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The Chaplet of Pearls
by Charlotte M. Yonge
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'Trust him to me, sir,' said the sunken, extinguished voice; 'we will do our best for him.'

He was forced merely to lift Philip to the bed, and to hurry away, while the soldier followed him saying, consolingly, 'Fear not, sir, now our Lady of Hope has him. Nothing goes ill to which she sets her hand.'

Another growl of artillery was not heard, and it was time for the warriors to forget the wounded in the exigencies of the present. An attack was made on both gates at once, and the commandant being engaged at his own post, Berenger had to make the utmost of his brief experience, backed by the counsel of a tough old sergeant; and great was his sense of exhilaration, and absolute enjoyment in this full and worthy taxing of every power of mind or body. The cry among the enemy, 'Aime at the black plume,' attested his prominence; but he black plum was still unscathed when spring twilight fell. The din began to subside; recalls were sounded by the besiegers; and Berenger heard his own exploit bawled in the ear of the deaf commandant, who was advancing over the bridge. The old captain complimented him, told him that he should be well reported of to M. le Duc and Sieur la Noue, and invited him to supper and bed in his own quarters. The supper Berenger accepted, so soon as he should know how it was with his brother; but as to bed, he intended to watch his brother, and visit his post form time to time.

The captain entered by the main door of the chapel, where ten or twelve wounded were now lying, tended by peasant women. Berenger merely passed through, seeing as he went the black hood busy over a freshly-brought-in-patient. He found a door which admitted him through the rough screen of boards to the choir where he had been in the earlier part of the day. The moonlight came through the shivered eastern windows, but a canvas curtain had been hung so as to shelter Philip's vaulted recess from the cold draught, and the bed itself, with a chair beside it, looked neat, clean, and comfortable. Philip himself was cheery; he said the bullet had made a mere flesh-wound, and had passed out on the other side, and the Lady of Hope, as they called he, was just such another as Aunt Cecily, and had made him very comfortable, with clean linen, good cool drinks, and the tenderest hand. But he was very sleepy, so sleepy that he hardly cared to hear of the combat, only he roused himself for a moment to say, 'Brother, I have seen Dolly.'

'Dolly!'

'Our sister Dolly.'

'Ah, Phil! many a strange visitor has come to me in the Walnut Chamber at home.'

'I tell you I was in my perfect senses,' returned Philip; 'there she was, just as when we left her. And, what was stranger still, she talked French.'

'Sleep and see her again,' laughed Berenger.



CHAPTER XLII. THE SILVER BULLET



I am all wonder, O my son, my soul Is stunned within me; powers to speak to him Or to interrogate him have I none, Or even to look on him. —Cowper's ODYSSEY

In his waking senses Philip adhered to his story that his little sister Dolly had stood at the foot of his bed, called him 'le pauvre' and had afterwards disappeared, led away by the nursing lady. It seemed to Berenger a mere delusion of feverish weakness; for Philip had lost a great deal of blood, and the wound, though not dangerous, permitted no attempt at moving, and gave much pain. Of the perfections of the lady as nurse and surgeon Philip could not say enough, and, pale and overwept as he allowed her to be, he declared that he was sure that her beauty must equal Mme. De Selinville's. Berenger laughed, and looking round this strange hospital, now lighted by the full rays of the morning sun, he was much struck by the scene.

It was the chancel of the old abbey church. The door by which they had entered was very small, and perhaps had led merely to the abbot's throne, as an irregularity for his own convenience, and only made manifest by the rending away of the rich wooden stall work, some fragments of which still clung to the walls. The east end, like that of many French churches, formed a semicircle, the high altar having been in the centre, and five tall deep bays forming lesser chapels embracing it, their vaults all gathered up into one lofty crown above, and a slender pillar separating between each chapel, each of which further contained a tall narrow window. Of course, all had been utterly desolated, and Philip was actually lying in one of these chapels, where the sculptured figure of St. John and his Eagle still remained on the wall; and a sufficient remnant of his glowing sanguine robe of love was still in the window to serve as a shield from the bise. The high altar of rich marbles was a mere heap of shattered rubbish; but what surprised Berenger more than all the ruined architectural beauty which his cinque-cento trained taste could not understand, was, that the tiles of the pavement were perfectly clean, and diligently swept, the rubbish piled up in corners; and here and there the relics of a cross or carved figure lay together, as by a tender, reverential hand. Even the morsels of painted glass had been placed side by side on the floor, so as to form a mosaic of dark red, blue, and green; and a child's toy lay beside this piece of patchwork. In the midst of his observations, however, Captain Falconnet's servant came to summon him to breakfast; and the old woman appearing at the same time, he could not help asking whether the lady were coming.

'Oh yes, she will come to dress his wound in good time,' answered the old woman.

'And when? I should like to hear what she thinks of it,' said Berenger.

'How?' said the old woman with a certain satisfaction in his disappointment; 'is our Lady of Hope to be coming down among you gay gallants?'

'But who is this Lady of Hope?' demanded he.

'Who should she be but our good pastor's daughter? Ah! and a brave, good daughter she was too, abiding the siege because his breath was so bad that he could not be moved.'

'What was his name?' asked Berenger, attracted strangely by what he heard.

'Ribault, Monsieur—Pasteur Ribault. Ah! a good man, and sound preacher, when preach he could; but when he could not, his very presence kept the monks' REVENANTS from vexing us—as a cat keeps mice away; and, ah! The children have been changed creatures since Madame dealt with them. What! Monsieur would know why they call her our Lady of Hope? Esperance is her true name; and, moreover, in the former days this abbey had an image that they called Notre-Dame de l'Esperance, and the poor deceived folk thought it did great miracles. And so, when she came hither, and wrought such cures, and brought blessing wherever she went, it became a saying among us that at length we had our true Lady of Hope.

