore is factious, and when the Court demands
a Frondeur there will be no one except perhaps old Mole to cry out
in his defence, and Mole is himself too much overpowered. Some friend
should give him a hint to take care of himself.’

I told my brother as soon as I could, and he ardently wished to take
Darpent away with him when it should be possible to quit Paris; but at
that moment Clement and his young lawyers still nourished some wild hope
that the Parliament, holding the balance between the parties, might yet
undeceive the young King and save the country.

The climax came at last on the second of July. M. le Prince was outside
the walls, with the Portes St. Antoine, St. Honore, and St. Denis behind
him. M. de Turenne was pressing him very hard, endeavouring to cut him
off from taking up a position on the other side of the army, at
the confluence of the Seine and the Marne. The Prince had entreated
permission to pass his baggage through the city, but the magistrates
were resolved not to permit this, not knowing what would come after.
Some entrenchments had been thrown up round the Porte St. Antoine
when the Lorrainers had threatened us, and here the Prince took up his
position outside the walls. There, as you remember, the three streets of
Charenton, St. Antoine, and Charonne all meet in one great open space,
which the Prince occupied, heaping up his baggage behind him, and
barricading the three streets--M. de Nemours guarded one, Vallon and
Tavannes the other two. The Prince, with the Duke of la Rochefoucauld
and fifty more brave gentlemen, waited ready to carry succour wherever
it should be needed. Within, the Bastille frowned over all.

We were waiting in the utmost anxiety. A message came to Mademoiselle,
at the Louvre, from the Prince, entreating her not to abandon him, or
he would be crushed between the royal forces and the walls of Paris.
Monsieur had, for a week, professed to be ill, but, on driving through
the streets, lined with anxious people, and coming to the Luxembourg, we
found him on the steps.

‘I thought you were in bed,’ said his daughter.

‘I am not ill enough to be there,’ he answered; ‘but I am not well
enough to go out.’

Mademoiselle entreated him, in her vehement way, either to mount his
horse and go to help M. le Prince, or at least to go to bed and act the
invalid for very shame; but he stood irresolute, whistling, and tapping
on the window, too anxious to undress, and too timid to go out. Annora
would have been ready to beat him. I think his daughter longed to do so.
She tried frightening him.

‘Unless you have a treaty from the Court in your pocket I cannot think
how you can be so quiet. Pray, have you undertaken to sacrifice M. le
Prince to Cardinal Mazarin?’

He whistled on without answering, but she persevered, with alternate
taunts and threats, till at last she extracted from him a letter to the
magistrates at the Hotel de Ville, telling them that she would inform
them of his intentions. Off, then, we went again, having with us Madame
de Nemours, who was in an agony about her husband, and presently we
were at the Hotel de Ville, where we were received by the Prevot
des Marchands, the echevins, and Marshal de l’Hopital, Governor of
Paris--all in the most intense anxiety. She was brought into to great
hall, but she would not sit down--giving them her father’s letter,
and then desiring that the town-guard should take up arms in all the
quarters. This was already done. Then they were to send the Prince 2000
men, and to put 400 men under her orders in the Place Royale. To all
this they agreed; but when she asked them to give the Prince’s troops
a passage through the city, they demurred, lest they should bring on
themselves the horrors of war.

Again she commanded, she insisted, she raved, telling them that if
they let the Prince’s army be destroyed those of M. de Turenne would
assuredly come in and sack the city for its rebellion.

Marshal l’Hopital said that but for Mademoiselle’s friends, the royal
army would never have come thither at all, and Madame de Nemours began
to dispute with him, but Mademoiselle interfered, saying: ‘Recollect,
while you are discussing useless questions the Prince is in the utmost
danger;’ and, as we heard the cries of the people and beyond them the
sharp rattle of musketry, she threatened them with appealing to the
people.

She was really dignified in her strong determination, and she prevailed.
Evil as the whole conduct of the Prince had been, no doubt the
magistrates felt that it would be a frightful reproach to let the flower
of the gentlemen of France be massacred at their gates. So again we
went off towards the Port St. Antoine, hearing the firing and the
shouts louder every minute, at the entrance of Rue St. Antoine we met
M. Guitaut on horse-back, supported by another man, bare-headed,
all unbuttoned, and pale as death. ‘Shalt thou die?’ screamed out
Mademoiselle, as we passed the poor man, and he shook his head, though
he had a great musket ball in his body. Next came M. de Vallon, carried
in a chair, but not too much hurt to call out: ‘Alas, my good mistress,
we are all lost.’

‘No, no,’ she answered; ‘I have orders to open a retreat.’

‘You give me life,’ he said.

More and more wounded, some riding, some on foot, some carried on
ladders, boards, doors, mattresses. I saw an open door. It was that of
Gneffier Verdon, Clement’s brother-in-law, and Darpent was assisting to
carry in a wounded man whose blood flowed so fast that it made a stream
along the pavement before the door. Mademoiselle insisted on knowing
who it was, and there was only too much time, for, in spite of our
impatience and the deadly need, we could only move at a foot’s pace
through the ghastly procession we were meeting. The answer came
back--‘It is the Count d’Aubepine. He would bleed to death before
he could be carried home, so M. Darpent has had him carried into his
sister’s house.’

My heart was sick for poor Cecile. ‘My brother-in-law!’ I said. ‘Oh,
Mademoiselle, I entreat of you to let me go to his aid.’

‘Your amiable brother-in-law, who wanted to have you enlevee! No, no, my
dear, you cannot be uneasy about him. The Generalissime of Paris cannot
spare her Gildippe.’

So I was carried on, consoling myself with the thought that Madame
Verdon, who was as kind as her mother, would take care of him. When
we came near the gate Mademoiselle sent orders by M. de Rohan to the
captain of the gate to let her people in and out, and, at the same time,
sent a message to the Prince, while she went into the nearest house,
that of M. de Croix, close to the Bastille.

Scarcely were we in its salon when in came the Prince. He was in a
terrible state, and dropped into a chair out of breath before he could
speak. His face was all over dust, his hair tangled, his collar and
shirt bloody, his cuirass dinted all over with blows, and he held his
bloody sword in his hand, having lost the scabbard.

‘You see a man in despair,’ he gasped out. ‘I have lost all my friends.
Nemours, de la Rochefoucauld, Clinchamp, d’Aubepine, are mortally
wounded;’ and, throwing down his sword, he began tearing his hair with
his hands, and moving his feet up and down in an agony of grief.

It was impossible not to feel for him at such a moment, and Mademoiselle
came kindly up to him, took his hand, and was able to assure him that
things were better than he thought, and that M. de Clinchamp was only
two doors off, and in no danger.

He composed himself a little, thanked her passionately, swallowed
down some wine, begged her to remain at hand, then rushed off again to
endeavour to save his friends, now that the retreat was opened to them.
Indeed, we heard that M. de Turenne said it seemed to him that he did
not meet one but twelve Princes of Conde in that battle, for it seemed
as if he were everywhere at once.

