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The Chaplet of Pearls
by Charlotte M. Yonge
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Then Berenger spoke out upon the foul iniquity of the boy's detention. For himself, he observed, he had nothing to say; he knew the term of his release, and had not accepted them; but Philip, innocent of all damage to the Ribaumont interests, the heir of an honourable family, what had he done to incur the cruel imprisonment that was eating away his life?

'I tell you, sir,' said Berenger, with eyes filled with tears,' that his liberty is more precious to me than my own. Were he but restored to our home, full half the weight would be gone from my spirit.'

'Fair nephew,' said the Chevalier, 'you speak as though I had any power in the matter, and were not merely standing between you and the King.'

'Then if so,' said Berenger, 'let the King do as he will with me, but let Philip's case be known to our Ambassador.'

'My poor cousin,' said the Chevalier, 'you know not what you ask. Did I grant your desire, you would only learn how implacable King Henri is to those who have personally offended him—above all, to heretics. Nor could the Ambassador do anything for one who resisted by force of arms the King's justice. Leave it to me; put yourself in my hands, and deliverance shall come for him first, then for you.'

'How, sir?'

'One token of concession—one attendance at mass—one pledge that the alliance shall take place when the formalities have been complied with—then can I report you our own; give you almost freedom at once; despatch our young friend to England without loss of time; so will brotherly affection conquer those chivalrous scruples, most honourable in you, but which, carried too far, become cruel obstinacy.'

Berenger looked at Philip; saw how faded and wan was the ruddy sun-burnt complexion, how lank and bony the sturdy form, how listless and wasted the hands. Then arose, bursting within him, the devoted generosity of the French nature, which would even accept sin and ruin for self, that so the friend may be saved; and after all, had he not gone to mass out of mere curiosity?—did he not believe that there was salvation in the Gallican Church? Was it not possible that, with Philip free to tell his story at home, his own deliverance might come before he should be irrevocably committed to Madame de Selinville? If Eustacie were living, her claims must overthrow that which her rival was forcing upon him at her own peril. Nay, how else could he obtain tidings of her? And for those at home, did they deserve that he should sacrifice all, Philip included, for their sake? The thoughts, long floating round his brain, now surged upon him in one flood, and seemed to overwhelm in those moments of confusion all his powers of calling up the other side of the argument; he only had an instinct remaining that it would be a lie to God and man alike. 'God help me!' he sighed to himself; and there was sufficient consideration and perplexity expressed in his countenance to cause the Chevalier to feel his cause almost gained; and rising eagerly, with tears in his eyes, he exclaimed, 'Embrace me, my dear, dear son! The thing is done! Oh! what peace, what joy!'

The instinct of recoil came stronger now. He stepped back with folded arms, saying again, 'God help me! God forbid that I should be a traitor!'

'My son, hear me; these are but easily removed points of honour,' began the Chevalier; but at that moment Philip suddenly started from, or in his slumber, leapt on his feet, and called out, 'Avaunt, Satan!' then opened his eyes, and looked, as if barely recalling where he was.

'Philip!' exclaimed Berenger, 'did you hear?'

'I—I don't know,' he said, half-bewildered. 'Was I dreaming that the fiend was parleying with us in the voice of M. le Chevalier there to sell our souls for one hour of home?'

He spoke English, but Berenger replied in French.

'You were not wrong, Philip. Sir, he dreamt that the devil was tempting me in your voice while you were promising me his liberty on my fulfilling your first condition.'

'What?' said Philip, now fully awake, and gathering the state of things, as he remembered the words that had doubtless been the cause of his dream. 'And if you did, Berenger, I give you warning they should never see me at home. What! could I show my face there with such tidings? No! I should go straight to La Noue, or to the Low Countries, and kill every Papist I could for having debauched you!'

'Hush! hush! Philip,' said Berenger; 'I could not break my faith to Heaven or my wife even for your sake, and my cousin sees how little beholden you would be to me for so doing. With your leave, Monsieur, we will retire.'

The Chevalier detained Berenger for a moment to whisper, 'What I see is so noble a heart that I know you cannot sacrifice him to your punctilio.'

Philip was so angry with Berenger, so excited, and so determined to show that nothing ailed him, that for a short time he was roused, and seemed to be recovering; but in a few days he flagged again, only, if possible with more gruffness, moodiness, and pertinacity in not allowing that anything was amiss. It was the bitterest drop of all in Berenger's cup, when in the end of January he looked back at what Philip had been only a month before, and saw how he had wasted away and lost strength; the impulse rather to ruin himself that destroy his brother came with such force that he could scarcely escape it by his ever-recurring cry for help to withstand it. And then Diane, in her splendid beauty and withchery, would rise before him, so that he knew how a relaxation of the lengthened weary effort would make his whole self break its bonds and go out to her. Dreams of felicity and liberty, and not with Eustacie, would even come over him, and he would awaken to disappointment before he came to a sense of relief and thankfulness that he was still his own. The dislike, distaste, and dread that came so easily in his time of pain and weakness were less easy to maintain in his full health and forced inactivity. Occupation of mind and hope seemed the only chance of enabling either of the two to weather this most dreary desert period; and Berenger, setting his thoughts resolutely to consider what would be the best means of rousing Philip, decided at length that any endeavour to escape, however arduous and desperate, would be better than his present apathetic languor, even if it led to nothing. After the first examination of their prison, Berenger had had no thought of escape; he was then still weak and unenterprising. He had for many months lived in hopes of interference from home; and, besides, the likelihood that so English a party as his own would be quickly pursued and recaptured, where they did not know their road and had no passports, had deterred him lest should fall into still straiter imprisonment. But he had since gained, in the course of his rides, and by observation from the top of the tower, a much fuller knowledge of the country. He knew the way to the grange du Temple, and to the chief towns in the neighbourhood. Philip and Humfrey had both lost something of their intensely national look and speech, and, moreover, was having broken out again, there was hope of falling in with Huguenot partisans even nearer that at La Rochelle. But whether successful or not, some enterprise was absolutely needed to save Philip from his despondent apathy; and Berenger, who in these eighteen months had grown into the strength and vigour of manhood, felt as if he had force and power for almost any effort save this hopeless waiting.

He held council with Humfrey, who suggested that it might be well to examine the vaults below the keep. He had a few days before, while going after some of the firewood stored below the ground-floor chamber, observed a door, locked, but with such rusty iron hinges that they might possibly yield to vigorous efforts with a stone; and who could tell where the underground passages might come out?

Berenger eagerly seized the idea. Philip's mood of contradiction prompted him to pronounce it useless folly, and he vouchsafed no interest in the arrangements for securing light, by selecting all the bits of firewood fittest for torches, and saving all the oil possible from the two lamps they were allowed. The chief difficulty was that Guibert was not trusted, so that all had to be done out of his sight; and on the first day Berenger was obliged to make the exploration alone, since Humfrey was forced to engross Guibert in some occupation out of sight, and Philip had refused to have anything to do with it, or be like a rat routing in the corners of his trap.

However, Berenger had only just ascertained that the ironwork was so entirely rusted away as to offer no impediment, when Philip came languidly roaming into the cellar, saying, 'Here! I'll hold the torch! You'll be losing yourself in this wolf's mouth of a place if you go alone.'

The investigation justified Philip's predictions of its uselessness. Nothing was detected but rats, and vaults, and cobwebs; it was cold, earthy, and damp; and when they thought they must have penetrated far beyond the precincts of the keep, they heard Humfrey's voice close to them, warning them that it was nearly dinner-time.

The next day brought them a more promising discovery, namely of a long straight passage, with a gleam of light at the end of it; and this for the first time excited Philip's interest or curiosity. He would have hastened along it at once, but for the warning summons from Humfrey; and in the excitement of even this grain of interest, he ate more heartily at supper than he had done for weeks, and was afterwards more eager to prove to Berenger that night was the best time to pursue their researches.

And Berenger, when convinced that Guibert was sound asleep, thought so too, and accompanied by Humfrey, they descended into the passage. The light, of course, was no longer visible, but the form of the crypt, through which they now passed, was less antique than that under the keep, and it was plain they were beneath a later portion of the Castle. The gallery concluded in a wall, with a small barred, unglazed window, perfectly dark, so that Berenger, who alone could reach to the bottom of it, could not uses where it looked out.

'We must return by daylight; then, maybe, we may judge,' sighed Philip.

'Hark!' exclaimed Berenger.

'Rats,' said Philip.

'No—listen—a voice! Take care!' he added, in a lower tone, 'we may be close on some of the servants.'

But, much nearer than he expected, a voice on his right hand demanded, 'Does any good Christian hear me?'

'Who is there?' exclaimed Philip.

'Ah! good sir, do I hear the voice of a companion in misery? Or, if you be free, would you but send tidings to my poor father?'

'It is a Norman accent!' cried Berenger. 'Ah! ah! can it be poor Landry Osbert?'

'I am—I am that wretch. Oh, would that M. le Baron could know!'