A more urgent summons here forced Berenger away, and his repetition of the same question received much the same answer from deaf old Captain Falconnet. He was obliged to repair to his post with merely a piece of bread in his hand; abut, though vigilance was needful, the day bade fair to be far less actively occupied than its predecessor: the enemy were either disposed to turn the siege into a blockade, or were awaiting reinforcements and heavier artillery; and there were only a few desultory attacks in the early part of the morning. About an hour before noon, however, the besiegers seemed to be drawing out in arms, as if to receive some person of rank, and at the same time sounds were heard on the hills to the eastward, as if troops were on the march. Berenger having just been told by the old sergeant that probably all would be quiet for some time longer, and been almost laughed at by the veteran for consulting him whether it would be permissible for him to be absent a few minutes to visit his brother, was setting out across the bridge for the purpose, his eyes in the direction of the rampart, which followed the curve of the river. The paths which—as has been said—the feet of the washerwomen and drawers of water had worn away in quieter times, had been smoothed and scarped away on the outer side, so as to come to an abrupt termination some feet above the gay marigolds, coltsfoot, and other spring flowers that smiled by the water-side. Suddenly he beheld on the rampart a tiny gray and white figure, fearlessly trotting, or rather dancing, along the summit and the men around him exclaimed, 'The little moonbeam child!' 'A fairy—a changeling!'—'They cannot shoot at such a babe!' 'Nor could they harm her!' 'Hola! little one! Gare! Go back to your mother!' 'Do not disturb yourself, sir; she is safer than you,' were the ejaculations almost at the same moment, while he sprang forward, horrified at the peril of such an infant. He had reached the angle between the bridge and rampart, when he perceived that neither humanity nor superstition were protecting the poor child; for, as she turned down the remnant of one of the treacherous little paths, a man in bright steel and deep black had spurred his horse to the river's brink, and was deliberately taking aim at her. Furious at such brutality, Berenger fired the pistol he held in his hand, and the wretch dropped from his horse; but at the same moment his pistol exploded, and the child rolled down the bank, whence a piteous wail came up, impelling Berenger to leap down to her assistance, in the full face of the enemy. Perhaps he was protected for the moment by the confusion ensuing on the fall of the officer; and when he reached the bottom of the bank, he saw the little creature on her feet, her round cap and gray woolen dress stripped half off in the fall, and her flaxen hair falling round her plump, white, exposed shoulder, but evidently unhurt, and gathering yellow marigolds as composedly as though she had been making May garlands. He snatched her up, and she said, with the same infantine dignity, 'Yes, take me up; the naughty people spoilt the path. But I must take my beads first.' And she tried to struggle out of his arms, pointing therewith to a broken string among the marshy herb-age on which gleamed—the pearls of Ribaumont!

In the few seconds in which he grasped them, and then bore the child up the embankment in desperate bounds, a hail of bullets poured round him, ringing on his breastplate, shearing the plume from his hat, but scarcely even heard; and in another moment he had sprung down, on the inner side, grasping the child with all his might, but not daring even to look at her, in the wondrous flash of that first conviction. She spoke first. 'Put me down, and let me have my beads,' she said in a grave, clear tone; and then first he beheld a pair of dark blue eyes, a sweet wild-rose face—Dolly's all over. He pressed her so fast and so close, in so speechless and over powering an ecstasy, that again she repeated, and in alarm, 'Put me down, I want my mother!'

'Yes, yes! your mother! your mother! your mother!' he cried, unable to let her out of his embrace; and then restraining himself as he saw her frightened eyes, in absolute fear of her spurning him, or struggling from him, 'My sweet! my child! Ah! do you not know me?' Then, remembering how wild this was, he struggled to speak calmly: 'What are you called, my treasure?'

'I am la petite Rayonette,' she said, with puzzled dignity and gravity; 'and my mother says I have a beautiful long name of my own besides.'

'Berangere—my Berangere—-'

'That is what she says over me, as I go to sleep in her bosom at night,' said the child, in a wondering voice, soon exchanged for entreaty, 'Oh, hug me not so hard! Oh, let me go—let me go to her! Mother! mother!'

'My child, mine own, I am take thee!—Oh, do not struggle with me!' he cried, himself imploring now. 'Child, one kiss for thy father;' and meantime, putting absolute force on his vehement affection, he was hurrying to the chancel.

There Philip hailed them with a shout as of desperate anxiety relieved; but before a word could be uttered, down the stairs flew the Lady of Hope, crying wildly, 'Not there—she is not—' but perceiving the little one in the stranger's arms, she held out her own, crying, 'Ah! is she hurt, my angel?'

'Unhurt, Eustacie! Our child is unhurt!' Berenger said, with an agonized endeavour to be calm; but for the moment her instinct was so entirely absorbed in examining into the soundness of her child's limbs, that she neither saw nor hear anything else.

'Eustacie,' he said, laying his hand on her arm, she started back, with bewildered eyes. 'Eustacie—wife? do you not know me? Ah! I forgot that I am changed.'

'You—you—' she gasped, utterly confounded, and gazing as if turned to stone, and though at that moment the vibration of a mighty discharge of cannon rocked the walls, and strewed Philip's bed with the crimson shivers of St. John's robe, yet neither of them would have been sensible of it had not Humfrey rushed in at the same moment, crying, 'They are coming on like friends, sir!'

Berenger passed his hand over his face. 'You will know me WHEN—IF I return, my dearest,' he said. 'If not, then still, thank God! Philip, to you I trust them!'

And with one kiss on that still, cold, almost petrified brow, he had dashed away. There was a space of absolutely motionless silence, save that Eustacie let herself drop on the chancel step, and the child, presently breaking the spell, pulled her to attract her notice to the flowers. 'Mother, here are the soucis for the poor gentleman's broth. See, the naughty people had spoilt all the paths, and I rolled down and tore my frock, and down fell the beads, but be not angry, mother dear, for the good gentleman picked them up, and carried me up the bank.'

'The bank!' cried Eustacie, with a scream, as the sense of the words reached her ears. 'Ah! no wonder! Well might thy danger bring thy father's spirit;' and she grasped the little one fervently in her arms, murmuring, 'Thank, thank God, indeed! Oh! my precious one; and did He send that blessed spirit to rescue thee?'

'And will you tie up my frock? and may I put the flowers into the broth?' chattered Rayonette. 'And why did he kiss me and hug me so tight? and how did he know what you say over me as we fall asleep?'

Eustacie clasped her tighter, with a convulsive, shudder of thankfulness; and Philip, but half hearing, and barely gathering the meaning of her mood, ventured to speak, 'Madame—-'

As if touched by an electric shock, Eustacie started up, as recalled to instant needs, and coming towards him said, 'Do you want anything, sir? Pardon one who has but newly seen a spirit from the other world—brought by his child's danger.' And the dazed, trance-like look was returning.

'Spirit!' cried Philip. 'Nay, Madame, it was himself. Ah! and you are she whom we have sought so long; and this dear child—no wonder she has Dolly's face.'

'Who—what?' said Eustacie, pressing her temples with her hands, as if to retain her senses. 'Speak; was yonder a living or dead man—and who?'

'Living, thank God! and your own husband; that is, if you are really Eustacie. Are you indeed?' he added, becoming doubtful.

'Eustacie, that am I,' she murmured. 'But he is dead—they killed him; I swathe blood where he had waited for me. His child's danger brought him from the grave.'

'No, no. Look at me, sister Eustacie. Listen to me. Osbert brought him home more dead than alive—but alive still.'

'No!' she cried, half passionately. 'Never could he have lived and left me to mourn him so bitterly.'

'If you knew—' cried Philip, growing indignant. 'For weeks he lay in deadly lethargy, and when, with his left hand, he wrote and sent Osbert to you, your kinsfolk threw the poor fellow into a dungeon, and put us off with lies that you were married to your cousin. All believed, only he—sick, helpless, speechless, as he was—he trusted you still; and so soon as Mericour came, though he could scarcely brook the saddle, nothing would hold him from seeking you. We saw only ruin at La Sablerie, and well-nigh ever since have we been clapped up in prison by your uncle. We were on the way to Quinet to seek you. He has kept his faith whole through wounds and pain and prison and threats,—ay, and sore temptation,' cried Philip, waxing eloquent; 'and, oh, it cannot be that you do not care for him!'