We could only see into the street from the house where we were, and
having received some civil messages from the Governor of the Bastille,
Mademoiselle decided on going thither. The Governor turned out the guard
to salute Mademoiselle, and at her request conducted us up stone stair
after stone stair in the massive walls and towers. Now and then we
walked along a gallery, with narrow doors opening into it here and
there; and then we squeezed up a spiral stone stair, never made for
ladies, and lighted by narrow loopholes. In spite of all the present
anxiety I could not help shuddering at that place of terror, and
wondering who might be pining within those heavy doors. At last we came
out on the battlements, a broad walk on the top of the great square
tower, with cannon looking through the embrasures, and piles of balls
behind them, gunners waiting beside each. It was extremely hot, but we
could not think of that. And what a sight it was in the full glare of
the summer sun! Mademoiselle had a spy-glass, but even without one we
could see a great deal, when we were not too much dazzled. There was
the open space beneath us, with the moat and ditch between, crowded
with baggage, and artillery near the walls, with gentlemen on foot and
horseback, their shorn plumes and soiled looks telling of the deadly
strife--messengers rushing up every moment with tidings, and carrying
orders from the group which contained the Prince, and wounded men
being carried or helped out at the openings of the three chief suburban
streets, whose irregular high-roofed houses and trees, the gray walls
and cloisters of the abbey, hid the actual fight, only the curls of
smoke were rising continually; and now and then we saw the flash of the
firearms, while the noise was indescribable--of shots, shrieks, cries
to come on, and yells of pain. My brother told me afterwards that in all
the battles put together he had seen in England he did not think he had
heard half the noise that came to him in that one afternoon on the top
of the Hotel de Nidemerle. The Cavaliers gave a view halloo, and cried,
‘God save the King!’ the Ironsides sang a Psalm, and then they set their
teeth and fought in silence, and hardly any one cried out when he was
hurt--while here the shots were lost in the cries, and oh! how terrible
with rage and piteous with pain they were!

Beyond the houses and gardens, where lie the heights of Charonne, were
to be seen, moving about like ants, a number of troops on foot and
on horseback, and with colours among them. Mademoiselle distinguished
carriages among them. ‘The King is there, no doubt,’ she said; and as
I exclaimed, ‘Ah! yes, and my son,’ she handed me the glass, by which I
could make out what looked very like the royal carriages; but the King
was on horseback, and so was my dear boy, almost wild with the fancy
that his mother was besieged, and scarcely withheld from galloping down
by assurances that no lady was in the slightest danger.

Below, in the hollow, towards where Bagnolet rose white among the fields
and vineyards, the main body of Turenne’s troops were drawn up in their
regiments, looking firm and steady, in dark lines, flashing now and then
in that scorching July sunshine, their colours flying, and their plumes
waving. A very large proportion of them were cavalry, and the generals
were plainly to be made out by the staff which surrounded each, and
their gestures of command.

We presently saw that the generals were dividing their horse, sending
one portion towards Pincourt, the other towards Neuilly. Mademoiselle,
who really had the eye of a general, instantly divided that they were
going to advance along the water-side, so as to cut off the retreat of
the Prince’s forces by interposing between thefaubourg and the moat,
and thus preventing them from availing themselves of the retreat through
Paris. M. le Prince was, as we could perceive, on the belfry of the
Abbey of St. Antoine, but there he could not see as we could, and
Mademoiselle instantly dispatched a page to warm him, and at the same
time she gave orders to the artillerymen to fire on the advancing troops
as soon as they came within range. This was the most terrible part to
me of all. We were no longer looking on to save life, but firing on the
loyal and on the army where my son was. Suppose the brave boy had broken
away and ridden on! I was foolish enough to feel as if they were aiming
at his heart when the fire and smoke burst from the mouths of those old
brass guns, and the massive tower seemed to rock under our feet, and
the roar was in our ears, and Madame de Fiesque and the other ladies
screamed in chorus, and when the smoke rolled away from before our eyes
we could see that the foremost ranks were broken, that all had halted,
and that dead and wounded were being picked up.

In very truth that prompt decision of Mademoiselle’s saved the Prince’s
army. Turenne could not send on his troops in the face of the fire of
the Bastille, and, for aught he knew, of the resistance of all his army
through the Porte St. Antoine without the loss of one wounded man or
a single gun. Mademoiselle, having seen the effect of her cannon, came
down again to provide for wine and food being sent to the exhausted
soldiers, who had been fighting all day in such scorching heat that we
heard that at the first moment of respite, M. le Prince hurried into an
orchard, took off every fragment of clothing, and rolled about on the
grass under the trees to cool himself after the intolerable heat.

Just as I emerged from the court of the Bastille, some one touched me,
and said, ‘Pardon me, Madame,’ and, looking round, I saw M. Darpent,
with his hat in his hand. ‘Madame,’ he entreated, ‘is it possible to you
to come to poor M. d’Aubepine? I have fetched her to her husband, but
there will be piteous work when his wound is visited, and she will need
all the support that can be given to her. My mother and sister are doing
all in their power, but they have many other patients on their hands.’

I hurried to my Princess, and with some difficulty obtained a hearing.
She called up M. Darpent, and made him tell her the names of all the
five sufferers that he and his sister had taken into the Verdon house,
and how they were wounded, for Conde’s followers being almost all noble,
she knew who every one was. Two were only slightly wounded, but two were
evidently dying, and as none of their friends were within reach, Madame
Darpent and her daughter were forced to devote themselves to these,
though fortunately they had not been brought in till her son had piloted
M. d’Aubepine through the crowded streets--poor little Cecile! who had
hardly ever set foot on the pavement before. Her Count was in a terrible
state, his right leg having been torn off by a cannon-ball below the
knee, and he would have bled to death long before reaching home had not
Clement Darpent observed his condition and taken him into the house,
where Madame had enough of the hereditary surgical skill acquired in the
civil wars to check the bleeding, and put a temporary dressing on the
wounds until a doctor could be obtained; for, alas! they were only too
busy on that dreadful day.

Mademoiselle consented to part with me when she had heard all, suddenly
observing, however, as she looked at Darpent: ‘But, Monsieur, are
you not the great Frondeur with ideas of your own? Did not this same
d’Aubepine beat you soundly? Hein! How is it that you are taking him
in--? Your enemy, is he not?’

‘So please your Royal Highness, we know no enemies in wounded men,’
replied Darpent, bowing.

Her attention was called off, and she said no more, as Clement and I
hastened away as fast as we could through a by-street to avoid the march
of the troops of Conde, who were choking the Rue St. Antoine, going,
however, in good order. He told me on the way that M. d’Aubepine had
shown great courage and calmness after the first shock, and after a few
questions had hung on his arm through the streets, not uttering a word,
though he felt her trembling all over, and she had instantly assumed the
whole care of her husband with all the instinct of affection. But as he
and his mother felt certain that amputation would be necessary, he had
come to fetch me to take care of her.

Fortunately for us, we had not to cross the Rue St. Antoine to enter
the Maison Verdon, but Clement opened a small door into the court with
a private key, presently knocking at a door and leading me in. Armand
d’Aubepine had been the first patient admitted, so his was the chief
guest-chamber--a vast room, at the other end of which was a great bed,
beside which stood my poor Cecile, seeing nothing but her husband,
looking up for a moment between hope and terror in case it should be the
surgeon, but scarcely taking in that it was I till I put my arms round
her and kissed her; and then she put her finger to her lips, cherishing
a hope that because the poor sufferer had closed his eyes and lay still
in exhaustion, he might sleep. There he lay, all tinge of colour gone
from his countenance, and his damp, dark hair lying about his face, and
with my arm round her waist stood watching till he opened his eyes with
a start and moan of pain, and cried, as his eye fell on me: ‘Madame! Ah!
Is Bellaise safe?’ Then, recollecting himself: ‘Ah no! I forgot! But is
he safe--the Prince?’