'My dear, faithful foster-brother! They deceived me,' cried Berenger, in great agitation, as an absolute howl came from the other side of the wall: 'M. le Baron come to this! Woe worth the day!' and Berenger with difficulty mitigated his affectionate servant's lamentations enough to learn from him how he had been seized almost at the gates of Bellaise, closely interrogated, deprived of the letter to Madame la Baronne, and thrown into this dungeon. The Chevalier. Not an unmerciful man, according to the time, had probably meant to release him as soon as the marriage between his son and niece should have rendered it superfluous to detain this witness to Berenger's existence. There, then, the poor fellow had lain for three years, and his work during this weary time had been the scraping with a potsherd at the stone of his wall, and his pertinacious perseverance had succeeded in forming a hole just large enough to enable him to see the light of the torch carried by the gentlemen. On his side, he said, there was nothing but a strong iron door, and a heavily-barred window, looking, like that in the passage, into the fosse within the walled garden; but, on the other hand, if he could enlarge his hole sufficiently to creep through it, he could escape with them in case of their finding a subterranean outlet. The opening within his cell was, of course, much larger than the very small space he had made by loosening a stone towards the passage, but he was obliged always to build up each side of his burrow at the hours of his jailer's visit, lest his work should be detected, and to stamp the rubbish into his floor. But while they talked, Humfrey and Philip, with their knives, scraped so diligently that two more stones could be displaced; and, looking down the widening hole through the prodigious mass of wall, they could see a ghastly, ragged, long-bearded scarecrow, with an almost piteous expression of joy on his face, at once again seeing familiar faces. And when, at his earnest entreaty, Berenger stood so as to allow his countenance to be as visible as the torch could make it through the 'wall's-hole,' the vault echoed with the poor fellow's delighted cry. 'I am happy! M. le Baron is himself again. The assassin's cruel work is gone! Ah! thanks to the saints! Blessed be St. Lucie, it was not in vain that I entreated her!'

The torches were, however, waxing so low that the sight could not long be afforded poor Osbert; and, with a promise to return to him next day, the party returned to the upper air, where they warmed themselves over the fire, and held council over measures for the present relief of the captive. Berenger grieved that he had given him up so entirely for lost as to have made no exertions on his behalf, and declared his resolution of entreating that he might be allowed to enjoy comparative comfort with them in the keep. It was a risk, but the Chevalier might fairly suppose that the knowledge of Osbert's situation had oozed out through the servants, and gratitude and humanity alike impelled Berenger to run some risk for his foster-brother's sake. He was greatly touched at the poor fellow's devotion, and somewhat amused, though with an almost tearful smile at the joy with which he had proclaimed—what Berenger was quite unaware of, since the keep furnished no mirrors—the disappearance of his scars. ''Tis even so,' said Philip, 'though I never heeded it. You are as white from crown to beard as one of the statues at Paris; but the great red gash is a mere seam, save when yon old Satan angers you, and then it blushes for all the rest of your face.'

'And the cheek-wound is hidden, I suppose,' said Berenger, feeling under the long fair moustache and the beard, which was developing into respectable proportions.

'Hidden? ay, entirely. No one would think your bald crown had only twenty-one years over it; but you are a personable fellow still, quite enough to please Daphne,' said Philip.

'Pshaw!' replied Berenger, pleased nevertheless to hear the shadow of a jest again from Philip.

It was quite true. These months of quiescence—enforced though they were—had given his health and constitution time to rally after the terrible shock they had sustained. The severe bleedings had, indeed, rendered his complexion perfectly colourless; but there was something in this, as well as in the height which the loss of hair gave his brow, which, added to the depth and loftiness of countenance that this long period of patience and resolution had impressed on his naturally fine features, without taking away that open candour that had first attracted Diane when he was a rosy lad. His frame had strengthened at the same time, and assumed the proportions of manhood; so that, instead of being the overgrown maypole that Narcisse used to sneer at, he was now broad-shouldered and robust, exceedingly powerful, and so well made that his height, upwards of six feet, was scarcely observed, except by comparison with the rest of the world.

And his character had not stood still. He had first come to Paris a good, honest, docile, though high-spirited boy: and though manly affections, cares, and sorrows had been thrust on him, he had met them like the boy that he was, hardly conscious how deep they went. Then had come the long dream of physical suffering, with only one thought pertinaciously held throughout—that of constancy to his lost wife; and from this he had only thoroughly wakened in his captivity, the resolution still holding fast, but with more of reflection and principle, less of mere instinct, than when his powers were lost or distracted in the effort of constant endurance of pain and weakness. The charge of Philip, the endeavour both of educating him and keeping up his spirits, as well as the controversy with Pere Bonami, had been no insignificant parts of the discipline of these months; and, little as the Chevalier had intended it, he had trained his young kinsman into a far more substantial and perilous adversary, both in body and mind, than when he had caged him in his castle of the Blackbird's Nest.



CHAPTER XXXVIII. THE ENEMY IN PRESENCE



Then came and looked him in the face, An angel beautiful and bright, And then he knew it was a fiend, That miserable knight. —COLERIDGE

'Father, dear father, what is it? What makes you look so ill, so haggard?' cried Diane de Selinville, when summoned the next morning to meet her father in the parlour of the convent.

'Ah, child! see here. Your brother will have us make an end of it. He has found her.'

'Eustacie! Ah, and where?'

'That he will not say, but see here. This is all billet tells me: "The hare who has doubled so long is traced to her form. My dogs are on her, and in a week's time she will be ours. I request you, sir, to send me a good purse of crowns to reward my huntsmen; and in the meantime—one way or the other—that pet of my sister's must be disposed of. Kept too long, these beasts always become savage. Either let him be presented to the royal menagerie, or there is a still surer way."'

'And that is all he says!' exclaimed Diane.

'All! He was always cautions. He mentions no names. And now, child, what is to be done? To give him up to the King is, at the best, life-long imprisonment, yet, if he were still here when my son returns—Alas! alas! child, I have been ruined body and soul between you! How could you make me send after and imprison him? It was a mere assassination!' and the old man beat his head with grief and perplexity.

'Father!' cried Diane, tearfully, 'I cannot see you thus. We meant it for the best. We shall yet save him.'

'Save him! Ah, daughter, I tossed all night long thinking how to save him, so strong, so noble, so firm, so patient, so good even to the old man who has destroyed his hope—his life! Ah! I have thought till my brain whirls.'

'Poor father! I knew you would love him,' said Diane, tenderly. 'Ah! we will save him yet. He shall be the best of sons to you. Look, it is only to tell him that she whom he calls his wife is already in my brother's hands, wedded to him.'

'Daughter,'—and he pushed back his gray hair with a weary distressed gesture,—'I am tired of wiles; I am old; I can carry them out no longer.'

'But this is very simple; it may already be true—at least it will soon be true. Only tell him that she is my brother's wife. Then will his generosity awaken, then will he see that to persist in the validity of his marriage would be misery, dishonour to her, then——'

'Child, you know not how hard he is in his sense of right. Even for his brother's sake he would not give way an inch, and the boy was as obstinate as he!'

'Ah! but this comes nearer. He will be stung; his generosity will be piqued. He will see that the kindest thing he can do will be to nullify his claim, and the child——'

The Chevalier groaned, struck his brow with his fist, and muttered, 'That will concern no one—that has been provided for. Ah! ah! children, if I lose my own soul for you, you——'

'Father, my sweet father, say not these cruel things. Did not the Queen's confessor tell us that all means were lawful that brought a soul to the Church? and here are two.'

'Two! Why, the youth's heresy is part of his point of honour. Child, child, the two will be murdered in my very house, and the guilt will be on my soul.'

'No, father! We will—we will save him. See, only tell him this.'

'This—what? My brain is confused. I have thought long—long.'

'Only this, father, dear father. You shall not be tormented any more, if only you will tell him that my brother has made Eustacie his wife, then will I do all the rest.'

Diane coaxed, soothed, and encouraged her father by her caresses, till he mounted his mule to return to the castle at dinner-time, and she promised to come early in the afternoon to follow up the stroke he was to give. She had never seen him falter before,—he had followed out his policy with a clear head and unsparing hand,—but now that Berenger's character was better known to him, and the crisis long delayed had come so suddenly before his eyes, his whole powers seemed to reel under the alternative.

The dinner-bell clanged as he arrived at the castle, and the prisoners were marched into the hall, both intent upon making their request on Osbert's behalf, and therefore as impatient for the conclusion of the meal, and the absence of the servants, as was their host. His hands trembled so much that Berenger was obliged to carve for him; he made the merest feint of eating; and now and then raised his hand to his head as if to bring back scattered ideas.

The last servant quitted the room, when Berenger perceived that the old man was hardly in a state to attend to his request, and yet the miserable frost-bitten state of poor Landry seemed to compel him to speak.

'Sir,' he began, 'you could do me a great kindness.'

The Chevalier looked up at him with glassy eyes.

'My son,' he said, with an effort, 'I also had something to say. Ah! let me think. I have had enough. Call my daughter,' he added, feeling helplessly with his hands, so that Berenger started up in alarm, and received him in his arms just in time to prevent his sinking to the floor senseless.

'It is a stroke,' exclaimed Berenger. 'Call, Phil! Send the gendarmes.'

The gendarmes might be used to the sight of death of their own causing, but they had a horror of that which came by Nature's hand. The purple face and loud gasps of the stricken man terrified them out of their senses. 'C'est un coup,' was the cry, and they went clattering off to the servants. These, all men but one old crone, came in a mass to the door, looked in, beheld their master rigid and prostrate on the floor, supported by the prisoner, and with fresh shrieks about 'Mesdames! a priest! a doctor!' away they rushed. The two brothers were not in much less consternation, only they retained their senses. Berenger loosened the ruff and doublet, and bade Philip practice that art of letting blood which he had learnt for his benefit. When Madame de Selinville and her aunt, with their escort, having been met half-way from Bellaise, arrived sooner than could have been expected, they found every door open from hall to entrance gateway, not a person keeping watch, and the old man lying deathlike upon cushions in the hall, Philip bandaging his arm, and Berenger rubbing his temples with wine and the hottest spices on the table. 'He is better—he is alive,' said Berenger, as they entered; and as both ladies would have fallen on him with shrieks and sobs, he bade them listen, assured them that the only chance of life was in immediate care, and entreated that bedding might be brought down, and strong essences fetched to apply to the nose and temples. They obeyed, and the sister infirmarer had arrived from the convent, he had opened his eyes, and, as he saw Berenger, tried to murmur something that sounded like 'Mon fils.'