'Doubt not my faith, sir,' said Eustacie, proudly; 'I have been as true to him as if I had known he lived. Nor do I know who you are to question me.'

At this moment the child pressed forward, holding between her tow careful plump hands a red earthenware bowl, with the tisane steaming in it, and the yellow petals strewn over the surface. She and Philip had taken a great fancy to each other, and while her mother was busy with the other patients, she had been left to her quiet play with her fragments of glass, which she carried one by one to display, held up to the light, to her new friends; who, in his weak state, and after his long captivity, found her the more charming playmate because she so strangely reminded him of his own little sisters. She thought herself his little nurse, and missing from his broth the yellow petals that she had been wont to think the charm of tisane, the housewifely little being had trotted off, unseen and unmissed, across the quadrangle, over the embankment, where she had often gathered them, or attended on the 'lessive' on the river's brink; and now she broke forth exultingly, 'Here, here is the tisane, with all the soucis. Let me feed you with them, sir.'

'Ah! thou sweet one,' gasped Philip, 'I could as soon eat them as David could drink the water! For these—for these—-!' and the tears rushed into his eyes. 'Oh! let me but kiss her, Madame; I loved her from the first moment. She has the very face of my little sweeting, (what French word is good enough for her?) didst run into peril for me, not knowing how near I was to thee? What, must I eat it? Love me then.'

But the boarded door was thrown back, and 'Madame, more wounded,' resounded. The thrill of terror, the elastic reaction, at the ensuing words, 'from the north gate,' was what made Eustacie in an instant know herself to be not widow but wife. She turned round at once, holding out her hand, and saying with a shaken, agitated voice, 'Mon frere, pardon me, I know not what I say; and, after all, he will find me bien mechante still.' Then as Philip devoured her hand with kisses, and held it fast, 'I must go; these poor men need me. When I can, I will return.'

'Only let me have the little one,' entreated Philip; 'it is almost home already to look at her.'

And when Eustacie next looked in on them, they were both fast asleep.

She, poor thing, the only woman with brains among the many scared females in the garrison, might not rest or look the wonder in the face. Fresh sufferers needed her care, and related gallant things of 'the Duke's Englishman,' things of desperate daring and prowess that sent the blood throbbing to her heart with exultation, but only to be followed by a pang of anguish at having let him go back to peril—nay, perhaps, to death—without a word of tenderness or even recognition. She imaged him as the sunny-faced youth who had claimed her in the royal castle, and her longing to be at his side and cling to him as his own became every moment more fervent and irresistible, until she gladly recollected the necessity of carrying food to the defenders; and snatching an interval from her hospital cares, she sped to the old circular kitchen of the monastery, where she found the lame baker vainly trying to organize a party of frightened women to carry provisions to the garrison of the bridge-tower.

'Give some to me,' she said. 'My husband is there! I am come to fetch his dinner.'

The peasant women looked and whispered as if they thought that, to add to their misfortunes, their Lady of Hope had become distracted by grief; and one or two, who held the old faith, and were like the crane among the sparrows, even observed that it was a judgment for the profane name that had been given her, against which she had herself uniformly protested.

'My husband is come,' said Eustacie, looking round with shining eyes. 'Let us be brave wives, and not let our men famish.'

She lifted a loaf and a pitcher of broth, and with the latter poised on her erect and graceful head, and elastic though steady step, she led the way; the others following her with a sort of awe, as of one they fancied in a superhuman state. In fact, there was no great danger in traversing the bridge with its lofty parapet on either side; and her mind was too much exalted and moved to be sensible of anything but a certain exulting awe of the battle sounds. There was, however, a kind of lull in the assault which had raged so fiercely ever since the fall of the officer, and the arrival of the reinforcements. Either the enemy had paused to take food, or were devising some fresh mode of attack; and as the line of women advanced, there started forth from under the arch a broad-shouldered, white-faced, golden-bearded personage, who cried joyously, 'My dearest, my bravest! this for me!' and lifted the pitcher from her head as he grasped her hand with a flesh and blood clasp indeed, but the bright-cheeked, wavy-haired lad of her dream withered away with a shock of disappointment, and she only looked up with wistful puzzled earnestness instead of uttering the dear name that she had so long been whispering to herself. 'Dearest,' he said, 'this is precious indeed to me, that you should let me feast my eyes once more on you. But you may not tarry; the rogues may renew the attack at any moment.'

She had thought of herself as insisting on standing beside him and sharing his peril. Had he been himself she must have don so, but this was a stranger, whose claiming her made her shrink apart till she could feel the identity which, though she believed, she could not realize. Her hand lay cold and tremulous within his warm pressure, but he was too much wrought up and too full of joy and haste to be sensible of anything but of the brave affection that had dared all to come to him; and he was perfectly happy, even as a trumpet-call among the foe warned him to press her fingers to his lips and say, as his bright blue eye kindled, 'God grant that we may meet and thank Him tonight! Farewell, my lost and found! I fight as one who has something to fight for.'

He might not leave his post, but he watched her with eyes that could not be satiated, as she recrossed the bridge; and, verily, his superabundant ecstasy, and the energy that was born of it, were all needed to sustain the spirits of his garrison through that terrible afternoon. The enemy seemed to be determined to carry the place before it could be relieved, and renewed the storm again and again with increasing violence; while the defenders, disheartened by their pertinacity, dismayed at the effects of the heavy artillery, now brought to bear on the tower, and direfully afraid of having the bridge destroyed, would have abandoned their barbican and shut themselves up within the body of the place, had not Berenger been here, there, and everywhere, directing, commanding, exhorting, cheering, encouraging, exciting enthusiasm by word and example, winning proud admiration by feats of valour and dexterity sprung of the ecstatic inspiration of new-found bliss, and watching, as the conscious defender of his own most beloved, without a moment's respite, till twilight stillness sank on the enemy, and old Falconnet came to relieve him, thanking him for his gallant defence, and auguring that, by noonday tomorrow at latest, M. le Duc would succour them, unless he were hampered by any folly of this young Navarre.

Too blissful for the sense of fatigue, Berenger began to impart to the Commandant his delight, but the only answer he got was 'Hope, yes, every hope;' and he again recognized what he had already perceived, that the indistinctness of his utterance made him entirely unintelligible to the deaf Commandant, and that shouting did but proclaim to the whole garrison, perhaps even to the enemy's camp, what was still too new a joy not to be a secret treasure of delight. So he only wrung the old Captain's hand, and strode away as soon as he was released.

It was nearly dark, in spite of a rising moon, but beneath the cloister arch was torchlight, glancing on a steel head-piece, and on a white cap, both bending down over a prostrate figure; and he heard the voice he loved so well say, 'It is over! I can do no more. It were best to dig his grave at once here in silence—it will discourage the people less. Renaud and Armand, here!'