I told him that the Prince and his army were saved, feeling infinitely
touched that his first word should have been of my Philippe, whom he
seemed to have forgotten; but indeed it was not so. His next cry was:
‘Oh! Madame, Madame, would that this were Freiburg! Would that I could
die as Philippe die! Oh! help me!’

Cecile threw herself forward, exclaiming, in broken words, that he must
not say so; he would not die.

‘You, too,’ he said, ‘you, too--the best wife in the world--whom I have
misused--Ah! that I could begin all over again!’

‘You will--you will, my most dear!’ she cried. ‘Oh! the wound will
cure.’

And, strange mixture that he was, he moaned that he should only be a
poor maimed wretch.

Darpent now brought in a priest, fresh from giving the last Sacrements
to the two mortally-wounded men. The wife looked at him in terror, but
both he and Clement gently assured her that he was not come for that
purpose to M. la Comte, but to set his mind at rest by giving him
absolution before the dressing of the wound. Of course it was a
precaution lest he should sink under the operation; and as we led her
from the bedside, Clement bade me not let her return as yet.

But that little fragile creature was more entirely the soul of Love than
any other being I have known. She did, indeed, when we had her in Madame
Verdon’s little oratory hard by, kneel before the crucifix and pray with
me, but her ear caught, before mine, the departing steps of the priest,
and the entering ones of the surgeon. She rose up, simply did not listen
to my persuasions, but walked in with quiet dignity. Madame Darpent was
there, and would have entreated her to retire, but she said: ‘This is
a wife’s place.’ And as she took his hands she met a look in his eyes
which I verily believe more than compensated to her for all the years of
weary pining in neglect. The doctor would have ordered her off, but she
only said: ‘I shall not cry, I shall no faint.’ And they let her keep
his hand, though Clement had to hold him. I waited, setting our hostess
free to attend to one of her dying charges, from whom she could ill be
spared.

And Cecile kept her word, though it was a terrible time, for there
was no endurance in poor Armand’s shallow nature, and his cries and
struggles were piteous. He could dare, but not suffer, and had not both
she and Clement been resolute and tranquil, the doctor owned that he
could not have succeeded.

‘But Madame la Comtesse is a true heroin,’ he said, when our patient was
laid down finally, tranquil and exhausted, to be watched over through
the night.

The time that followed was altogether the happiest of all my poor
sister-in-law’s married life. Her husband could hardly bear to lose
sight of her for a moment, or to take anything from any hand save hers.
If Madame Darpent had not absolutely taken the command of both she
would never have had any rest, for she never seemed sensible of fatigue;
indeed, to sit with his hand in hers really refreshed her more than
sleep. When she looked forward to his recovery, her only regret was at
her own wickedness in the joy that WOULD spring up when she thought of
her poor cripple being wholly dependent on her, and never wanting to
leave her again. I had been obliged to leave her after the first night,
but I spent much of every day in trying to help her, and she was always
in a tearful state of blissful hope, as she would whisper to me his
promises for the future and his affectionate words--the fretful ones,
of which she had her full share, were all forgotten, except by Clement
Darpent, who shrugged his shoulders at them, and thought when he had a
wife--

Poor Armand, would he have been able, even as a maimed man, to keep his
word? We never knew, for, after seeming for a fortnight to be on the
way to recovery, he took a turn for the worse, and after a few days of
suffering, which he bore much better than the first, there came that
cessation of pain which the doctors declared to mean that death was
beginning its work. He was much changed by these weeks of illness.
He seemed to have passed out of that foolish worldly dream that had
enchanted him all his poor young life; he was scarcely twenty-seven, and
to have ceased from that idol-worship of the Prince which had led him to
sacrifice on that shrine the wife whom he had only just learned to love
and prize. ‘Ah! sister,’ he said to me, ‘I see now what Philippe would
have made me.’

He asked my pardon most touchingly for his share in trying to abduct me,
and Clement Darpent’s also for the attack on him, though, as he said,
Darpent had long before shown his forgiveness. His little children were
brought to him, making large eyes with fright at his deathlike looks,
and clinging to their mother, too much terrified to cry when he kissed
them, blessed them, and bade Maurice consider his mother, and obey her
above all things, and to regard me as next to her.

‘Ah! if I had had such a loving mother I should never have become so
brutally selfish,’ he said; and, indeed, the sight of her sweet,
tender, patient face seemed to make him grieve for all the sins of his
dissipated life. His confessor declared that he was in the most pious
disposition of penitence. And thus, one summer evening, with his wife,
Madame Darpent, and myself watching and praying round him, Armand
d’Aubepine passed away from the temptations that beset a French noble.

I took my poor Cecile home sinking into a severe illness, which I
thought for many days would be her death. All her old terror of Madame
Croquelebois returned, and for many nights and days Madame Darpent or I
had to be constantly with her, though we had outside troubles enough of
our own. Those two sick-rooms seem to swallow up my recollection.



CHAPTER XXXII. -- ESCAPE

(Annora’s Narrative)



There was indeed a good deal passing beyond those rooms where Margaret
was so absorbed in her d’Aubepines that I sometimes thought she forgot
her own kindred in them. Poor things! they were in sad case, though how
Cecile could break her heart over a fellow who had used her so vilely,
I could never understand. He repented, they said. So much the better for
him; but a pretty life he would have led her if he had recovered. Why,
what is there for a French noble to do but to fight, dance attendance
on the King, and be dissipated? There is no House of Lords, no
Quarter-Sessions, no way of being useful; and if he tried to improve his
peasantry he is a dangerous man, and they send him a lettre de cachet.
He has leave to do nothing but oppress the poor wretches, and that he is
fairly obliged to do, so heavy are his expenses at Court. The King may
pension him, but the pension is all wrung out of the poor in another
shape! Heaven knows our English nobles are far from what they might be,
but they have not the stumbling-blocks in their way that the French have
under their old King, who was a little lad then, and might have been led
to better things if his mother had had less pride and more good sense.

Gaspard de Nidemerle does the best he can. He is a really good man, I
do believe, but he has been chiefly with the army, or on his own estate.
And he can effect little good, hampered as he is on all sides.

In those days, Clement Darpent was sad enough at heart, but he did
not quite despair of his country, though things were getting worse and
worse. Mademoiselle had saved the Prince and his crew, besotted as she
was upon them; and finely they requited Paris, which had sheltered them.
All the more decent folk among them were lying wounded in different
houses, and scarcely any of their chiefs were left afoot but the Duke
of Beaufort, with his handsome face and his fine curls of flaxen hair,
looking like a king, but good for nothing but to be a king of ruffians.

What does the Prince do but go to the Hotel de Ville with the Duke of
Orleans and Beaufort, at six o’clock in the evening of the 4th of July,
under pretence of thanking the magistrates and deputies of letting him
in. Then he demanded of them to proclaim that the King was a prisoner in
Mazarin’s hands, and to throw themselves into the war. They would do no
such thing, nor let themselves be intimidated, whereupon the Prince
went out on the steps, and shouted to his rabble rout, where there were
plenty of soldiers in disguise, who had been drinking ever since noon:
‘These gentlemen will do nothing for us,’ he cried. ‘Do what you like
with them.’