'He lives!—he speaks!—he can receive the sacraments!' was the immediate exclamation; and as preparations began to be made, the brothers saw that their presence was no longer needed, and returned to their own tower.

'So, sir,' said the gendarme sergeant, as they walked down the passage, 'you did not seize the moment for escape.'

'I never thought of it,' said Berenger.

'I hope, sir, you will not be the worse for it,' said the sergeant. 'An honourable gentleman you have ever proved yourself to me, and I will bear testimony that you did the poor old gentleman no hurt; but nobles will have it their own way, and pay little heed to a poor soldier.'

'What do you mean, friend?'

'Why, you see, sir, it is unlucky that you two happened to be alone with M. le Chevalier. No one can tell what may be said when they seek an occasion against a person.'

To the brothers, however, this suggestion sounded so horrible and unnatural, that they threw it from them. They applied themselves at every moment possible to enlarging Osbert' hole, and seeking an outlet from the dungeon; but this they had not been able to discover, and it was necessary to be constantly on their guard in visiting the vaults, lest their absence from their apartment should be detected. They believed that if Narcisse arrived at the castle, they should find in him a far less gentle jailer than the poor old man, for whose state their kindly young hearts could not but grieve.

They heard that he had recovered consciousness enough to have made a sort of confession; and Pere Bonami brought them his formal request, as a dying man, for their pardon for all the injuries he had done them; but his speech was too much affected for any specification of what these were. The first thing they heard in early morning was that, in the course of the night, he had breathed his last; and all day the bells of all the churches round were answering one another with the slow, swinging, melancholy notes of the knell.

In the early twilight, Pere Bonami brought a message that Madame de Selinville requested M. le Baron to come and speak with her, and he was accordingly conducted, with the gendarme behind him, to a small chamber opening into the hall—the same where the incantations of the Italian pedlar had been played off before Philip and Diane. The gendarme remained outside the door by which they entered the little dark room, only lighted by one little lamp.

'Here, daughter,' said the priest, 'is your cousin. He can answer the question you have so much at heart;' and with these words Pere Bonami passed beneath the black curtain that covered the entrance into the hall, admitting as he raised it for a moment a floor of pure light from the wax tapers, and allowing the cadence of the chanting of the priests to fall on the ear. At first Berenger was scarcely able to discern the pale face that looked as if tears were all dried up, and even before his eyes had clearly perceived her in the gloom, she was standing before him with clasped hands, demanding, in a hoarse, breathless whisper, 'Had he said anything to you?'

'Anything? No, cousin,' said Berenger, in a kind tone. 'He had seemed suffering and oppressed all dinner-time, and when the servants left us, he murmured a few confused words, then sank.'

'Ah, ah, he spoke it not! Thank Heaven! Ah! it is a load gone. Then neither will I speak it,' sighed Diane, half aloud. 'Ah! cousin, he loved you.'

'He often was kind to us,' said Berenger, impelled to speak as tenderly as he could of the enemy, who had certainly tortured him, but as if he loved him.

'He bade us save you,' said Diane, her eyes shining with strange wild light in the gloom. 'He laid it on my aunt and me to save you; you must let us. It must be done before my brother comes,' she added, in hurried accents. 'The messengers are gone; he may be here any moment. He must find you in the chapel—as—as my betrothed!'

'And you sent for me here to tempt me—close to such a chamber as that?' demanded Berenger, his gentleness becoming sternness, as much with his own worse self as with her.

'Listen. Ah! it is the only way. Listen, cousin. Do you know what killed my father? It was my brother's letter saying things must be brought to an end: either you must be given up to the King, or worse—worse. And now, without him to stand between you and my brother, you are lost. Oh! take pity on his poor soul that has left his body, and bring not you blood on his head.'

'Nay,' said Berenger, 'if he repented, the after consequences to me will have no effect on him now.'

'Have pity then on yourself—on your brother.'

'I have,' said Berenger. 'He had rather die with me than see me a traitor.'

'And least of all,' she exclaimed, with choking grief, 'have you compassion on me!—on me who have lost the only one who felt for me—on me who have loved you with every fibre of my heart—on me who have lived on the music of your hardest, coldest word—on me who would lay my life, my honour, in the dust for one grateful glance from you—and whom you condemn to the anguish of—your death! Aye, and for what? For the mere shadow of a little girl, who had no force to love you, or whom you know nothing—nothing! Oh! are you a crystal rock or are you a man? See, I kneel to you to save yourself and me.'

There were hot tears dropping from Berenger's eyes as he caught Diane's hand, and held it forcibly to prevent her thus abasing herself. Her wild words and gestures thrilled him in every pulse and wrung his heart, and it was with a stifled, agitated voice that he said—

'God help you and me both, Diane! To do what you ask would—would be no saving of either. Nay, if you will kneel,' as she struggled with him, 'let it be to Him who alone can bring us through;' and releasing her hand, he dropped on his knees by her side, and covered his face with his hands, in an earnest supplication that the spirit of resistance which he almost felt slipping from him might be renewed. The action hushed and silenced her, and as he rose he spoke no other word, but silently drew back so much of the curtain that he could see into the hall, where the dead man still lay uncoffined upon the bed where his own hands had laid him, and the low, sweet requiem of kneeling priests floated round him. Rest, rest, and calm they breathed into one sorely tried living soul, and the perturbed heart was quelled by the sense how short the passage was to the world where captivity and longing would be ended. He beckoned to Pere Bonami to return to Diane, and then, protected by his presence from any further demonstrations, kissed her hand and left her.

He told Philip as little as possible of this interview, but his brother remarked how much time he spent over the Psalms that evening.

The next day the brothers saw from their upper winder the arrival of Narcisse, or, as he had called himself for the last three years, the Marquis de Nid-de-Merle, with many attendant gentlemen, and a band of fifty or sixty gendarmes. The court was filled with their horses, and rang with their calls for refreshment. And the captives judged it wise to remain in their upper room incase they should be called for.

They were proved to have been wise in so doing; for about an hour after their arrival there was a great clanging of steel boots, and Narcisse de Ribaumont, followed by a portly, heavily-armed gentleman, wearing a scarf of office, by two of the servants, and by two gendarmes, entered the room. It was the first time the cousins had met since le baiser d'Eutacie had been hissed into Berenger's ear. Narcisse looked older, sallower, and more worn than at that time; and Philip, seeing his enemy for the first time, contrasted him with the stately presence of Berenger, and felt as if a rat were strangling a noble steed.

Each young man punctiliously removed his hat, and Nid-de-Merle, without deigning further salutation, addressed his companion. 'Sir, you are here on the part of the King, and to you I deliver up these prisoners, who, having been detained here on a charge of carrying on a treasonable correspondence, and protected by my father out of consideration for the family, have requited his goodness by an attempt to strangle him, which has caused his death.'

Philip actually made a leap of indignation; Berenger, better prepared, said to the officer, 'Sir, I am happy to be placed in charged of a King's servant, who will no doubt see justice done, and shelter us from the private malice that could alone devise so monstrous an accusation. We are ready to clear ourselves upon oath over the corpse, and all the household and our own guards can bear witness.'

'The witnesses are here,' said Narcisse, pointing to the servants, ill-looking men, who immediately began to depose to having found their master purple-faced and struggling in the hands of the two young men, who had been left alone with him after dinner.

Berenger felt that there was little use in self-defence. It was a fabrication the more easily to secure his cousin's purpose of destroying him, and his best hope lay in passing into the hands of persons who were less directly interested in his ruin. He drew himself up to his full height, saying, 'If there be justice in France, our innocence will be proved. I demand, sir, that you examine the abbess, the priest, the steward, the sergeant of gendarmes: they are impartial witnesses, and will serve the King's justice, if justice be his purpose. Or, if this be but M. de Nid-de-Merle's way of completing the work he left unfinished four years ago, I am ready. Only let my brother go free. He is heir to nothing here.'

'Enough, sir. Words against the King's justice will be reckoned against you,' said the officer. 'I shall do myself the honour of attending the funeral the day after to-morrow, and then I shall convey you to Tours, to answer for this deed at your leisure. Monsieur le Marquis, are the prisoners secure here, or would you have them garde a vue.'

'No need for that,' said Narcisse, lightly; 'had there been any exit they would have found it long ago. Your good fellows outside the door keep them safe enough. M. le Baron de Ribaumont, I have the honour to wish you a good morning.'

Berenger returned his bow with one full of defiance, and the door was again locked upon the prisoners; while Philip exclaimed, 'The cowardly villain, Berry; is it a hanging matter?'

'Not for noble blood,' said Berenger. 'We are more likely to be brought to no trial, but to lie prisoners for life;' then, as Philip grew white and shivered with a sick horror, he added bravely, 'But they shall not have us, Philip. We know the vaults well enough to play at hide and seek with them there, and even if we find no egress we may hold out till they think us fled and leave open the doors!'

Philip's face lighted up again, and they did their best by way of preparation, collecting wood for torches, and putting aside food at their meals. It was a very forlorn hope, but the occupation it caused was effectual in keeping up Philip's spirits, and saving him from despondency.



CHAPTER XXXIX. THE PEDLAR'S PREDICTION



But if ne'er so close you wall him, Do the best that you may; Blind Love, if so you call him, Will find out his way. —OLD SONG

'Too late,' muttered Berenger to himself, as he stood by the fire in his prison-chamber. Humfrey and Philip were busy in the vaults, and he was taking his turn in waiting in the sitting-room to disarm suspicion. 'It is too late now, and I thank God that so it is.'