He paused for a few minutes unseen in the shadow while she closed the eyes and composed the limbs of the dead soldier; then, kneeling, said the Lord's Prayer in French over him. Was this the being he had left as the petted plaything of the palace? When she rose, she came to the arch and gazed wistfully across the moonlit quadrangle, beyond the dark shade cast by the buildings, saying to the soldier, 'You are sure he was safe?'

'My Eustacie,' said Berenger, coming forward, 'we meet in grave times!'

The relief of knowing him safe after the sickening yearnings and suspense of the day, and moreover the old ring of tenderness in his tone, made her spring to him with real warmth of gladness, and cry, 'It is you! All is well.

'Blessedly well, ma mie, my sweetheart,' he said, throwing his arm round her, and she rested against him murmuring, 'Now I feel it! Thou are thyself!' They were in the dark cloister passage, and when he would have moved forward she clung closer to him, and murmured, 'Oh, wait, wait, yet an instant—thus I can feel that I have thee—the same—my own!'

'My poor darling,' said Berenger, after a second, 'you must learn to bear with both my looks and speech, though I be but a sorry shattered fellow for you.'

'No, no,' she cried, hanging on him with double fervour. 'No, I am loving you the more already,—doubly—trebly—a thousand times. Only those moments were so precious, they made all these long years as nothing. But come to the little one, and to your brother.'

The little one had already heard them, and was starting forward to meet them, though daunted for a moment by the sight of the strange father: she stood on the pavement, in the full flood of the moonlight from the east window, which whitened her fair face, flaxen hair, and gray dress, so that she did truly look like some spirit woven of the moonbeams. Eustacie gave a cry of satisfaction: 'Ah! good, good; it was by moonlight that I saw her first!'

Berenger took her in his arm, and held her to his breast with a sense of insatiable love, while Philip exclaimed, 'Ay, well may you make much of her, brother. Well might you seek them far and wide. Such treasures are not to be found in the wide world.'

Berenger without answering, carried the little one to the step of the ruined high altar, and there knelt, holding Eustacie by the hand, the child in one arm, and, with the moon glancing on his high white brow and earnest face, he spoke a few words of solemn thanks and prayer for a blessing on their reunion, and the babe so wonderfully preserved to them.

Not till then did he carry her into the lamplight by Philip's bed, and scan therein every feature, to satisfy his eyes with the fulfilled hope that had borne him through those darkest days, when, despairing of the mother, the thought of the child had still sustained him to throw his will into the balance of the scale between life and death. Little Berangere gazed up into his face silently, with wondering, grave, and somewhat sleepy eyes, and then he saw them fix themselves on his powder-grimed and blood-stained hands. 'Ah! little heart,' he said, 'I am truly in no state to handle so pure a piece of sugar as thou; I should have rid myself of the battle-stains ere touching thee, but how recollect anything at such a moment?'

Eustacie was glad he had broken the spell of silence; for having recovered her husband, her first instinct was to wait upon him. She took the child from him, explaining that she was going to put her to bed in her own rooms up the stone stair, which for the present were filled with fugitive women and children who had come in from the country, so that the chancel must continue the lodging of Berenger and his brother; and for the time of her absence she brought him water to wash away the stains, and set before him the soup she had kept warm over her little charcoal brazier. It was only when thus left that he could own, in answer to Philip's inquiries, that he could feel either hunger or weariness; nay, he would only acknowledge enough of the latter to give a perfect charm to rest under such auspices. Eustacie had dispatched her motherly cares promptly enough to be with him again just as in taking off his corselet he had found that it had been pierced by a bullet, and pursuing the trace, through his doublet, he found it lodged in that purse which he had so long worn next his heart, where it had spent its force against the single pearl of Ribaumont. And holding it up to the light, he saw that it was of silver. Then there returned on him and Philip the words they had heard two days before, of silver bullets forged for the destruction of the white moonlight fairy, and he further remembered the moment's shock and blow that in the midst of his wild amaze on the river's bank had made him gather his breath and strength to bound desperately upwards, lest the next moment he should find himself wounded and powerless.

For the innocent, then, had the shot been intended; and she running into danger out of her sweet, tender instincts of helpfulness, had been barely saved at the extreme peril of her unconscious father's life. Philip, whose vehement affection for the little one had been growing all day, was in the act of telling Berenger to string the bullet in the place of the injured pearl, as the most precious heirloom of Ribaumont bravery, when Eustacie returned, and learning all, grew pale and shuddered as danger had never made her do before: but this strange day had almost made a coward of her.

'And this is has spared,' said Berenger, taking out the string of little yellow shells. 'Dost know them, sweet heart? They have been my chaplet all this time.'

'Ah!' cried Eustacie, 'poor, good Mademoiselle Noemi! she threaded them for my child, when she was very little. Ah! could she have given them to you—could it then not have been true—that horror?'

'Alas! it was too true. I found these shells in the empty cradle, in the burnt house, and deemed them all I should ever have of my babe.'

'Poor Noemi! poor Noemi! She always longed to be a martyr; but we fled from her, and the fate we had brought on her. That was the thought that preyed on my dear father. He grieved so to have left his sheep—and it was only for my sake. Ah! I have brought evil on all who have been good to me, beginning with you. You had better cast me off, or I shall bring yet worse!'

'Let it be so, if we are only together.'

He drew her to him and she laid her head on his shoulder, murmuring, 'Ah! father, father, were you but here to see it. So desolate yesterday, so ineffably blest today. Oh! I cannot even grieve for him now, save that he could not just have seen us; yet I think he knew it would be so.'

'Nay, it may be that he does see us,' said Berenger. 'Would that I had known who it was whom you were laying down "en paix et seurte bonne!" As it was, the psalm brought precious thoughts of Chateau Leurre, and the little wife who was wont to sing it with me.'

'Ah!' said Eustacie, 'it was when he sang those words as he was about to sleep in the ruin of the Temple that first I—cowering there in terror—knew him for no Templar's ghost, but for a friend. That story ended my worst desolation. That night he became my father; the next my child came to me!'

'My precious treasure! Ah! what you must have undergone, and I all unknowing, capable of nothing wiser than going out of my senses, and raging in a fever because I could convince no one that those were all lies about your being aught but my true and loving wife. But tell me, what brought thee hither to be the tutelary patron, where, but for the siege, I had over-passed thee on the way to Quinet?'