And then, like a coward, he got into a carriage with Monsieur and drove
off, while M. de Beaufort, in a mercer’s shop, acted general to the mob,
who filled the whole place. It was a regular storm. Flags with ‘Arret
d’Union’ were displayed, shots fired, the soldiers got into the houses
and aimed in at the windows, logs of wood smeared with fat were set fire
to before the doors so as to burn them down.

Clement, who was a depute for his arrondissement, had, while this was
going on, been getting together the younger and stronger men with the
guard, to make a barricade of benches, tables, and chairs; and they
defended this for a long time, but ammunition failed them, and the
barricade began to give way amid the shouts of the mob. The poor old
men crouching in the halls were confessing to the cures, expecting death
every moment; but, happily, even that long July evening had an end;
darkness came down on them, and there were no lights. The mob went
tumbling about, at a greater loss than the deputies and magistrates, who
did at least know the way. Clement, with a poor old gouty echevin on his
arm, struggled out, he knew not how, into one of the passages, where
a fellow rushed at them, crying, ‘Down with the Mazarins!’ but Clement
knew by his voice that he was no soldier or bandit, but a foolish
artisan, and at haphazard said: ‘Come, come, my good lad, none of this
nonsense. This gentleman will give you a crown if you will help him
out.’

The man obeyed directly, muttering that he only did as others did; and
when they had got out into the street, Clement, finding himself not far
from the place where the lights and voices showed him that some one
was in command, managed to get to the mercer’s shop with the poor old
echevin, where he found M. de Beaufort, with his hair shining in the
lamplight, his yellow scarf, and his long white feather, hanging over
the features that were meant to be like an angel’s. When Clement, in
aftertimes, read the Puritan poet Milton’s PARADISE LOST, he said he
was sure that some of the faces of the fallen spirits in Pandemonium
had that look of ruined beauty that he saw in the King of the Markets on
that night.

Some of the town councilors who had got out sooner had gone to entreat
the Duke of Orleans to stop the massacre, but he would Do nothing but
whistle, and refer them to his nephew De Beaufort. They were standing
there, poor men, and he tapping his lip with his cane, stroking down his
moustache, and listening to them with a sneer as they entreated him not
to let their fellows perish. And then among them stood up Clement, with
his old echevin by his side. He was resolved, he said, and began ‘Son of
Henri IV., will you see the people perish whom he loved from the bottom
of his heart? Yes, Monsieur, you inherit the charm by which he drew
hearts after him, and was a true king of men! Will you misuse that
attraction to make them fly at one another’s throats? In the name of
the great Henri and his love for his people, I appeal to you to call off
yonder assassins.’

He had so far prevailed that Beaufort muttered something about not
knowing things had gone so far, and assured the magistrates round him
of his protection. He even went to the door and told some of his prime
tools of agitation that it was enough, and that they might give the
signal of recall; but whether things had gone too far, or whether he was
not sincere, the tumult did not quiet down till midnight. After all, the
rogues had the worst of it, for two hundred bodies of theirs were picked
up, and only three magistrates and twenty-five deputies, though a good
many more were hurt.

Clement saw his old echevin safe home, left word at our house that he
was unhurt, but did not come in; and at Maison Verdon, no one had even
guessed what danger he was in, for all the attention of the household
was spent on the wounded men, one of whom died that night.

Things got worse and worse. Eustace was very anxious to leave Paris
before the summer was over, lest bad weather should make him unable to
travel. The year he had put between himself and Millicent had more than
run out; and besides, as he said to me, he would not expose himself
again to undergo what he had endured in his former illness, since he
could have no confidence that my mother, and even Margaret, might not
be driven to a persecution, which, if his senses should fail him, might
apparently succeed. ‘Nor,’ said he, ‘can I leave you unprotected here,
my sister.’

We lingered, partly from the difficulty of getting horses, and the
terrible insecurity of the roads, partly from the desire to get Clement
to attend to Cardinal de Retz’s warning and escape with us. There was no
difficulty on his mother’s account. She was longing to enter Port Royal,
and only delayed to keep house for him, with many doubts whether she
were not worldly in so doing; but he still felt his voice and presence
here in the Hotel de Ville a protest, and he could not give up the hope
of being of use to his country.

Meantime, M. de Nemours recovered from his wound only to be killed in a
duel by M. de Beaufort, his brother-in-law; the Prince of Conde’s rage
at his defeat threw him into a malignant fever; the Duke of Orleans was
in despair at the death of his only son, a babe of five years old;
the Fronde was falling to pieces, and in the breathing time, Eustace
obtained a pass from our own King, and wrote to Solivet, who was
with the royal army outside, to get him another for himself and
me--explaining that he was bound by his promise to Madame van Hunker,
and that his health was in such a state that my care was needful to him.

Solivet answered the letter, sending the passport, but urging on him to
remain at Paris, which would soon be at peace, since Mazarin was leaving
the Court, and a general amnesty was to be proclaimed if the gates of
Paris were opened to the King without the Cardinal.

But there were to be exceptions to this amnesty, and Solivet wrote at
the same time to my mother. I have not the letter, and cannot copy it,
but what he said was to urge her not to permit my brother to drag me
away to Holland, for when he was gone all might still be arranged as she
wished. As to ‘ce coquina de Darpent,’ as Solivet kindly called him, he
had made himself a marked man, whom it was dangerous to leave at large,
and his name was down for Vincennes or the Bastille, if nothing
worse, so that there need be no more trouble about him. So said my
half-brother, and he had no doubt made himself certain of the fact, in
which he somewhat prematurely exulted.

My poor dear mother! I may seem to have spoken unkindly and undutifully
about her in the course of these recollections. She was too French, and
I too English, ever to understand one another, but in these last days
that we were together she compensated for all that was past. She could
not see a good and brave young life consigned to perpetual imprisonment
only for being more upright than his neighbours; she did remember the
gratitude she owed even to a creature comme ca, and I even believe
she could not coolly see her daughter’s heart broken. She had not even
Margaret to prompt or persuade her, but she showed the letter at once
to Eustace, and bade him warn his friend. Oh, mother, I am thankful that
you made me love you at last!

Eustace drove first to the office, and got his passes countersigned by
the magistracy for himself and me and our servant, showing a laquais
whose height and complexion fairly agreed with those of Clement Darpent.
There was no time to be lost. In the dusk of an August evening my
brother was carried to the corner of the Rue St. Antoine in my mother’s
sedan. He could not walk so far, and he did not wish to attract
observation, and he reached the house on foot, cloaked, and with his hat
slouched. He found that Clement had received a note, as he believed from
the Coadjutor, who always knew everything, giving the like warning that
he would be excluded from the amnesty. His hopes of serving his country
were over, and he felt it so bitterly, and so grieved for it, that he
scarcely thought at first of his personal safety. It was well we had
thought for him.

Eustace had brought a suit of our livery under his cloak, and he and
poor Madame cut Clement’s hair as short as if he had been a Roundhead.
She had kept plenty of money in the house ever since she had feared for
her son, and this they put in a belt round his waist. Altogether, he
came out not at all unlike the laquais Jacques Pierrot, whom he was
to personate. Eustace said the old lady took leave of her son with her
stern Jansenist composure, which my tender-hearted Clement could not
imitate. Eustace rejoined the chairmen and came back through the dark
streets, while Clement walked at some distance, and contrived to slip
in after him. My mother had in the meantime gone to the Hotel d’Aubepine
and fetched poor Meg.