'Do you indeed, M. le Baron?' said a low voice close beside him; and, as he turned in haste, he beheld, at the foot of the turret-stair, the youth Aime de Selinville, holding a dark lantern in his hand, and veiling its light.

'Ha!' and he started to his feet. 'Whence come you?'

'From my Lady,' was the youth's answer. 'She has sent me to ask whether you persist in what you replied to her the other day. For if not, she bids me say that it is not too late.'

'And if I do persevere?'

'Then—ah! what do I know? Who can tell how far malice can go? And there are towers and bastilles where hope never enters. Moreover, your researches underground are known.'

'Sir,' said Berenger, the heart-sinking quelled by the effort of resistance, 'Madame de Selinville has my answer—I must take the consequences. Tell her, if she truly wishes me well, the honourable way of saving us would be to let our English friends know what has befallen us.'

'You forget, M. le Baron, even if she could proclaim the dishonour of her family, interference from a foreign power might only lead to a surer mode of removing you,' said Aime, lowering his voice and shuddering.

'Even so, I should thank her. Then would the bitterest pang be taken away. Those at our home would not deem us faithless recreants.'

'Thank her!' murmured the lad in an inward voice. 'Very well, sir, I will carry her your decision. It is your final one. Disgrace, prison, death—rather than freedom, love, wealth!'

'The semblance of dishonour rather than the reality!' said Berenger, firmly.

The light-footed page disappeared, and in a few moments a very different tread came up from below, and Philip appeared.

'What is it, Berry? Methought I heard a voice.'

'Forgive me, brother,' said Berenger, holding out his hand; 'I have thrown away another offer.'

'Tush, the thing to pardon would be having accepted one. I only wish they would leave us in peace! What was it this time?'

'A messenger through young Selinville. Strange, to trust her secrets to that lad. But hush, here he is again, much sooner than I thought. What, sir, have you been with your lady again?'

'Yes, sir,' the young said, with a trembling voice, and Berenger saw that his eyes were red with weeping; 'she bids me tell you that she yields. She will save you eve while you have and despite her! There is only one thing—-'

'And what is that?'

'You must encumber yourself with the poor Aime. You must let me serve you instead of her. Listen, sir, it cannot be otherwise.' Then with a brisker, more eager voice, he continued: 'Monsieur knows that the family burial-place is Bellaise? Well, to-morrow, at ten o'clock, all the household, all the neighbourhood, will come and sprinkle holy water on the bier. The first requiem will be sung, and then will all repair to the convent. There will be the funeral mass, the banquet, the dole. Every creature in the castle—nay, in all the neighbourhood for twenty miles round—will be at the convent, for the Abbess has given out that the alms are to be double, and the bread of wheat. Not a soul will remain here, save the two gendarmes on guard at that door, and the poor Aime, whom no one will miss, even if any person could be distinguished in their black cloaks. Madame la Comtesse has given him this key, which opens a door on the upper floor of the keep, unknown to the guards, who, for that matter, shall have a good tankard of spiced wine to console and occupy them. Then is the way clear to the castle court, which is not over looked by their window, the horses are in the stables, and we are off,—that is if M. le Baron will save a poor youth from the wrath of M. de Nid-de-Merle.'

'You are and honest fellow!' cried Philip, shaking him vehemently by the hand. 'You shall go with us to England, and we will make a brave man of you.'

'We shall owe you our lives,' said Berenger, warmly, 'and be ever bound to you. Tell your lady that THIS is magnanimity; that now I truly thank her as our preserver, and shall bless her all the days of the life she gives us. But my servants?'

'Guibert is a traitor,' said Aime; 'he has been so ever since you were at Paris. Breathe no word to him; but he, as a Catholic, shall be invited to the funeral. Your stout Englishman should by all means be with us.'

'My Norman also,' added Berenger,—'my dear foster-brother, who has languished in the dungeon for three years;' and when the explanation had been made, Aime assented, though half-unwillingly, to the necessity, and presently quitted them to bear back their answer to his lady. Philip shook his hand violently again, patted him on the back, so as almost to take away his breath, and bade him never fear, they would be sworn brothers to him for ever; and then threw up his hat into the air, and was so near astonishing the donjon walls with a British hurrah, that Berenger had to put his hand over his mouth and strangle the shout in his very throat.

The chief of that night was spent in enlarging the hole in Osbert's wall, so as to admit of his creeping through it; and they also prepared their small baggage for departure. Their stock of money, though some had been spent on renewing their clothes, and some in needful gratuities to the servants and gendarmes, was sufficient for present needs, and they intended to wear their ordinary dress. They were unlikely to meet any of the peasants in the neighbourhood; and, indeed, Berenger had so constantly ridden out in his black mask, that its absence, now that his scars were gone, was as complete a change as could be effected in one whose height was of unusual.

'There begins the kneel,' said Philip, standing at the window. 'It's our joy-bell, Berry! Every clang seems to me to say, "Home! home! home!"

'For you, Phil,' said Berenger; 'but I must be satisfied of Eutacie's fate first. I shall go first to Nissard—whither we were bound when we were seized—then to La Rochelle, whence you may—-'

'No more of that,' burst out Philip. 'What! would you have me leave you now, after all we have gone through together? Not that you will find her. I don't want to vex you, brother, on such a day as this, but you conjurer's words are coming true in the other matter.'

'How? What mean you, Phil?'

'What's the meaning of Aime?' asked Philip. 'Even I am French scholar enough for that. And who sends him?'

Meantime the court was already filling with swarms of persons of every rank and degree, but several anxious hours had passed before the procession was marshaled; and friars and monks, black, white, and gray,—priests in rich robes and tall caps,—black-cloaked gentlemen and men-at-arms,—all bearing huge wax tapers,—and peasants and beggars of every conceivable aspect,—filed out of the court, bearing with them the richly-emblazoned bier of the noble and puissant knight, the Beausire Charles Eutache de Ribaumont Nid-de-Merle, his son walking behind in a long black mantle, and all who counted kindred of friendship following two and two; then all the servants, every one who properly belonged to the castle, were counted out by the brothers from their windows, and Guibert among them.

'Messieurs,' a low, anxious voice sounded in the room.

'We will only fetch Osbert.'

It was a terrible only, as precious moments slipped away before there appeared in the lower chamber Berenger and Humfrey, dragging between them a squalid wretch, with a skin like stained parchment over a skeleton, tangled hair and beard, staring bewildered eyes, and fragments of garments, all dust, dirt, and rags.

'Leave me, leave me, dear master,' said the object, stretching his whole person towards the fire as they let him sink down before it. 'You would but ruin yourself.'

'It is madness to take him,' said Aime, impatiently.

'I go not without him,' said Berenger. 'Give me the soup, Philip.'

Some soup and wine had been placed by the fire, and likewise a shirt and a suit of Humfrey's clothes were spread before it. Aime burst out into the yard, absolutely weeping with impatience, when, unheeding all his remonstrances, his three companions applied themselves to feeding, rubbing, and warming Osbert, and assuring him that the pains in his limbs would pass away with warmth and exercise. He had been valiant of heart in his dungeon; but his sudden plunge into upper air was like rising from the grave, and brought on all the effects of his dreary captivity, of which he had hardly been sensible when he had first listened to the voice of hope.

Dazzled, crippled, helpless, it seemed almost impossible that he should share the flight, but Berenger remained resolute; and when Aime returned from his fourth frantic promenade, he was told that all was ready.

But for the strength of Berenger and Humfrey the poor fellow could never have been carried up and up, nearly to the top of the keep, then along a narrow gallery, then down again even to the castle hall, now empty, though with the candle-sticks still around where the bier had been. Aime knelt for a moment where the head had been, hiding his face; Osbert rested in a chair; and Philip looked wistfully up at his own sword hung over the chimney.

'Resume your swords, Messieurs,' said Aime, observing him; 'Madame desires it; and take pistols also.'

They gladly obeyed; and when, after this short delay, they proceeded, Osbert moved somewhat less painfully, but when they arrived at the stable only four horses stood there.

'Ah! this miserable!' cried Aime, passionately, 'he ruins all my arrangements.'

'Leave me,' again entreated Landry. 'Once outside, I can act the beggar and cripple, and get back to Normandy.'

'Better leave me,' said Humfrey; 'they cannot keep me when you are out of their clutches.'

'Help me, Humfrey,' said Berenger, beginning to lift his foster-brother to the saddle, but there the poor man wavered, cried out that his head swam, and he could not keep his seat, entreating almost in agony to be taken down.

'Lean on me,' said Berenger, putting his arms round him. 'There! you will be able to get to the Grange du Temple, where you will be in safe shelter.'

'Sir, sir,' cried Aime, ready to tear his hair, 'this is ruin! My lady meant you to make all speed to La Rochelle and there embark, and this is the contrary way!'

'That cannot be helped,' said Berenger; 'it is the only safe place for my foster-brother.'

Aime, with childish petulance, muttered something about ingratitude in crossing his lady's plans; but, as no one attended to him, he proceeded to unfasten his horse, and then exclaimed, half crying, 'Will no one help me?'

'Not able to saddle a horse! a pretty fellow for a cavalier!' exclaimed Philip, assisting, however, and in a few minutes they were all issuing from a low side gate, and looking back with bounding hearts at the drooping banner on the keep of Nid-de-Merle.

Only young Aime went with bowed head and drooping look, as though pouting, and Berenger, putting Osbert's bridle into Humfrey's hand, stepped up to him, saying, 'Hark you, M. de Selinville, I am sorry if we seemed to neglect you. We owe you and your lady all gratitude, but I must be the judge of my own duty, and you can only be with me if you conform.'