Then Eustacie told him how the Italian pedlar had stolen her letters, and attempted to poison her child—the pedlar whom he soon identified with that wizard who had talked to him of 'Esperance,' until the cue had evidently been given by the Chevalier. Soon after the Duke had dispatched a messenger to say that the Chevalier de Ribaumont was on the way to demand his niece; and as it was a period of peace, and the law was decidedly on his side, Madame de Quinet would be unable to offer any resistance. She therefore had resolved to send Eustacie away—not to any of the seaports whither the uncle would be likely to trace her, but absolutely to a place which he would have passed through on his journey into Guyenne. The monastery of Notre-Dame de l'Esperance at Pont de Dronne had been placed there, as well as a colony of silk-spinners, attracted by the mulberry-trees of the old abbey garden. These, however, having conceived some terror of the ghosts of the murdered monks, had entreated for a pastor to protect them; and Madame la Duchesse thought that in this capacity Isaac Gardon, known by one of the many aliases to which the Calvinist ministers constantly resorted, might avoid suspicion for the present. She took the persecuted fugitives for some stages in an opposite direction, in her own coach, then returned to face and baffle the Chevalier, while her trusty steward, by a long detour, conducted them to Pont de Dronne, which they reached the very night after to Chevalier had returned through it to Nid de Merle.

The pastor and his daughter were placed under the special protection of Captain Falconnet, and the steward had taken care that they should be well lodged in three rooms that had once been the abbot's apartments. Their stay had been at first intended to be short, but the long journey had been so full of suffering to Isaac, and left such serious effects, that Eustacie could not bear to undertake it again, and Madame de Quinet soon perceived that she was safer there than at the chateau, since strangers were seldom admitted to the fortress, and her presence there attracted no attention. But for Isaac Gardon's declining health, Eustacie would have been much happier here than at the chateau; the homely housewifely life, where all depended on her, suited her; and, using her lessons in domestic arts of nursing and medicine for the benefit of her father's flock, she had found, to her dismay, that the simple people, in their veneration, had made her into a sort of successor to the patroness of the convent. Isaac had revived enough for a time to be able to conduct the worship in the church, and to instruct some his flock; but the teaching of the young had been more and more transferred to her, and, as he ingenuously said, had taught her more than she ever knew before. He gradually became weaker through more suffering, and was absolutely incapable of removal, when an attack by the Guisards was threatened. Eustacie might have been sent back to Quinet; but she would not hear of leaving him; and this first had been a mere slight attack, as if a mere experiment on the strength of the place. She had, however, then had to take the lead in controlling the women, and teaching them to act as nurses, and to carry out provisions; and she must then have been seen by some one, who reported her presence there to Narcisse—perhaps by the Italian pedlar. Indeed Humfrey, who came in for a moment to receive his master's orders, report his watch, and greet his lady, narrated, on the authority of the lately enlisted men-at-arms, that M. de Nid de Merle had promised twenty crowns to any one who might shoot down the heretics' little white diablesse.

About six weeks had elapsed since the first attack on Pont de Dronne, and in that time Gardon had sunk rapidly. He died as he lived, a gentle, patient man, not a characteristic Calvinist, though his lot had been thrown with that party in his perplexed life of truth-seeking and disappointment in the aspirations and hopes of early youth. He had been, however, full of peace and trust that he should open his eyes where the light was clear, and no cloud on either side would mar his perception; and his thankfulness had been great for the blessing that his almost heaven-sent daughter had been to him in his loneliness, bereavement, and decay. Much as he loved her, he did not show himself grieved or distressed on her account; but, as he told her, he took the summons to leave her as a sign that his task was done, and the term of her trials ended. 'I trust as fully,' he said, 'that thou wilt soon be in safe and loving hands, as though I could commit thee to them.'

And so he died in her arms, leaving her a far fuller measure of blessing and of love than ever she had derived from her own father; and as the enemy's trumpets were already sounding on the hills, she had feared insult to his remains, and had procured his almost immediate burial in the cloister, bidding the assistants sing, as his farewell, that evening psalm which had first brought soothing to her hunted spirit.

There, while unable, after hours of weeping, to tear herself from the grave of her father and protector, had she in her utter desolation been startled by the summons, not only to attend to the wounded stranger, but to lodge him in the chancel. 'Only this was wanting,' was the first thought in her desolation, for this had been her own most cherished resort. Either the bise, or fear of a haunted spot, or both, had led to the nailing up of boards over the dividing screen, so that the chancel was entirely concealed from the church; and no one ever thought of setting foot there till Eustacie, whose Catholic reverence was indestructible, even when she was only half sure that it was not worse than a foible, had stolen down thither, grieved at its utter desolation, and with fond and careful hands had cleansed it, and amended the ruin so far as she might. She had no other place where she was sure of being uninterrupted; and here had been her oratory, where she daily prayed, and often came to hide her tears and rally her spirits through that long attendance on her fatherly friend. It had been a stolen pleasure. Her reverent work there, if once observed, would have been treated as rank idolatry; and it was with consternation as well as grief that she found, by the Captain's command, that this her sanctuary and refuge was to be invaded by strange soldiers! Little did she think—-!

And thus they sat, telling each other all, on the step of the ruined chancel, among the lights and shadows of the apse. How unlike to stately Louvre's halls of statuary and cabinets of porcelain, or the Arcadian groves of Montpipeau! And yet how little they recked that they were in a beleaguered fortress, in the midst of ruins, wounded sufferers all around, themselves in hourly jeopardy. It was enough that they had one another. They were so supremely happy that their minds unconsciously gathered up those pale lights and dark fantastic shades as adjuncts of their bliss.



CHAPTER XLIII. LE BAISER D'EUSTACIE



No pitying voice, no eye, affords One tear to grace his obsequies. —GRAY

Golden sunshine made rubies and sapphires of the fragments of glass in the windows of Notre-Dame de l'Esperance, and lighted up the brown face and earnest eyes of the little dark figure, who, with hands clasped round her knees, sat gazing as if she could never gaze her fill, upon the sleeping warrior beside whom she sat, his clear straight profile like a cameo, both in chiseling and in colour, as it lay on the brown cloak where he slept the profound sleep of content and of fatigue.

Neither she nor Philip would have spoken or stirred to break that well-earned rest; but sounds from without were not long in opening his eyes, and as they met her intent gaze, he smiled and said, 'Good morrow, sweet heart! What, learning how ugly a fellow is come back to thee?'

'No, indeed! I was trying to trace thine old likeness, and then wondering how I ever liked thy boyish face better than the noble look thou bearest now!'

'Ah! when I set out to come to thee, I was a walking rainbow; yet I was coxcomb enough to think thou wouldst overlook it.'

'Show me those cruel strokes,' she said; 'I see one'—and her finger traced the seam as poor King Charles had done—'but where is the one my wicked cousin called by that frightful name?'

'Nay, verily, that sweet name spared my life! A little less spite at my peach cheek, and I had been sped, and had not lisped and stammered all my days in honour of le baiser d'Eustacie!' and as he pushed aside his long golden silk moustache to show the ineffaceable red and purple scar, he added, smiling, 'It has waited long for its right remedy.'

At that moment the door in the rood-screen opened. Captain Falconnet's one eye stared in amazement, and from beneath his gray moustache thundered forth the word 'Comment!' in accents fit to wake the dead.

Was this Esperance, the most irreproachable of pastor's daughters and widows? 'What, Madame, so soon as your good father is under ground? At least I thought ONE woman could be trusted; but it seems we must see to the wounded ourselves.'