Cecile had just taken the turn, as they say, and it was thought she
would live, but Meg could scarcely be spared from her, and seemed
at first hardly to understand that our long-talked-of departure was
suddenly coming to pass. It was well that she had so much to occupy her,
for there was no one save her son, whom she loved like that brother of
ours, and she would not, or could not, realise that she was seeing him
for the last time.

It was a hot August night, and we worked and packed all through it,
making Eustace lie down and rest, though sleep was impossible, and he
said he wanted to see Meg and his mother as long as he could. As to
Clement, we were afraid of the servants noticing him, so Eustace had
locked him up in his own room, but he slept as little as any of us, and
when his breakfast was brought him, he had never touched his supper.
Certainly mine was the saddest bridegroom who ever stole away to be
married; but I could forgive him. Did I not know what it was to be an
exile, with one’s heart torn for one’s country’s disgrace?

The difficulty was to get rid of the real Jacques Pierrot, but he gave
us a little assistance in that way by coming crying to M. le Baron, to
ask permission to take leave of his mother in the Faubourg St. Denis.
This was readily granted to him, with strong insistence that he should
be back by eleven o’clock, whereas we intended to start as soon as
the gates were opened, namely, at six. Eustace had some time before
purchased four mules and a carriage. He was not fit to ride in bad
weather, and for me to have made a journey on horseback would have
attracted too much attention, but the times were too uncertain for us
to trust to posting, and mules, though slower than horses, would go on
longer without resting, and were less likely to be seized by any army. I
would take no maid-servant, as she would only have added to our dangers.

We ate our hearts till seven, when we succeeded in getting the mules to
the door, and haste softened the parting for the moment. Indeed, Eustace
and Meg had said much to each other in the course of the night. We had
both knelt to ask my mother’s forgiveness for having so often crossed
her, and she finally wept and fainted, so that Meg was wholly occupied
in attending to her.

Clement stood by the carriage, looking his part so well that my first
impression was ‘that stupid Jacques has come back after all.’ Our
anxiety now was to be entirely out of reach before the fellow came back,
and hard was it to brook the long delay at the Porte St. Denis ere the
officials deigned to look at us and our passes. However, my brother
had gone through too many gates no to know that silver and an air of
indifference will smooth the way, so we came through at last without our
valet having been especially scanned.

Beyond the gates the sight was sad enough, the houses in the suburbs
with broken windows and doors as though pillaged, the gardens
devastated, the trees cut down, and the fields, which ought to have been
ripening to harvest, trampled or mown for forage, all looking as if a
hostile invader had been there, and yet it was the sons of the country
that had done this, while swarms of starving people pursued us begging.
Alas! had we not seen such a sight at home? We knew what it must be to
Clement, but as he sat by the driver we durst not say a word of comfort
to him.

At our intended resting-place for the night--I forget the name of it--we
found every house full of soldiers of the royal army, and but for our
passes I do not know what we should have done. Before every door there
were dragoons drinking and singing round the tables, and some were
dancing with the girls of the village. Some of them shouted at us when
they saw we were coming from Paris, and called us runaway rebels; but
Eustace showed his pass, told them what it was, for they could not read,
and desired their officer to be fetched. He came out of the priest’s
house, and was very civil. He said Colonel de Solivet had desired that
all assistance should be given to us, but that we had not been expected
so soon. He really did not know where to quarter the lady or the mules,
and he advised us to go on another league, while he dispatched an
orderly with the intelligence to the colonel. There was nothing else to
be done, though my brother, after his sleepless night, was becoming much
exhausted, in spite of the wine we gave him, while as to the mules,
they had an opinion of their own, poor things, as to going on again,
and after all sorts of fiendish noises from the coachman, and furious
lashings with his whip, the dragoons pricked them with their swords,
and at last they rushed on at a gallop that I thought would have shaken
Eustace to death.

However, before we had gone very far Solivet rode out to meet us. It was
another cause of anxiety, although it was dusk, and he had expected
us to have slept at St. Denis and to have arrived the next day, and he
asked, what could have made us start so early, just as if we had been
criminals fleeing from justice; but he took us to the chateau where
he was quartered, and, though they were much crowded there, the family
tried to make us comfortable. The master of the house gave up his own
bed to my brother, and I shared that of his mother. ‘Jacques’ in his
character of valet, was to attend on his master, and sleep on the
floor; and this gave the only opportunity of exchanging any conversation
freely, but even this had to be done with the utmost caution, for the
suite of rooms opened into each other, and Solivet, who was very anxious
about Eustace, came in and out to see after him, little guessing how
much this added to the inward fever of anxiety which banished all sleep
from his eyes.

The kind people thought him looking so ill the next morning that they
wanted to bleed him, and keep us there for a few days, but this was not
to be thought of, as indeed Eustace declared, when I felt some alarm,
that he could not be better till he was out of French territory.

So we pushed on, and Solivet rode beside the window all day, making our
course far safer and easier in one way, but greatly adding in others
to the distressful vigilance that coloured Eustace’s thin cheeks and
gleamed in his eyes, and made his fingers twitch at his sword whenever
there was an unexpected halt, or any one overtook us. He conveyed us
quite beyond the army, and brought us as far as Beuvais, where he made
himself our host at the Lion Rouge, and gave us an excellent supper,
which I could hardly swallow when I thought of his barbarous intentions
towards Clement, who had to wait on us all the time, standing behind my
chair and handing dishes.

I believe Solivet really meant to be a good brother; but his words were
hard to endure, when he lectured us each apart, with all the authority
of a senior--told me that Eustace was dying, and that every mile he
traveled was hastening his end, laughing to scorn that one hope which
buoyed me up, the Dirkius could do more for him than any one else,
and almost commanding me to take him home again to Paris while it was
possible.

And he equally harassed Eustace the next morning with representations
of the folly of taking me away to Holland, and breaking off the
advantageous Poligny match, to gratify my headstrong opposition and
desire for a mesalliance, which would now happily be impossible, the
fellow having ruined himself.

The fellow entered at that moment with M. le Baron’s coat and boots,
and Eustace could hardly repress a smile. We could not but rejoice when
Solivet took leave of us at the carriage door, very affectionate, but
shrugging his shoulders at our madness, and leaving a corporal and
his party to guard us to the frontier. They prolonged the sense of
constraint, and forced us to be very guarded with poor Clement, but
otherwise they were very useful. The inhabitants fancied us by turns
great princes or great criminals, or both, being escorted out of the
country. Once we were taken for the Queen escaping with the Cardinal,
another time for the Prince of Conde eloping with Mademoiselle; but any
way of soldiers secured for us plenty of civility, and the best food and
lodgings to be had. They pricked on our mules with a good-will, and when
one of them fell lame they scoured the neighbourhood to find another,
for which Eustace endeavoured to pay the just price, but I am afraid it
went into the corporal’s pocket, and Clement never so nearly betrayed
himself as when he refused to share with the escort the reckoning of
which they stripped the landlord. Integrity in a Parisian valet was all
too suspicious! However, to us they behaved very well; and, if all we
heard were true, their presence may have saved us from being robbed, if
not murdered, long before we reached the frontier.



CHAPTER XXXIII. -- BRIDAL PEARLS



When once over the border, and our passports duly examined, we breathed
freely, and at our first resting-place Clement took out a suit of my
brother’s clothes and appeared once more as a gentleman, except for
his short hair. He was able, whenever French would serve, to take the
management of our journey.