The young seemed to be devouring his tears, but only said, 'I was vexed to see my lady's plan marred, and your chance thrown away.'

'Of that I must judge,' said Berenger.

They were in a by-lane, perfectly solitary. The whole country was at the funeral. Through the frosty air there came an occasional hum or murmur from Berenger, or the tinkle of a cow-bell in the fields, but no human being was visible. It was certain, however, that the Rotrous, being Huguenots, and no vassals of Nid-de-Merle, would not be at the obsequies; and Berenger, walking with swift strides, supporting Osbert on his horse, continued to cheer him with promises of rest and relief there, and listened to no entreaties from Philip or Humfrey to take one of their horses. Had not Osbert borne him on his shoulders through the butchery at Paris, and endured three years of dungeon for his sake?

As for Philip, the slow pace of their ride was all insufficient for his glee. He made his horse caracole at every level space, till Berenger reminded him that they might have far to ride that night, and even then he was constantly breaking into attempts at shouting and whistling as often repressed, and springing up in his stirrups to look over the high hedges.

The Grange was so well concealed in its wooded ravine, that only when close upon the gate the party became aware that this farm-yard, usually so solitary, formed an exception to the general desertion of the country. There was a jingle and a stamp of horses in the court, which could hardly be daylight echoes of the Templars. Berenger feared that the Guisards might have descended Rotrou, and was stepping forward to reconnoiter, while young De Selinville, trembling, besought him not to run into danger, but to turn and hasten to La Rochelle. By this time, however, the party had been espied by two soldiers stationed at the gate, but not before Berenger had had time to remark that they did not wear either the gold fleur-de-lys like his late guards, or the white cross of Lorraine; nor had they the strange air of gay ferocity usual with the King's mercenaries. And almost by instincts, at a venture, he made the old Huguenot sign he had learnt form his father, and answered, 'For God and the Religion.'

The countersign was returned. 'Bearn and Bourbon is the word to-day, comrade,' replied the sentinel. 'Eh quoi! have you had an encounter, that you bring a wounded man?'

'Not wounded, but nearly dead in a Guisard prison,' said Berenger, with an unspeakable sense of relief and security, as the sentries admitted them into the large walled court, where horses were eating hay, being watered and rubbed down; soldiers snatching a hasty meal in corners; gentlemen in clanking breastplates coming in and out of the house, evidently taking orders from a young man in a gray and silver suit, whose brown eagle face, thin cheeks, arched nose, and black eyes of keenest fire, struck Berenger at once with a sense of recognition as well as of being under a glance that seemed to search out everybody and everything at once.

'More friends!' and the tone again recalled a flood of recollections. 'I thank and welcome you. What! You have met the enemy—where is he?'

'My servant is not wounded. Sire,' said Berenger, removing his hat and bending low. 'This is the effect of long captivity. We have but just escaped.'

'Then we are the same case! Pardon me, sir, I have seen you before, but for once I am at fault.'

'When I call myself De Ribaumont, your Grace will not wonder.'

'The dead alive! If I mistake not, it was in the Inferno itself that we last met! But we have broken through the gates at last! I remember poor King Charles was delighted to hear that you lived! But where have you been a captive?'

'At Nid-de-Merle, Sire; my kinsmen accused me of treason in order to hinder my search for my wife. We escaped even now during the funeral of the Chevalier.'

'By favour of which we are making our way to Parthenay unsuspected, though, by my faith, we gather so like a snowball, that we could be a match for a few hundreds of Guisards. Who is with you, M. de Ribaumont?'

'Let me present to your Majesty my English brother, Philip Thistlewood,' said Berenger, drawing the lad forward, making due obeisance, though entirely ignorant who was the plainly-dressed, travel-soiled stranger, so evidently a born lord of men.

'An Englishman is ever welcome,' was his gracious reception.

'And,' added Berenger, 'let me also present the young De Selinville, to whom I owe my escape. Where is he, Philip?'

He seemed to be busy with the horses, and Berenger could not catch his eye.

'Selinville! I thought that good Huguenot house was extinct.'

'This is a relation of the late Count de Selinville, my cousin's husband, Sire. He arranged my evasion, and would be in danger at Nid-de-Merle. Call him, Philip.'

Before this was done, however, the King's attention was otherwise claimed, and turning to one of his gentlemen he said, 'Here, d'Augigne, I present to you an acquaintance made in Tartarus. See to his entertainment ere we start for Parthenay.'

Agrippa d'Aubigne, still young, but grave and serious-looking greeted M. de Ribaumont as men meet in hours when common interests make rapid friendships; and from him Berenger learnt, in a few words, that the King of Navarre's eyes had been opened at last to the treachery of the court, and his own dishonourable bondage. During a feverish attack, one night when D'Aubigne and D'Armagnac were sitting up with him, his resolution was taken; and on the first hunting day after his recovery, he, with these two, the Baron de Rosny and about thirty more of his suite, had galloped away, and had joined the Monsieur and the Prince of Conde at Alencon. He had abjured the Catholic faith, declared that nothing except ropes should bring him back to Paris, and that he left there the mass and his wife—the first he could dispense with, the last he meant to have; and he was now on his way to Parthenay to meet his sister, whom he had sent Rosny to demand. By the time Berenger had heard this, he had succeeded in finding honest Rotrou, who was in a state of great triumph, and readily undertook to give Osbert shelter, and as soon as he should have recovered to send him to head-quarters with some young men who he knew would take the field as soon as they learnt that the King of Navarre had set up his standard. Even the inroads made into the good farmer's stores did not abate his satisfaction in entertaining the prime hope of the Huguenot cause; but Berenger advanced as large a sum as he durst out of his purse, under pretext of the maintenance of Osbert during his stay at the Grange. He examined Rotrou upon his subsequent knowledge of Isaac Gardon and Eutacie, but nothing had been heard of them since their departure, now nearly three years back, except a dim rumour that they had been seen at the Synod of Montauban.

'Well, my friend,' said Philip, when about to remount, 'this will do rather better than a headlong gallop to Rochelle with Nid-de-Merle at our heels.'

'If M. le Baron is safe, it is well,' said Aime shortly.

'Is Selinville there?' said Berenger, coming up. 'Here, let me take you to the King of Navarre: he knew your family in Lauguedoc.'

'No, no,' petulantly returned the boy. 'What am I that he should notice me? It is M. de Ribaumont whom I follow, not him or his cause.'

'Boy,' said Berenger, dismayed, 'remember, I have answered for you.'

'I am no traitor,' proudly answered the strange boy, and Berenger was forced to be thus satisfied, though intending to watch him closely.



CHAPTER XL. THE SANDS OF OLONNE



Is it the dew of night That on her glowing cheek Shines in the moonbeam?— Oh, she weeps, she weeps, And the good angel that abandoned her At her hell baptism, by her tears drawn down Resumes his charge... and the hope Of pardon and salvation rose As now she understood Thy lying prophecy of truth.—SOUTHEY

'M. de Ribaumont,' said Henry of Navarre, as he stood before the fire after supper at Parthenay, 'I have been thinking what commission I could give you proportioned to your rank and influence.'

'Thanks to your Grace, that inquiry is soon answered. I am a beggar here. Even my paternal estate in Normandy is in the hands of my cousin.'

'You have wrongs,' said Henry, 'and wrongs are sometimes better than possessions in a party like ours.'

Berenger seized the opening to explain his position, and mention that his only present desire was for permission, in the first place, to send a letter to England by the messenger whom the King was dispatching to Elisabeth, in tolerable security of her secret countenance; and, secondly, to ride to Nissard to examine into the story he had previously heeded so little, of the old man and his daughter rescued from the waves the day before La Sablerie was taken.

'If Pluto relented, my dear Orpheus, surely Navarre may,' said Henry good-humouredly; 'only may the priest not be more adamantine than Minos. Where lies Nissard? On the Sable d'Olonne? Then you may go thither with safety while we lie here, and I shall wait for my sister, or for news of her.'

So Berenger arranged for an early start on the morrow; and young Selinville listened with a frown, and strange look in his dark eyes. 'You go not to England?' he said.

'Not yet?' said Berenger

'This was not what my Lady expected,' he muttered; but though Berenger silenced him by a stern look, he took the first opportunity of asking Philip if it would not be far wiser for his brother to place himself in safety in England.

'Wiser, but less honest,' said Philip.

'He who has lost all here, who has incurred his grandfather's anger,' pursued Aime, 'were he not wiser to make his peace with his friends in England?'

'His friends in England would not like him the better for deserting his poor wife's cause,' said Philip. 'I advise you to hold your tongue, and not meddle or make.'

Aime subsided, and Philip detected something like tears. He had still much of rude English boyhood about him, and he laughed roughly. 'A fine fellow, to weep at a word! Hie thee back to feed my Lady's lap-dog, 'tis all thou art fit for.'

'There spoke English gratitude,' said Aime, with a toss of the head and flash of the eye.

Philip despised him the more for casting up his obligations, but had no retort to make. He had an idea of making a man of young Selinville, and his notion of the process had something of the bullying tendency of English young towards the poor-spirited or cowardly. He ordered the boy roughly, teased him for his ignorance of manly exercises, tried to cure his helplessness by increasing his difficulties, and viewed his fatigue as affectation or effeminacy. Berenger interfered now and then to guard the poor boy from a horse-jest or practical joke, but he too felt that Aime was a great incumbrance, hopelessly cowardly, fanciful, and petulant; and he was sometimes driven to speak to him with severity, verging on contempt, in hopes of rousing a sense of shame.