She blushed, but stood her ground; and Berenger shouted, 'She is my wife, sir!—my wife whom I have sought so long!'

'That must be as Madame la Duchesse chooses,' said the Captain. 'She is under her charge, and must be sent to her as soon as this canaille is cleared off. To your rooms, Madame!'

'I am her husband!' again cried Berenger. 'We have been married sixteen years.'

'You need not talk to me of dowry; Madame la Duchesse will settle that, if you are fool enough to mean anything by it. No, no, Mademoiselle, I've no time for folly. Come with me, sir, and see if that be true which they say of the rogues outside.'

And putting his arm into Berenger's, he fairly carried him off, discoursing by the way on feu M. l'Amiral's saying that 'over-strictness in camp was perilous, since a young saint, an old devil,' but warning him that this was prohibited gear, as he was responsible for the young woman to Madame la Duchesse. Berenger, who had never made the Captain hear anything that he did not know before, looked about for some interpreter whose voice might be more effectual, but found himself being conducted to the spiral stair of the church steeple; and suddenly gathering that some new feature in the case had arisen, followed the old man eagerly up the winding steps to the little square of leaden roof where the Quinet banner was planted. It commanded a wide and splendid view, to the Bay of Biscay on the one hand, and the inland mountains on the other; but the warder who already stood there pointed silently to the north, where, on the road by which Berenger had come, was to be seen a cloud of dust, gilded by the rays of the rising sun.

Who raised it was a matter of no doubt; and Berenger's morning orisons were paid with folded hands, in silent thanks-giving, as he watched the sparkling of pikes and gleaming of helmets—and the white flag of Bourbon at length became visible.

Already the enemy below were sending out scouts—they rode to the top of the hill—then a messenger swan his horse across the river. In the camp before the bridge-tower men buzzed out of their tents, like ants whose hill is disturbed; horses were fastened to the cannon, tents were struck, and it was plain that the siege was to be raised.

Captain Falconnet did his ally the honour to consult him on the expedience of molesting the Guisards by a sally, and trying to take some of their guns; but Berenger merely bowed to whatever he said, while he debated aloud the PROS and CONS, and at last decided that the garrison had been too much reduced for this, and that M. le Duc would prefer finding them drawn up in good order to receive him, to their going chasing and plundering disreputable among the enemy—the Duke being here evidently a much greater personage than the King of Navarre, hereditary Governor of Guyenne though he were. Indeed, nothing was wanting to the confusion of Berenger's late assailants. In the camp on the north side of the river, things were done with some order; but that on the other side was absolutely abandoned, and crowds were making in disorder for the ford, leaving everything behind them, that they might not have their retreat cut off. Would there be a battle? Falconnet, taking in with his eye the numbers of the succouring party, thought the Duke would allow the besiegers to depart unmolested, but remembered with a sigh that young king had come to meddle in their affair!

However, it was needful to go down and marshal the men for the reception of the new-comers, or to join in the fight, as the case might be.

And it was a peaceful entrance that took place some hours later, and was watched from the windows of the prior's rooms by Eustacie, her child, and Philip, whom she had been able to install in her own apartments, which had been vacated by the refugee women in haste to return home, and where he now sat in Maitre Gardon's great straw chair, wrapped in his loose gown, and looking out at the northern gates, thrown open to receive the King and Duke, old Falconnet presenting the keys to the Duke, the Duke bowing low as he offered them to the King, and the King waving them back to the Duke and the Captain. Then they saw Falconnet presenting the tall auxiliary who had been so valuable to him, his gesture as he pointed up to the window, and the King's upward look, as he doffed his hat and bowed low, while Eustacie responded with the most graceful of reverences, such as reminded Philip that his little sister-in-law and tender nurse was in truth a great court lady.

Presently Berenger came up-stairs, bringing with him his faithful foster-brother Osbert, who, though looking gaunt and lean, had nearly recovered his strength, and had accompanied the army in hopes of finding his master. The good fellow was full of delight at the welcome of his lady, and at once bestirred himself in assisting her in rectifying the confusion in which her guests had left her apartment.

Matters had not long been set straight when steps were heard on the stone stair, and, the door opening wide, Captain Falconnet's gruff voice was heard, 'This way, Monseigneur; this way, Sire.'

This was Madame la Baronne de Ribaumont's first reception. She was standing at the dark walnut table, fresh starching and crimping Berenger's solitary ruff, while under her merry superintendence those constant playfellows, Philip and Rayonette, were washing, or pretending to wash, radishes in a large wooden bowl, and Berenger was endeavouring to write his letter of good tidings, to be sent by special messenger to his grand-father. Philip was in something very like a Geneva gown; Eustacie wore her prim white cap and frill, and coarse black serge kirtle; and there was but one chair besides that one which Philip was desired to retain, only two three-legged stools and a bench.

Nevertheless, Madame de Ribaumont was equal to the occasion; nothing could have been more courtly, graceful, or unembarrassed than her manner of receiving of King's gallant compliments, and of performing all the courtesies suited to the hostess and queen of the place: it was the air that would have befitted the stateliest castle hall, yet that in its simplicity and brightness still more embellished the old ruinous convent-cell. The King was delighted, he sat down upon one of the three-legged stools, took Rayonette upon his knee, undertook to finish washing the radishes, but ate nearly all he washed, declaring that they put him in mind of his old hardy days on the mountains of Bearn. He insisted on hearing all Rayonette's adventure in detail; and on seeing the pearls and the silver bullet, 'You could scarcely have needed the token, sir,' said he with a smile to Berenger; 'Mademoiselle had already shown herself of the true blood of the bravest of knights.'

The tidings of the attack on Pont de Dronne had caused the Duke to make a forced march to its relief, in which the King had insisted on joining him; and they now intended to wait at Pont de Dronne till the rest of the troops came up, and to continue their march through Guyenne to Nerac, the capital of Henry's county of Foix. The Duke suggested that if Philip were well enough to move when the army proceeded, the family might then take him to Quinet, where the Duchess would be very desirous to see Madame; and therewith they took leave with some good-humoured mirth as to whether M. le Ribaumont would join them at supper, or remain in the bosom of his family, and whether he were to be regarded as a gay bridegroom or a husband of sixteen year's standing.

'Nay,' said the King, 'did his good Orpheus know how nearly his Eurydice had slipped through his fingers again? how M. de Quinet had caught the respectable Pluto yonder in the gray moustache actually arranging an escort to send the lady safe back to Quinet bon gre malgre—and truly a deaf Pluto was worse than even Orpheus had encountered!'

So laughing, he bowed again his compliments; but Eustacie demanded, so soon as he was gone, what he meant by calling her by such names. If he thought it was her Christian name, it was over-familiar—if not, she liked it less.

'It is only that he last saw you in the Infernal Region, ma mie,' said Berenger; 'and I have sought you ever since, as Orpheus sought Eurydice.'