We finished it as before in a canal boat, and the rest of mind and body,
and the sense of approaching Millicent, certainly did Eustace good; the
hectic fever lessened, and though he slept little at night, he had much
good slumber by day, lying on cloaks on deck as we quietly glided along
the water, between the fields full of corn, with harvest beginning,
and the tall cocks of hay in the large fields, all plenty and high
cultivation, and peaceful industry, in contrast with the places we had
left devastated by civil war, and the famished population.

The comparison made Clement groan; and yet that canal journey had
a pensive joy about it, as we sat beside our sleeping brother and
conversed freely and fearlessly, as we had never been able to do for ten
minutes together in all the long years that we had loved one another.
There was something very sweet in the knowing that, exile as he was, he
and I must be all the world to one another. And so indeed it has been.
After our stormy beginning, our life has been well-nigh like our voyage
on that smooth Dutch stream.

However, the sorrows were not yet over, although at that time we trusted
that there would be healing for my dear brother in the very air of the
Hague. We landed on a fine August evening, and were at once recognized
by some of the English gentlemen who had little to do but to loiter
about the quays and see the barges come in. It rejoiced my heart to hear
my brother called Lord Walwyn again, instead of by his French title. Yet
therewith, it was a shock to see how changed they thought him since he
had left them a year before; but they vied with one another in helping
us, and we were soon housed in good lodgings. I knew what Eustace most
wished to learn, and asked, with as good an air of indifference as
I could assume, whether Vrow van Hunker were in the town. ‘Vrow van
Hunker, the Providence of the Cavaliers?’ asked one. ‘No; she is at
her country-house, where she hath taken in there or four poor starving
ladies and parsons with their families.’

When I heard how she was using old Van Hunker’s wealth--in providing
for our poor loyal folk, and especially for the clergy, pensioning some,
hospitably receiving others in her own house, and seeking employment
for others--I had to repent of all the scorn with which I had looked on
Millicent Wardour as a poor fickle creature, and now I had to own that
my brother’s love had been as nearly worthy of him as any creature could
be.

Eustace would not, however, go to visit her until he had seen Dr.
Dirkius, to whom he repaired early the next day, having caused a hackney
coach to be ordered against his return, and bestowed Clement on an
English friend who could speak French well. For Eustace held that it
would be more fitting, in the sight of the world, for me to go with him
to visit Madame van Hunker.

The carriage was at the door when he came back from the physician’s.
There never was anything to find fault with in his looks, and on this
day, with his light brown hair and beard freshly-trimmed and shinning,
his clear skin with the red colour in his cheek, and his bright eyes, in
their hollow caves, there was something so transparent and sublimated
in his aspect, that I thought that he looked more like a spirit than a
bridegroom. He was gave and silent by the way, and there was something
about him that withheld me from asking what Dirkius had said to him.

Thus we reached the entrance of the great double avenue, along which,
as we presently saw, two English clergymen were walking together in
conversation, and we saw a little farther on some children at play.

‘This is well,’ said Eustace, as he looked out. ‘I thank God for this!
It will be all the better for her that such a good work is begun.’

‘Nay,’ said I, ‘but what will the poor things do when she loses old
Hunkers’s gold?’

‘Sister,’ said Eustace, ‘I have left this too long, but I thought you
understood that I am never like to wed my poor Millicent.’

‘Dirkius?’ I said.

‘Dirkius does but confirm what I have known ever since the spring, and
so have you too, Nan, that it would be a miracle should I be here after
this winter.’

I had known it by my inner conviction, and heard him say the like often
before; it was only a fancied outward hope that had been sustaining
me, and I could obey when he bade me look cheerfully on Millicent,
and remember the joy it was to him to see her at all, and, above all,
employed in such tasks as would bring comfort to her.

The great Dutch house seemed full of English. Gentlewomen were sitting
in the tapestried hall, spinning or working with their needle. We had
been known to one or two of them in former times, and while they greeted
us word was taken to Madame van Hunker that we were there, and a servant
brought us word to ask us to come to her in her own parlour. There, up
a few shallow steps, in a quiet, cool, wainscoted room, adorned with
Eastern porcelain on shelves, we found her with her little daughter at
her knee.

She met us at the door with a few faltering words, excusing herself for
having given us the trouble to come to her.

‘Best so, Millicent,’ said Eustace, and as he spoke she lifted her eyes
to his face and I saw a look of consternation pass over her features at
sight of his wasted looks; but I only saw it for a moment, for he put an
arm round her, and kissed her brow, as she hid her face against him.

The child, not contented with my embrace, ran and pulled his coat,
crying, ‘My lord, my lord, I can speak English now;’ and he stooped
to kiss her, while her mother turned to me with swimming eyes of mute
inquiry, as of one who saw her long-cherished hope fulfilled only for
her sorrow. She was less altered than had been feared. That smooth
delicacy of her skin was indeed lost which had made her a distinguished
beauty; but she still had a pair of eyes that made her far from
insignificant, and there was an innocence, candour, and pleading
sweetness in her countenance that--together, perhaps, with my pity--made
even me, who had hitherto never liked her, lover her heartily.

I heard little or nothing of what they said to one another, being
employed in keeping the child from them. She prattled freely in English,
and was pleased to show me her baby-house, a marvel of Dutch neatness
of handiwork, like that one which Madame van Hunker brought you, my
daughter Peggy, when you were a little one. The doll we had given her
had, however, the place of honour. Her sister, little Emilia told me,
was married a month ago, and she was proceeding to make the little Dutch
puppets in her baby-house enact the wedding, one being dressed in a
black gown and stiff ruff, like a Genevan minister, when she caught a
tone that made her cry out that mother was weeping, and stump across the
floor in her stout little shoes to comfort her, before I could hinder
her.

My brother and her mother set her down between them, and I had nought to
do but to put in order the baby-house, till a great bell clanged through
the house, which was the signal for dinner. Madame van Hunker was calmer
by that time, and let Eustace hand her down, and place her at the head
of the table, where she had around her no less than four families and
two widows of our poor exiled Cavaliers and clergy. We had not found
ourselves in so English a world for years past.

The hostess sat as one in a dream, doing her part like one moved by
wires, and eating scarce anything, while Eustace showed all his usual
courtliness of manner and grace. After dinner, he rested on a couch, as
was his wont, before going back, and Millicent drew me into her chamber
and wept on my neck, as she made me tell her all she had not been able
to learn from him.

He had been very tender with her, and tried to persuade her that it was
all for the best, and that there was happiness for them in the having no
one between them now. She, poor woman, would fain, as I saw, have thrown
aside all her houses and wealth to be his, and to tend him, were it
merely for a few weeks, and she felt as if her love was strong enough to
be his cure; but he had spoken of the cruel selfishness of giving away
her power of aiding all these our fellow-countrymen in order that they
two might come together for what he knew would be so brief a time.
Yet he had not taken all hope from her, for he had talked of their
reconsidering the matter if he were in better health after the winter,
and, meantime, they could see each other often.