The timidity, so unusual and inexplicable in a youth of eighteen or twenty, sowed itself irrepressibly at the Sands of Olonne. These were not misty, as on Berenger's former journey. Nissard steeple was soon in sight, and the guide who joined them on a rough pony had no doubt that there would be ample time to cross before high water. There was, however, some delay, for the winter rains had brought down a good many streams of fresh water, and the sands were heavy and wet, so that their horses proceeded slowly, and the rush and dash of the waves proclaimed that the low of the tide had begun. To the two brothers the break and sweep was a home-sound, speaking of freshness and freedom, and the salt breeze and spray carried with them life and ecstasy. Philip kept as near the incoming waves as his inland-bred horse would endure, and sang, shouted, and hallooed to them as welcome as English waves; but Aime de Selinville had never even beheld the sea before: and even when the tide was still in the distance, was filled with nervous terror as each rushing fall sounded nearer; and, when the line of white foamy crests became more plainly visible, he was impelled to hurry on towards the steeple so fast that the guide shouted to him that he would only bury himself in a quicksand.

'But,' said he, white with alarm, and his teeth chattering, 'how can we creep with those dreadful waves advancing upon us to drown us?'

Berenger silence Philip's rude laugh and was beginning to explain that the speed of the waves could always be calculated by an experienced inhabitant; and his voice had seemed to pacify Aime a little, when the spreading water in front of a broken wave flowing up to his horse's feet, again rendered him nearly frantic. 'Let us go back!' he wildly entreated, turning his horse; but Berenger caught his bridle, saying, 'That would be truly death. Boy, unless you would be scorned, restrain your folly. Nothing else imperils us.'

Here, however, the guide interposed, saying that it had become too late to pursue their course along the curve of the shore, but they must at once cut straight across, which he had intended to avoid, because of the greater depth of a small river that they would have to cross, which divided further out into small channels, more easily forded. They thus went along the chord of the arc formed by the shore, and Aime was somewhat reassured, as the sea was at first farther off; but before long they reached the stream, which lost itself in many little channels in the sands, so that when the tide was out there was a perfect network of little streams dividing low shingly or grassy isles, but at nearly high tide, as at present, many of these islets were submerged, and the strife between river and sea caused sudden deepenings of the water in the channels.

The guide eagerly explained that the safest place for crossing was not by the large sandbank furthest inland and looking firm and promising—it was a recent shifting performance of the water's heaping up, and would certainly sink away and bury horse the channels on either side had shingly bottoms, and were safe.

'This way,' called Berenger, himself setting the example, and finding no difficulty; the water did not rise above his boots, and the current was not strong. He had reached the shingly isle when he looked round for his companions; Humfrey and Philip were close behind him; but, in spite of the loud 'gare!' of the guide, Aime, or his horse,—for each was equally senseless with alarm,—were making inwards; the horse was trying to tread on the sandbank, which gave way like the water itself, under its frantic struggles—there was a loud cry—a shrill, unmistakable woman's shriek—the horse was sinking—a white face and helpless form were being carried out on the waves, but not before Berenger had flung himself from his horse, thrown off his cloak and sword, and dashed into the water; and in the lapse of a few moments he struggled back to the island, where were Philip and Humfrey, leg-deep in water: the one received his burthen, the other helped him to land.

'On, gentlemen, not a moment to lose,' cried the guide; and Berenger, still panting, flung himself on his horse, held out his arms, gathered the small, almost inanimate figure upon the horse's neck before him, and in a few minutes more they had crossed the perilous passage, and were on a higher bank where they could safely halt; and Philip, as he came to help his brother, exclaimed, 'What a fool the boy is!'

'Hush!' said Berenger, gravely, as they laid the figure on the ground.

'What! he can't have been drowned in that moment. We'll bring him to.'

'Hands off!' said Berenger, kneeling over the gasping form, and adding in a lower voice, 'Don't you see?' He would his hand in the long drenched hair, and held it up, with cheeks burning like fire, and his scar purple.

'A woman!—what?—who?' Then suddenly divining, he exclaimed, 'The jade!' and started with wide eyes.

'Stand back,' said Berenger; 'she is coming to herself.'

Perhaps she had been more herself than he knew, for, as he supported her head, her hand stole over his and held it fast. Full of consternation, perplexity, and anger as he was, he could not but feel a softening pity towards a creature so devoted, so entirely at his mercy. At the moment when she lay helpless against him, gasps heaving her breast under her manly doublet, her damp hair spread on his knees, her dark eyes in their languor raised imploring his face, her cold hand grasping his, he felt as if this great love were a reality, and as if he were hunting a shadow; and, as if fate would have it so, he must save and gratify one whose affection must conquer his, who was so tender, so beautiful—even native generosity seemed on her side. But in the midst, as in his perplexity he looked up over the gray sea, he seemed to see the picture so often present to his mind of the pale, resolute girl, clasping her babe to her breast, fearless of the advancing sea, because true and faithful. And at that thought faith and prayer rallied once again round his heart, shame at the instant's wavering again dyed his cheek; he recalled himself, and speaking the more coldly and gravely because his heart was beating over hotly, he said, 'Cousin, you are better. It is but a little way to Nissard.'

'Why have you saved me, if you will not pity me?' she murmured.

'I will not pity, because I respect my kinswoman who has save our lives,' he said steadying his voice with difficulty. 'The priests of Nissard will aid me in sparing your name and fame.'

'Ah!' she cried, sitting up with a start of joy, 'but he would make too many inquiries! Take me to England first.'

Berenger started as he saw how he had been misunderstood.

'Neither here nor in England could my marriage be set aside, cousin. No; not priest shall take charge of you, and place you in safety and honour.'

'He shall not!' she cried hotly. 'Why—why will you drive me from you—me who ask only to follow you as a menial servant?'

'That has become impossible,' he answered; 'to say nothing of my brother, my servant and the guide have seen;' and, as she remembered her streaming hair, and tried, in dawning confusion, to gather it together, he continued: 'You shrank from the eye of the King of Navarre. You cannot continue as you have done; you have not even strength.'

'Ah! have you sailed for England,' she murmured.

'It had only been greater shame,' he said. 'Cousin, I am head of your family, husband of your kinswoman, and bound to respect the reputation you have risked for me. I shall, therefore, place you in charge of the priest till you can either return to your aunt or to some other convent. You can ride now. We will not wait longer in these wet garments.'

He raised her from the ground, threw his own dry cloak round her shoulders and unmanageable hair, and lifted her on his horse; but, as she would have leant against him, he drew himself away, beckoned Philip, and put the bridle into his hands, saying, 'Take care of her. I shall ride on and warm the priest.'

'The rock of diamond,' she murmured, not aware that the diamond had been almost melting. That youthful gravity and resolution, with the mixture of respect and protection, imposed as usual upon her passionate nature, and daunted her into meekly riding beside Philip without a word—only now and then he heard a low moan, and knew that she was weeping bitterly.

At first the lad had been shocked beyond measure, and would have held aloof as from a kind of monster, but Madame de Selinville had been the first woman to touch his fancy, and when he heard how piteously she was weeping, and recollected where he should have been but for her, as well as all his own harshness to her as a cowardly boy, he felt himself brutally ungrateful, and spoke: 'Don't weep so, Madame; I am sorry I was rude to you, but you see, how should I take you for a woman?'

Perhaps she heard, but she heeded not.

'My brother will take good care to shield you,' Philip added. 'He will take care you are safe in one of your nunneries;' and as she only wept the more, he added, with a sudden thought, 'You would not go there; you would embrace the Protestant faith?'

'I would embrace whatever was his.'

Philip muttered something about seeing what could be done. They were already at the entrance of the village, and Berenger had come out to meet them, and, springing towards him, Philip exclaimed, in a low voice, 'Berry, she would abjure her Popish errors! You can't give her up to a priest.'

'Foolery, Philip,' answered Berenger, sternly.

'If she would be a convert!'

'Let her be a modest woman first;' and Berenger, taking her bridle, led her to the priest's house.

He found that Pere Colombeau was preaching a Lent sermon, and that nobody was at home but the housekeeper, to whom he had explained briefly that the lady with him had been forced to escape in disguise, had been nearly drowned, and was in need of refreshment and female clothing. Jacinthe did not like the sound, but drenched clothes were such a passport to her master's house, that she durst not refuse. Berenger carried off his other companions to the cabaret, and when he had dried himself, went to wait for the priest at the church door, sitting in the porch where more than one echo of the exhortation to repentance and purity rang in his ears, and enforced his conviction that here he must be cruel if he would be merciful.

It was long before Pere Colombeau came out, and then, if the scar had not blushed for all the rest of his face, the sickly, lanky lad of three years since would hardly have been recognized to the good cure. But the priest's aspect was less benignant when Berenger tried to set before him his predicament; he coldly asked where the unhappy lady was; and when Berenger expressed his intention of coming the next morning to ask his counsel, he only bowed. He did not ask the brothers to supper, nor show any civility; and Berenger, as he walked back to the cabaret, perceived that his story was but half believed, and that, if Diane's passion were still stronger than her truth or generosity, she would be able to make out a terrible case against him, and to willing ears, naturally disposed against a young cavalier and a heretic.

He sat much dispirited by the fire of the little wine shop, thinking that his forbearance had been well-nigh thrown away, and that his character would never be cleared in Eustacie's eyes, attaching, indeed, more importance to the blot than would have been done by a youth less carefully reared.

It was quite dark when a knock came to the door: the cure's white head appeared in the lamplight; he nodded kindly to all the guests, and entreated that M. de Ribaumont would do him a favour to come and speak with him.