But her learning did not extend so far; and when the explanation was made, she pouted, and owned that she could not bear to be reminded of the most foolish and uncomfortable scene in her life—the cause of all her troubles; and as Berenger was telling her of Diane's confession that her being involved in the pageant was part of the plot for their detention at Paris, Osbert knocked at the door, and entered with a bundle in his arms, and the air of having done the right thing.

'There, sir,' he said with proud satisfaction, 'I have been to the camp across the river. I heard there were good stuffs to be had there for nothing, and thought I would see if I could find a coat for Monsieur Philippe, for his own is a mere ruin.'

This was true, for Eustacie had been deciding that between blood and rents it had become a hopeless case for renovation; and Osbert joyfully displayed a beautifully-embroidered coat of soft leather, which he had purchased for a very small sum of a plunderer who had been there before him. The camp had been so hastily abandoned that all the luggage had been left, and, like a true valet, Osbert had not neglected the opportunity of replenishing his master's wardrobe. 'And,' said he, 'I saw there on whom M. le Baron knows,—M. de Nid de Merle.'

'Here!' cried Eustacie, startled for a moment, but her eyes resting reassured on her husband.

'Madame need not be alarmed,' said Osbert; 'M. le Baron has well repaid him. Ah! ah! there he lies, a spectacle for all good Christians to delight in.'

'It was then he, le scelerat?' exclaimed Berenger; 'I have already thought it possible.'

'And he fell by your hands!' cried Eustacie. 'That is as it should be.'

'Yes, Madame,' said Osbert; 'it did my very heart good to see him writhing there like a crushed viper. M. le Baron's bullet was mortal, and his own people thought him not worth the moving, so there he lies on the ground howling and cursing. I would have given him the coup de grace myself, but that I thought M. le Baron might have some family matters to settle with him; so I only asked what he thought now of clapping guiltless folk into dungeons, and shooting innocent children like sparrows; but he grinned and cursed like a demon, and I left him.'

'In any one's charge?' asked Berenger.

'In the field's, who is coming for him,' said the descendant of the Norseman. 'I only told Humfrey that if he saw any one likely to meddle he should tell them he was reserved for you. Eh! M. le Baron is not going now. Supper is about to be served, and if M. le Baron would let me array him with this ruff of Spanish point, and wax the ends of his belle moustache—-'

'It is late,' added Eustacie, laying her hand on his arm; 'there may be wild men about—he may be desperate! Oh, take care!'

'Ma mie, do you not think me capable of guarding myself from a wild cat leap of a dying man? He must not be left thus. Remember he is a Ribaumont.'

Vindictiveness and revenge had their part in the fire of Eustacie's nature. Many a time had she longed to strangle Narcisse; and she was on the point of saying, 'Think of his attempts on that little one's life—think of your wounds and captivity;' but she had not spent three years with Isaac Gardon without learning that there was sin in giving way to her keen hatred; and she forced herself to silence, while Berenger said, reading her face, 'Keep it back, sweet heart! Make it not harder for me. I would as soon go near a dying serpent, but it were barbarity to leave him as Osbert describes.'

Berenger was too supremely and triumphantly happy not to be full of mercy; and as Osbert guided him to the hut where the miserable man lay, he felt little but compassion. The scene was worse than he had expected; for not only had the attendants fled, but plunderers had come in their room, rent away the coverings from the bed, and torn the dying man from it. Livid, nearly naked, covered with blood, his fingers hacked, and ears torn for the sake of the jewels on them, lay the dainty and effeminate tiger-fop of former days, moaning and scarcely sensible. But when the mattress had been replaced, and Berenger had lifted him back to it, laid a cloak over him, and moistened his lips, he opened his eyes, but only to exclaim, 'You there! As if I had not enough to mock me! Away!' and closed them sullenly.

'I would try to relieve you, cousin,' said Berenger.

The answer was a savage malediction on hypocrisy, and the words, 'And my sister?'

'Your sister is in all honour and purity at the nunnery of Lucon.'

He laughed a horrible, incredulous laugh. 'Safely disposed of ere you cajoled la petite with the fable of your faithfulness! Nothing like a Huguenot for lying to both sides;' and then ensued another burst of imprecations on the delay that had prevented him from seizing the fugitives—till he—till he felt as if the breath of hell were upon him, and could not help vindicating himself, vain though he knew it to be: 'Narcisse de Ribaumont,' he said gravely, 'my word has never been broken, and you know the keeping of it has not been without cost. On that word believe that Madame de Selinville is as spotless a matron as when she periled herself to save my life. I never even knew her sex till I had drawn her half drowned from the sea, and after that I only saw her in the presence of Dom Colombeau of Nissard, in whose care I left her.'

Narcisse's features contorted themselves into a frightful sneer as he muttered, 'The intolerable fool; and that he should have got the better of me, that is if it be true—and I believe not a word of it.'

'At least,' said Berenger, 'waste not these last hours on hating and reviling me, but let this fellow of mine, who is a very fair surgeon, bind your wound again.'

'Eh!' said Narcisse, spitefully, turning his head, 'your own rogue? Let me see what work he made of le baiser d'Eustacie. Pray, how does it please her?'

'She thanks Heaven that your chief care was to spoil my face.'

'I hear she is a prime doctress; but of course you brought her not hither lest she should hear HOW you got out of our keeping.'

'She knows it.'

'Ah! she has been long enough at court to know one must overlook, that one's own little matters may be overlooked.'

Berenger burst out at last, 'Her I will not hear blasphemed: the next word against her I leave you to yourself.'

'That is all I want,' said Narcisse. 'These cares of yours are only douceurs to your conceited heretical conscience, and a lengthening out of this miserable affair. You would scoff at the only real service you could render me.'

'And that is—-'

'To fetch a priest. Ha! ha! one of your sort would sooner hang me. You had rather see me perish body and soul in this Huguenot dog-hole! What! do you stammer? Bring a psalm-singing heretic here, and I'll teach him and you what you MAY call blasphemy.'

'A priest you shall have, cousin,' said Berenger, gravely; 'I will do my utmost to bring you one. Meanwhile, strive to bring yourself into a state in which he may benefit you.'

Berenger was resolved that the promise should be kept. He saw that despair was hardening the wretched man's heart, and that the possibility of fulfilling his Church's rites might lead him to address himself to repentance; but the difficulties were great. Osbert, the only Catholic at hand, was disposed to continue his vengeance beyond the grave, and only at his master's express command would even exercise his skill to endeavour to preserve life till the confessor could be brought. Ordinary Huguenots would regard the desire of Narcisse as a wicked superstition, and Berenger could only hurry back to consult some of the gentlemen who might be supposed more unprejudiced.

As he was crossing the quadrangle at full speed, he almost ran against the King of Navarre, who was pacing up and down reading letters, and who replied to his hasty apologies by saying he looked as if the fair Eurydice had slipped through his hands again into the Inferno.