Poor thing! I believe she expected the miracle that might make him yet
recover, and so she bore up, while Eustace was verily happy--having
lived, as it were, nearly into spiritual love, and left behind that
which had been earthly and corporeal, and thus he was content to rest.
He had strained himself very hard to accomplish the journey, bring
Clement and me into safety, and see Millicent again, and when the effort
ceased, we fully saw, for the first time, how great it had been, and
how far he was gone on that other journey. I do not think he crossed
the threshold of our lodging half a dozen times after our arrival; but
Millicent came into her town-house, and was with him every day. She had
fitted the great dining chamber of that town-house as a chapel for our
English service, and my brother went thither on two Sundays, on the
second of which he saw M. Darpent received into our English Protestant
Church. Clement had long inclined that way, having never forgotten the
Huguenot training of his childhood, and the studies he had made, when
his mother impelled him towards Port Royal, having resulted in farther
doubts and yearning towards what Eustace had told him of our doctrine.
Conversation with the learned Dr. Elson, one of our exiled divines, had
completed the work, though he made his profession with pain and grief,
feeling it a full severance from his country and his mother.

And the last time my dear brother left the house was to give me to his
friend. He was anxious that I should be Clement’s wife before he
left me, and there was no fear that we should starve, for, through
trustworthy merchants, a small amount of the Darpent money had been
transmitted to him before the State laid hands on his property as that
of a fugitive. He might have bought himself a share in one of the
great trading houses, or have--which tempted him most--gone out to the
plantations in the new countries of Java or America; but Eustace
prayed him to pledge himself to nothing until he should hear from Harry
Merrycourt, to whom my brother had sent a letter before quitting Paris.

We would have had a quiet wedding, but Eustace was resolved, as he said,
that all the world should know that it was not done in a corner, and
Madame van Hunker WOULD give the wedding feast, and came to dress me for
my bridal. You know the dress: the white brocade with hyacinth flowers
interwoven in the tissue--and when she had curled my hair after her
fancy, she kissed me and clasped round my neck the pearls of Ribaumont.
I told her I would wear them then to please her and Eustace, and, in
truth, I knew in my heart that I was the last true Ribaumont bride
that ever would wear them. We were wedded in the chapel in Madame van
Hunker’s house; and the Princess-Royal was there, and the Duke of York,
and my Lord and Lady of Newcastle, and I know not who besides--only
remembering that they all knew how to treat Clement as a man of
distinction, who had, like them, given up all for conscience sake, and
he, in his plain lawyer’s suit, with his fine, clear-cut face and grave
eyes, looked, even in spite of his close-cropped head, as veritable a
gentleman as any of them. The festivities ended the dinner, that being
as much as my brother was able for. We went quietly back to our lodgings
in Millicent’s coach, and Eustace went to rest on his bed, till she
should have bidden farewell to her guests and could come and sup with
us; but he and Clement forbade me to take off my finery, for it tickled
their eyes.

And thus, when tidings came to the door that a gentlemen from England
desired to see my Lord Walwyn, Harry Merrycourt, after all these years
of seeing nothing but sad-coloured Puritan dames, came in upon this
magnificent being in silvered brocade.

He said he thought he had stumbled on the Princess-Royal at least, and
it was a descent to hear it was only plain Mistress Darpent! Harry had
a good wife of his own by that time, who suited him far better than I
should have done. Indeed, I believe he had only thought of wedding me to
relieve my family from me. And when he saw how unlike M. Darpent was to
all he had ever thought or believed of Frenchmen, and heard how well he
spoke English, and how he had borne himself at Paris, he quite forgave
me, and only thought how he could serve Eustace, the man whom he had
always loved beyond all others.

He was practicing law in London still, but he had had time to repent of
having been on the wrong side when he saw what it had come to, and
had the Protector at the head of affairs. He said, however, that
negotiations for peace with France were like to begin, and that Mr.
Secretary Milton was casting about for one learned in French law to
assist in drawing the papers, so that he had little doubt that Mr.
Darpent would be readily taken into one of the public officers in
London.

Moreover, he said that the Walwyn property had been sequestered, but no
one had yet purchased it, and he thought that for a fair sum, it might
be redeemed for the family.

When Eustace and Millicent found that I would not hear of keeping
the pearls, declaring that such things were not fit for a poor exiled
lawyer’s wife, Millicent said they had always felt like hot lead on her
neck. To compound the matter, Eustace persuaded her to have the chaplet
valued by a Dutch jeweller, and to ask Margaret and Solivet, the
guardians of the young Marquis de Nidemerle, to purchase them for him.

To Margaret was left whatever of the property M. Poligny would spare,
and if Gaspard should have sons, one would bear the title of Ribaumont,
though the name would be extinct. So it was fitting that the pearls
should return to that family, and the fair value, as we hoped, sufficed,
in Harry Merrycourt’s hands, to redeem, in my husband’s name, the
inheritance my brother had always destined for me.

This was the last worldly care that occupied our believed brother.
He said his work was done, and he was very peaceful and at rest. His
strength failed very fast after Harry Merrycourt came. Indeed, I
think he had for months lived almost more by force of strong will than
anything else, and now he said he had come to his rest. He passed
away one month after my wedding, on the 16th of October 1652, very
peacefully, and the last look he gave any one here was for Millicent.
There was a last eager, brighter look, but that was for nothing here.

The physicians said he died of the old wound in the lungs received at
Naseby, so that he gave his life as much for the cause as my father and
Berenger had done, though he had had far, far more to suffer in his nine
years of banishment.

We left him in a green churchyard by the waterside, and Millicent saying
through her tears that he had taught her to find comfort in her married
life, and that he had calmed her and left her peace and blessing now in
the work before her. And then we sailed with sore hearts for England,
which was England still to me, though sadly changed from what I had once
known it. We had come to think that there was no hope of the right cause
ever prevailing, and that all that could be done was to save our own
conscience, and do our best to serve God and man. ‘The foundations are
cast down, and what hath the righteous done?’

We were met by Harry Merrycourt, who had obtained the employment
for Clement that he had hoped for. It was well, for, when Walwyn was
repurchased, all our money had been sunk in it, and enough borrowed to
consume the rents for some years to come, and thus we had to live very
frugally in a little house in Westminster; but as for that, I was far
happier marketing in the morning with my basket on my arm, cooking my
husband’s supper, making his shirts, and by and by nursing my babe, than
ever I had been in all the stiff state and splendour of poor Margaret’s
fine salons. Camlet suits me better than brocade, and a basket of fresh
eggs better than a gold-enamelled snuff-box. While, though I did long to
see the old home again, I knew it would be bare of those who had made it
dear, and, besides, it would be as well that M. Darpent should rub off
as much as might be of his French breeding before showing him among
the Thistlewoods and Merrycourts, and all the rest of our country-folk.
Moreover, after the stir of Paris he might have found himself dull, and
he had the opportunity of studying English law; ay, and I saw him yearly
winning more and more trust and confidence among those who had to do
with him, and forming friendships with Mr. John Evelyn and other good
men.

So, when better times came round, and we had our King and Court back, on
the very day of my Harry’s birth, M. Darpent was recommended to my Lord
Clarendon as too useful a secretary to be parted with, and therewith
the great folk remembered that I came of an old Cavalier family. Indeed
Queen Henrietta had promised my mother and sister to seek me out, though
may be she would never have recollected it. After all it was the Duke
of Gloucester who actually came and found me, riding up to our door with
only one gentleman, and he no other than good old Sir Francis Ommaney.

Prince Henry was a fine youth, far handsomer and more like his blessed
father than his brothers, and with as bright a wit and as winning and
gracious as the King. He reproached me for not having come to see his
mother, and asked merrily if I had turned Roundhead as well Frondeuse.
I told him I had a good excuse, and showed him my three children, the
youngest not yet a month old, and the other two staring open-mouthed to
see a Prince so like other gentlemen.