No sooner were they outside the house, than the cure held out his hand, saying 'Sir, forgive me for a grievous injustice towards you;' then pressing his hand, he added with a voice tremulous with emotion, 'Sir, it is no slight thing to have saved a wandering sheep by your uprightness and loyalty.'

'Have you then opened her eyes, father?' said Berenger, relieved from a heavy load.

'You have, my son,' said the old man. 'You have taught her what truth and virtue are. For the rest, you shall heard for yourself.'

Before Berenger knew where he was, a door was opened, and he found himself in the church. The building was almost entirely dark; there were two tall lights at the altar in distance, and a few little slender tapers burning before certain niches and shrines, but without power to conquer with the gloom more than enough to spread a pale circle of yellow light beneath them, and to show mysteriously a bit of vaulting above. A single lamp hung from an arch near the door, and beneath it, near a pillar, knelt, or rather crouched, on the floor, a female figure with a dark peasant cloak drawn over her head.

'The first token of penitence is reparation to the injured,' said the priest.

Berenger looked at him anxiously.

'I will not leave you,' he added. 'See, I shall pray for you yonder, by the altar,' and he slowly moved up the aisle.

'Rise, cousin, I entreat you,' said Berenger, much embarrassed, as he disappeared in the darkness.

'I must speak thus,' she answered, in a hoarse, exhausted voice. 'Ah! pardon, pardon!' she added, rising, however, so far as to raise clasped hands and an imploring face. 'Ah! can you pardon? It was through me that you bear those wounds; that she—Eustacie—was forced into the masque, to detain you for THAT night. Ah! pardon.'

'That is long past,' said Berenger. 'I have been too near death not to have pardoned that long ago. Rise, cousin, I cannot see you thus.'

'That is not all,' continued Diane. 'It was I—I who moved my father to imprison you.' Then, as he bent his head, and would have again entreated her to rise, she held out her hand as if to silence him, and spoke faster, more wildly. 'Then—then I thought it would save your life. I thought—-' she looked at him strangely with her great dark eyes, all hollow and cavernous in her white face.

'I know,' said Berenger, kindly, 'you often urged it on me.'

There was a sort of movement on the part of the kneeling figure of the priest at the altar, and she interrupted, saying precipitately. 'Then—then, I did think you free.'

'Ah!' he gasped. 'Now—-!'

'Now I know that she lives!' and Diane once more sank at his feet a trembling, shrinking, annihilated heap of shame and misery.

Berenger absolutely gave a cry that, though instantly repressed, had the ring of ecstasy in it. 'Cousin—cousin!' he cried, 'all is forgiven—all forgotten, if you will only tell me where!'

'That I cannot,' said Diane, rousing herself again, but speaking in a dull, indifferent tone, as of one to whom the prime bitterness was past, 'save that she is under the care of the Duchess de Quinet;' and she then proceeded, as though repeating a lesson: 'You remember the Italian conjurer whom you would not consult? Would that I had not!' she added, clasping her hands. 'His prediction lured me? Well, he saw my father privately, told him he had seen her, and had bought her jewels, even her hair. My father sent him in quest of her again, but told not me till the man returned with tidings that she was at Quinet, in favour with the Duchess. You remember that he went from home. It was to demand he; and, ah! you know how long I had loved you, and they told me that your marriage was void, and that all would be well upon the dispensation coming. And now the good father there tells me that I was deceived—cruelly deceived—that such a dispensation would not be granted save through gross misrepresentation.' Then, as Berenger began to show tokens of eagerness to come at tidings of Eustacie, she continued, 'Ah! it is vain to seek to excuse one you care not for. My father could learn nothing from the Duchess; she avowed that she had been there, but would say no more. However, he and my brother were sure she was under their protection; they took measures, and—and the morning my poor father was stricken, there had been a letter from my brother to say he was on her track, and matters must be ended with you, for he should have her in a week;' and then, as Berenger started forward with an inarticulate outburst, half of horror, half of interrogation, she added, 'Where, he said not, nor did I learn from him. All our one interview was spend in sneers that answered to my wild entreaties; but this I know—that you would never have reached Tours a living man.'

'And now, now he is on the way to her!' cried Berenger, 'and you kept it from me!'

'There lay my hope,' said Diane, raising her head; and now, with glittering eyes and altered voice, 'How could I not but hate her who had bereaved me of you; her for whose sake I could not earn your love?'

The change of her tone had, perhaps, warned the priest to draw nearer, and as she perceived him, she said, 'Yes, father, this is not the way to absolution, but my heart will burst if I say not all.'

'Thou shalt not prevail, foul spirit,' said the priest, looking earnestly into the darkness, as though he beheld the fiend hovering over her, 'neither shall these holy walls be defiled with accents of unhallowed love. You have made your reparation, daughter; it is enough.'

'And can you tell me no more?' said Berenger, sadly. 'Can you give me no clue that I may save her from the wolf that may be already on her track? Cousin, if you would do this, I would bless you for ever.'

'Alas! I would if I could! It is true, cousin, I have no heart to deceive you any longer. But it is to Madame de Quinet that you must apply, and if my brother has though me worth pursuit, you may be in time! One moment,'—as he would have sprung away as if in the impulse to fly to the rescue,—'cousin; had you gone to England as I hoped, I would have striven to deserve to win that love of yours, but you have conquered by your constancy. Now, father, I have spoken my last save as penitent.'

She covered her head and sank down again.

Berenger, bewildered and impelled to be doing something, let the priest lead him out before he exclaimed, 'I said nothing to her of pardon!'

'You do pardon?' said the priest.

He paused a moment. 'Freely, if I find my wife. I can only remember now that she set me on the way. I would ease her soul, poor thing, and thinking would make me hard again.'

'Do the English bring up their sons with such feelings?' asked the cure, pausing for a moment.

'Of course,' said Berenger. 'May I say that one word, sir?'

'Not now,' said the priest; 'she had better be left to think of her sin towards Heaven, rather than towards man.'

'But do you leave her there, sir?'

'I shall return. I shall pray for her true penitence,' said the priest, and Berenger perceived from his tone that one without the pale might inquire no further. He only asked how safe and honourable shelter could be found for her; and the cure replied that he had already spoken to her of the convent of Lucon, and should take her there so soon as it could safely be done, and that Abbess Monique, he trusted, would assist her crushed spirit in finding the path of penitence. He thought her cousin had better not endeavour to see her again; and Berenger himself was ready to forget her very existence in his burning anxiety to outstrip Narcisse in the quest of Eustacie.



CHAPTER XLI. OUR LADY OF HOPE



Welcome to danger's hour, Brief greeting serves the time of strife. —SCOTT

As soon as it was possible to leave Nissard, Berenger was on his way back to head-quarters, where he hoped to meet the Duke de Quinet among the many Huguenot gentlemen who were flocking to the Bourbon standard; nor was he disappointed in the hope, for he was presented to a handsome middle-aged gentleman, who told him, with much politeness, that his mother had had the honour to receive and entertain Mme. de Ribaumont and that some months ago he had himself arranged for the conveyance of her letters to England, but, he said, with a smile, he made a point of knowing nothing of his mother's guests, lest his duties as a governor might clash with those of hospitality. He offered to expedite M. de Ribaumont's journey to Quinet, observing that, if Nid de Merle were, indeed, on the point of seizing the lady, it must be by treachery; indeed he had, not ten days back, had the satisfaction of hanging an Italian mountebank who had last year stolen a whole packet of dispatches, among them letters from Mme. de Ribaumont, and the fellow was probably acting as a spy upon her, so that no time was to be lost in learning from his mother where she was. On the next morning he was about to send forward twenty men to reinforce a little frontier garrison on the river Dronne, and as M. le Baron must pass through the place, it would be conferring a favour on him to take the command. The men were all well mounted, and would not delay; and when once across the frontier of Guyenne, no escort would be needed.

Berenger gladly accepted the proposal. It did not occur to him that he was thus involved in the civil war, and bearing arms against the sovereign. In spite of Queen Elisabeth's alliance with the French court, she connived at her youthful subjects seeking the bubble reputation in the mouths of Valois cannon; and so little did Henry III. seem to Berenger to be his king, that he never thought of the question of allegiance,—nay, if the royal officers were truly concerned in his arrest, he was already an outlaw. This was no moment for decision between Catholic and Calvinist; all he wanted was to recover his wife and forestall her enemies.

Henry of Navarre gave his full consent to the detachment being placed under charge of M. de Ribaumont. He asked somewhat significantly what had become of the young gentleman who had attended M. de Ribaumont, and Philip blushed crimson to the ears, while Berenger replied, with greater coolness than he had given himself credit for, that the youth had been nearly drowned on the Sable d'Olonne, and had been left at Dom Colombeau's to recover. The sharp-witted King looked for a moment rather as Sir Hugh the Heron did when Marmion accounted for his page's absence, but was far too courteous and too INSOUCIANT to press the matter further, though Berenger saw quite enough of is expression to feel that he had been delivered from his companion only just in time.

Berenger set forth as soon as his impatience could prevail to get the men into their saddles. He would fain have ridden day and night, and grudged every halt for refreshment, so as almost to run the risk of making the men mutinous. Evening was coming on, and his troop had dismounted at a cabaret, in front of which he paced up and down with Philip, trying to devise some pretext for hastening them on another stage before night, when a weary, travel-stained trooper rode up to the door and was at once hailed as a comrade by the other men, and asked, 'What cheer at Pont de Dronne?'