Whereupon he asked if the little one was yet christened, and did him the
honour to offer to be his godfather; and he noted that little Eustace
promised to be like his uncle, and spake, with tears in his eyes, of the
blessing my brother had been to him in his earlier stay at Paris, and
how the remembrance of that example had helped him through the days when
he had to undergo the same persuasions to forsake his father’s Church.

So whereas the two first christenings had been done privately, as
among those under persecution, Master Harry was baptized in state and
splendour in St. Margaret’s Church in full and open day, with all the
neighbours gaping to see the Duke come forth, leading Mistress Darpent
by the hand.

Thus I had to turn out my fine gowns (grown all too tight for me) and
betake me to the Queen, who had become a little old woman, but was as
gay and kind as ever, and told me much about my mother and sister. The
King himself came and spoke to me, and said he supposed I wished to have
the old title revived; but I told him, with all thanks, that I liked
my husband better by his own name than by that which I had rather leave
sacred to my brother; whereat he laughed, and said he must make a low
bow to me, as being the first person he had met who had nothing to ask
from him.

That was all I saw of the Court. Before many weeks had passed the cruel
smallpox had carried off the young Duke of Gloucester in his twentieth
year, taking him, mayhap, from the evil to come, in his bright youth
and innocence, for had he lived, and kept himself unsoiled even to these
days, he might have been sorely tempted to break that last promise made
when he sat on his father’s knee.

Soon after Madame van Hunker came to England. There was Wardour
property, which had descended to her, and she was glad to have a good
cause for bringing her daughter Emilia to England. My children all knew
and loved the fair and saint-like lady full of alms-deeds, and with
the calm face that always was ready with comfort and soothing. The very
sight of it would rest the fretful, hasty spirit; and I was thankful
indeed that when Emilia married, her mother still abode near to us--I
felt her like my guardian spirit.

My husband kept his post till my Lord Clarendon went out and the Cabal
came in, and then, not liking those he had to work with, he gave up his
office, and we retired into the country, while our children were still
young enough to grow up in the love to Walwyn that I had always felt.



CHAPTER XXXIV. -- ANNORA’S HOME



It seemed as if I had scarcely time to understand what was the meaning
of my party with my beloved brother and sister. My poor Cecile was still
so ill that I could hardly attend to anything else, and when I returned
in the morning I found that, missing me, she had fallen into another
crisis, and that all the danger was renewed.

However, the poor frail creature lived, little as she cared to do so,
except to pray for the soul of the husband to whom her whole being had
been given, ever since they had wedded her to him as a mere child. It
was well that I had her to attend to, or my home would have seemed very
desolate to me, empty as it now was of my brother and sister, and with
my mother spending her time between her Queen and her favourite convent.
Happily for me there was no longer required to be in waiting, but was
free to finish his education. Indeed, I believe the Queen had found out
that Gaspard had put into King Louis’s head certain strange ideas about
sovereigns and subjects, so that she was glad to keep him at a distance.
Queen Henrietta bade me take care what I was doing. Thus Cardinal
Mazarin being absent, and the events of former years not brought to
mind, it was possible to obtain permission to retire for a time to our
estates. Indeed I fancy it was meant to disgrace two such Frondeuses as
we were supposed to have been.

Cecile recovered something like health in the country, but she would
not hear of doing anything save entering a convent. She longed to
be constantly praying for her husband, and she felt herself utterly
incapable of coping with the world, or educating her son. She took
her little girl with her to be a pensionnaire at the Visitation, and
entrusted her boy to me, to be brought up with mine. They have indeed
always been like brothers, and to me the tenderest and most dutiful of
sons. Maurice d’Aubepine never ceased to love his own mother, but as a
sort of saint in a shrine, and he used to say that when he went to see
her he always felt more as if he had been worshipping than making a
visit.

I had learned a little prudence by my former disasters among the
peasantry at Nid de Merle, and we did contrive to make them somewhat
happier and more prosperous without giving umbrage to our neighbours.
They learned to love M. le Marquis with passionate devotion, and he
has loved them in his turn with equal affection. I delight to hear the
shouts of ecstasy with which they receive him when he is seen riding
through the narrow lanes of the Bocage on a visit to his mother and his
home.

The King has always treated him with distinguished politeness, but
without seeming desirous to retain him about Court, so that, as you
know, he has always had employment either in the army or in governments,
gaining ample honour, but without enjoying personal favour or
intercourse with the King, who, it may be, trusts his loyalty, without
brooking his plain speaking.

I saw my sister once again. When she had at last settled in the old
chateau, and after my son and nephew had made their first campaign
at the siege of Lille, we had to join in the progress of the Court
to Dunkirk and Lille to see the King’s new fortifications. A strange
progress it was to me, for Mademoiselle was by this time infatuated
by her unfortunate passion for the Duke of Lauzun, and never ceased
confiding to me her admiration and her despair whenever there was a
shower of rain on his perruque. However, when the Duchess of Orleans
crossed to England I obtained permission to go with my son to visit our
relations, since it was then the object to draw together as close as
possible the links between the countries.

It was a joyous visit, though it was a shock to me to see the grand old
castle of the Walwyn replaced by a square Dutch-looking brick house of
many windows, only recently built, and where I remembered noble woods
and grand trees to see only copse-wood and fields. But who could regret
anything when I saw my dear sister, a glad, proud, happy wife and
mother, a still young, active, and merry matron, dazzlingly fair as
ever, among her growing sons and pretty daughters, and indeed far more
handsome than when she sat in the salons of Paris, weary and almost
fierce, in her half-tamed, wild-cat days, whereas now her step was
about the house and garden everywhere, as the notable housewife and good
mother.

And her husband--Mr. Darpent, as every one called him, with true English
pronunciation--it amused us to see how much of an Englishman he had
become, though Harry Merrycourt told us the squires had began by calling
him Frenchy, and sneering at his lack of taste and skill in their
sports; but they came to him whenever they had a knotty point to
disentangle in law or justice, they turned to him at Quarter-Sessions
for help; and though they laughed at the plans of farming, gardening,
and planting he had brought from Holland, or had learned from Mr. Evelyn
of Says Court, still, when they saw that his trees grew, his crops
prospered, and his sheep fetched a good price at market, some of them
began to declare he was only too clever, and one or two of the more
enlightened actually came privately to ask his advice.

It was pleasant to see him in his library, among books he had picked up,
one by one, at stalls in London, where he read and wrote and taught his
sons, never long without the door being opened by Nan to see whether
his fire needed a fresh log, or whether his ink-stand were full, or to
announce that the pigs were in the garden, and turn out all his pupils
in pursuit! Interrupt as she would, she never seemed to come amiss to
him.

He was glad to talk over all the affairs of our country with us. In his
office in London he had of course been abreast with facts, but he was
keenly interested in all the details of the Prince’s return to favour,
of the Cardinal’s death, of the King’s assumption of the entire
management of State affairs, and of the manner in which the last hopes
of the Parliament of Paris had been extinguished. France was--as he
allowed to my eager son--beginning to advance rapidly on the road of
glory, it might be of universal empire. He agreed to it, but, said he,
with a curious perverse smile: ‘For all that, M. le Marquis, I remain
thankful that my wife’s inheritance is on this side of the Channel, and
though I myself may be but an exile and a fugitive, I rejoice that
my sons and their children after them will not grow up where there
is brilliancy and grandeur without, but beneath them corruption and a
people’s misery!’



THE END.





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