'Bad enough,' he answered, 'unless you can make the more speed there!' then making obeisance to Berenger he continued his report, saying that Captain Falconnet was sending him to M. le Duc with information that the Guisards were astir, and that five hundred gens d'armes, under the black Nid de Merle, as it was said, were on their way intending to surprise Pont de Dronne, and thus cut the King of Navarre off from Guyenne and his kingdom beyond it. After this Berenger had no more difficulty with his men, who were most of them Quinet vassals, with homes south of the Dronne, and the messenger only halted for a hasty meal, hastening on to the Duke, that a more considerable succour might at once be dispatched.

'Is she there whom they call the Lady of Hope?' asked one of the soldiers, a mercenary, less interested than most of his comrades, as he had only a fortnight since transferred his services from Guise to Quinet.

'Our Lady of Sadness just now,' replied the messenger; 'her old father is at the point of death. However, she is there, and at our last siege twenty wine-skins would not so well have kept up men's hearts.'

'And the little one, the white fairy, is she there too? They say 'tis a spirit, a changeling that could not brook the inside of a church, but flew out of the Moustier at Montauban like a white swan, in the middle of a sermon.'

'I only know I've seen her sleep like a dormouse through prayers, sermon, and all at Pont de Dronne. Follette is she be, she belongs to the white elves of the moonlight.'

'Well, they say bullets won't touch her, and no place can be taken where she is,' replied the trooper. 'Nay, that Italian pedlar rogue, the same that the Duke has since hung, has sold to long Gilles and snub-nosed Pierre silver bullets, wherewith they have sworn to shoot the one or the other next time they had a chance.'

These words were spoken at not great distance from Berenger, but passed by him as mere men-at-arms' gossip, in his eagerness to expedite the start of his party; and in less than an hour they were en route for Pont de Dronne; but hasten as he would, it was not till near noon the next day that he came in sight of a valley, through which wound a river, crossed by a high-backed bridge, with a tall pointed arch in the middle, and a very small one on either side. An old building of red stone, looking like what it was—a monastery converted into a fortress—stood on the nearer, or northern bank, and on the belfry tower waved a flag with the arms of Quinet. Higher up the valley, there was an ominous hum, and clouds of smoke and dust; and the gen d'armes, who knew the country, rejoiced that they were come just in time, and exchanged anxious questions whether the enemy were not fording the river above them, so as to attack not only the fortress on this northern side, but the bridge tower on the southern bank of the river.

Spurring down the hill, the party were admitted, at the well-guarded gateway, into a large thickly-walled yard, where the soldiers and horses remained, and Berenger and Philip, passing through a small arched doorway into the body of the old monastery, were conducted to a great wainscoted hall, where a pulpit projecting from the wall, and some defaced emblematic ornaments, showed that this had once been the refectory, though guard-room appliances now occupied it. The man who had shown them in left them, saying he would acquaint Captain Falconnet with their arrival, and just then a sound of singing drew both brothers to the window. It looked out on what had once been the quadrangle, bounded on three sides by the church, the refectory, and the monk's lodgings, the cloistered arcade running round all these. The fourth side was skirted by the river, which was, however, concealed by an embankment, raised, no doubt, to supply the place of the wall, which had been unnecessary to the peaceful original inhabitants. What attracted Berenger's eyes was, however, a group in the cloister, consisting of a few drooping figures, some of men in steel caps, others of veiled, shrouded women, and strange, mingled feelings swept over him as he caught the notes of the psalm sung over the open grave—

'Si qu'en paix et seurte bonne Coucherai et reposerai— Car, Seigneur, ta bonte tout ordonne Et elle seule espoir donne Que seur et sain regnant serai.'

'Listen, Philip,' he said, with moistening eyes; then as they ended, 'It is the 4th Psalm: "I lay me down in peace and take my rest." Eustacie and I used to sing it to my father. It was well done in these mourners to sing it over him whom they are laying down to take his rest while the enemy are at the gates. See, the poor wife still kneels while the rest disperse; how dejected and utterly desolate she looks.'

He was so intently watching her as not to perceive the entrance of a tall, grizzled old man in a steel cap, evidently the commander of the garrison. There was the brief welcome of danger's hour—the briefer, because Captain Falconnet was extremely deaf, and, taking it for granted that the new-comers were gentlemen of the Duke's, proceeded to appoint them their posts without further question. Berenger had intended to pursue his journey to Quinet without delay, but the intelligence that the enemy were on the southern as well as the northern side of the river rendered this impossible; and besides, in defending this key of Guyenne against Narcisse, he was also defending Eustacie.

The state of affairs was soon made known to him. The old monastery, covering with its walls an extensive space, formed a fortress quite strong enough to resist desultory attacks, and protect the long bridge, which was itself strongly walled on either side, and with a barbican at the further end. In former assaults the attacks had always been on the north, the Catholic side, as it might be called; but now the enemy had crossed the river above the fort, and were investing the place on both sides. Long foreseeing this, the old commandant had guarded the bank of the river with the earthwork, a long mound sloped irregularly on either hand, over which numerous little paths had since been worn by the women within, when on their way to the river with their washing; but he had been setting every one to work to destroy and fill up these, so that the rampart was smooth and slopping, perfectly easy indeed to cross, but high and broad enough to serve as an effectual protection against such artillery as the detached troops of the Guise party were likely to possess; and the river was far too wide, deep, and strong in its main current to be forded in the face of a hostile garrison. The captain had about fifty gen d'armes in his garrison, besides the twenty new-comers whom he persisted in regarding as Berenger's charge; and there were, besides, some seventy peasants and silk spinners, who had come into the place as a refuge from the enemy—and with these he hoped to hold put till succour should come from the Duke. He himself took the command of the north gate, where the former assaults had been made, and he instructed to his new ally the tower protecting the bridge, advising him to put on armour; but Berenger, trying on a steel cap, found that his head could not bear the weight and heat, and was forced to return to his broad-brimmed Spanish hat, while Philip in high glee armed himself as best he could with what Captain Falconnet could lend him. he was too much excited to eat of the scanty meal that was set before them: a real flight seemed like a fair-day to him, and he was greatly exalted by his brother's post of command—a post that Berenger felt a heavy responsibility only thrust upon him by the commandant's incapacity of hearing how utterly inexperienced he was.

The formal summons to surrender to the King, and the refusal, had duly passed, and it became evident that the first attack was to be on the bridge-gate. Captain Falconnet hurried to the place, and the fighting was hot and desperate. Every assailant who tried to throw his fagot into the moat became a mark for arquebus or pistol, and the weapons that had so lately hung over the hearth at Nid de Merle were now aimed again and again at the heads and corslets of Guisards, with something of the same exulting excitement as, only higher, more engrossing, and fiercer than, that with which the lads had taken aim at a wolf, or ridden after a fox. Scaling-ladders were planted and hurled down again; stones were cast from the battlements, crushing the enemy; and throughout Berenger's quick eye, alert movements, and great height and strength, made him a most valuable champion, often applauded by a low murmur of commendation from old Falconnet, or a loud shout of 'Ha, well done, the Duke's Englishman,' from the gen d'armes—for English they would have him to be—on the presumptions afforded by his companions, his complexion, and his slow speech. Nor did Philip and Humfrey fail to render good service. But just as the enemy had been foiled in a sharp assault and were dragging away their wounded, Philip touched his brother, and saying, 'I can hold out no longer,' showed blood trickling down his right side.

Berenger threw an arm round him, and Captain Falconnet, seeing his case, said, 'You are hit, petit Anglais; you have done gallantly. There will be time for you to take him to his quarters, sir; these fellows have had enough for the present, and you can tarry with him till you hear the bugle. Whither, did you ask? Let me see. You, Renaud, take him to the chapel: the old chancel behind the boarding will be more private; and desire Madame to look to him. Farewell! I hope it may prove slight; you are a brave youth.' And he shook hands with Philip, whose intense gratification sustained him for many steps afterwards.

He hardly remembered receiving the hurt, and was at first too busy to heed it, or to call off any one attention, until a dread of falling, and being trodden on, had seized him and made him speak; and indeed he was so dizzy that Berenger with difficulty kept him on his feet over the bridge, and in the court lifted him in his arms and carried him almost fainting into the cloister, where by the new-made grave still knelt the black-veiled mourner. She started to her feet as the soldier spoke to her, and seemed at first not to gather the sense of his words; but then, as if with an effort, took them in, made one slight sound like a moan of remonstrance at the mention of the place, but again recollecting herself, led the way along a stone passage, into which a flight of stairs descended into the apsidal chancel, roughly boarded off from the rest of the church. It was a ruinous, desolate place, and Berenger looked round in dismay for some place on which to lay down his almost unconscious burthen. The lady bent her head and signed towards the stone sedilia in the wall; then, after two ineffectual essays to make her voice audible, choked as it was with long weeping, she said, low and huskily, 'We will make him more comfortable soon;' and added some orders to the soldier, who disappeared up the stairway, and Berenger understood that he was gone to fetch bedding. Then taking from under her heavy mourning cloak a large pair of scissors, she signed to Berenger how to support his brother, while they relieved him of his corslet, sword-belt, and doublet. The soldier had meantime returned with an old woman, both loaded with bedding, which she signed to them to arrange in one of the little bays or niches that served to form a crown of lesser chapels around the chancel. She flung aside her muffling cloak, but her black hood still hung far over her face, and every now and then hand or handkerchief was lifted as if to clear her eyes from the tears that would not cease to gather and blind her; and she merely spoke when some direction to an assistant, some sympathetic word to the patient, was needed. Even Philip in his dizzy trance guessed that he was succeeding to the bed whence one much dearer had gone to his quieter rest in the cloister. Before he was laid there, however, the bugle sounded; there was a loud shout, and Philip exclaimed, 'Go, brother!'

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