'Not so, Sire, but there is one too near those gates. Nid de Merle is lying at the point of death, calling for a priest.'

'Ventre Saint-Gris!' exclaimed the King, 'he is the very demon of the piece, who carved your face, stole your wife, and had nearly shot your daughter.'

'The more need of his repentance, Sire, and without a priest he will not try to repent. I have promised him one.'

'A bold promise!' said Henry. 'Have you thought how our good friends here are likely to receive a priest of Baal into the camp?'

'No, Sire, but my best must be done. I pray you counsel me.'

Henry laughed at the simple confidence of the request, but replied, 'The readiest way to obtain a priest will be to ride with a flag of truce to the enemy's camp—they are at St. Esme—and say that M. de Nid de Merle is a prisoner and dying, and that I offer safe-conduct to any priest that will come to him—though whether a red-hot Calvinist will respect my safe-conduct or your escort is another matter.'

'At least, Sire, you sanction my making this request?'

'Have you men enough to take with you to guard you from marauders?'

'I have but two servants, Sire, and I have left them with the wounded man.'

'Then I will send with you half a dozen Gascons, who have been long enough at Paris with me to have no scruples.'

By the time Berenger had explained matters to his wife and brother, and snatched a hasty meal, a party of gay, soldierly-looking fellows were in the saddle, commanded by a bronzed sergeant who was perfectly at home in conducting messages between contending parties. After a dark ride of about five miles, the camp at the village of St. Esme was reached, and this person recommended that he himself should go forward with a trumpet, since M. de Ribaumont was liable to be claimed as an escaped prisoner. There was then a tedious delay, but at length the soldier returned, and another horseman with him. A priest who had come to the camp in search of M. de Nid de Merle was willing to trust himself to the King of Navarre's safe-conduct.

'Thanks, sir,' cried Berenger; 'this is a work of true charity.'

'I think I know that voice,' said the priest.

'The priest of Nissard!'

'Even so, sir. I was seeking M. de Nid de Merle, and had but just learnt that he had been left behind wounded.'

'You came to tell him of his sister?'

And as they rode together the priest related to Berenger that M. de Solivet had remained in the same crushed, humiliated mood, not exactly penitent, but too much disappointed and overpowered with shame to heed what became of her provided she were not taken back to her brother or her aunt. She knew that repentance alone was left for her, and permitted herself to be taken to Lucon, where Mere Monique was the only person whom she had ever respected. There had no doubt been germs of good within her, but the crime and intrigue of the siren court of Catherine de Medicis had choked them; and the first sense of better things had been awakened by the frank simplicity of the young cousin, while, nevertheless, jealousy and family tactics had led her to aid in his destruction, only to learn through her remorse how much she loved him. And when in his captivity she thought him in her power, but found him beyond her reach, unhallowed as was her passion, yet still the contemplation of the virtues of one beloved could not fail to raise her standard. It was for his truth and purity that she had loved him, even while striving to degrade these quantities; and when he came forth from her ordeal unscathed, her worship of him might for a time be more intense, but when the idol was removed, the excellence she had first learnt to adore in him might yet lead that adoration up to the source of all excellence. All she sought NOW was shelter wherein to weep and cower unseen; but the priest believed that her tears would soon spring from profound depths of penitence such as often concluded the lives of the gay ladies of France. Mere Monique had received her tenderly, and the good priest had gone from Lucon to announce her fate to her aunt and brother.

At Bellaise he had found the Abbess much scandalized. She had connived at her niece's releasing the prisoner, for she had acquired too much regard for him to let him perish under Narcisse's hands, and she had allowed Veronique to personate Diane at the funeral mass, and also purposely detained Narcisse to prevent the detection of the escape; but the discovery that her niece had accompanied his flight had filled her with shame and furry.

Pursuit had been made towards La Rochelle, but when the neighbourhood of the King of Navarre became known, no doubt was entertained that the fugitives had joined him, and Narcisse, reserving his vengeance for the family honour till he should encounter Berenger, had hotly resumed the intention of pouncing on Eustacie at Pont de Dronne, which had been decided on upon the report of the Italian spy, and only deferred by his father's death. This once done, Berenger's own supposed infidelity would have forced him to acquiesce in the annulment of the original marriage.

It had been a horrible gulf, and Berenger shuddered as one who had barely struggled to the shore, and found his dear ones safe, and his enemies shattered and helpless on the strand. They hurried on so as to be in time. The priest, a brave and cautious man, who had often before carried the rites of the Church to dying men in the midst of the enemy, was in a secular dress, and when Berenger had given the password, and obtained admittance they separated, and only met again to cross the bridge. They found Osbert and Humfrey on guard, saying that the sufferer still lingered, occasionally in a terrible paroxysm of bodily anguish, but usually silent, except when he upbraided Osbert with his master's breach of promise or incapacity to bring a priest through his Huguenot friends.

Such a taunt was on his tongue when Pere Colombeau entered, and checked the scoff by saying, 'See, my son, you have met with more pardon and mercy even on earth than you had imagined possible.'

There was a strange spasm on Narcisse's ghastly face, as though he almost regretted the obligation forced on him, but Berenger scarcely saw him again. It was needful for the security of the priest and the tranquillity of the religious rites that he should keep watch outside, lest any of the more fanatical of the Huguenots should deem it their duty to break in on what they had worked themselves into believing offensive idolatry.

His watch did not prove uncalled for. At different times he had to plead the King's safe-conduct, and his own honour, and even to defend his own Protestantism by appealing to his wounds and services. Hearts were not soft enough then for the cruelty of disturbing a dying man to be any argument at all in that fierce camp; but even there the name of Pere Colombeau met with respect. The saintly priest had protected too many enemies for any one who had heard of him to wish him ill.

Nearly all night was Berenger thus forced to remain on guard, that the sole hope of Narcisse's repentance and salvation might not be swept away by violence from without, renewing bitterness within. Not till towards morning was he called back. The hard, lingering death struggle had spent itself, and slow convulsive gasps showed that life was nearly gone; but the satanic sneer had passed away, and a hand held out, a breathing like the word 'pardon' seemed to be half uttered, and was answered from the bottom of Berenger's kind and pitying heart. Another quarter of an hour, and Narcisse de Ribaumont Nid de Merle was dead. The priest looked pale, exhausted, shocked, but would reveal nothing of the frame of mind he had shown, only that if he had been touched by any saving penitence, it was owing to his kinsman.

Berenger wished to send the corpse to rest in the family vault at Bellaise, where the Chevalier had so lately been laid; and the priest undertook to send persons with a flag of truce to provide for the transport, as well as to announce the death to the sister and the aunt. Wearied as he was, he would not accept Berenger's earnest invitation to come and take rest and refreshment in the prior's rooms, but took leave of him at the further side of the fortress, with almost reverent blessings, as to one not far from the kingdom of heaven; and Berenger, with infinite peacefulness in his heart, went home in the silence of the Sunday morning, and lay sleeping away his long fatigue through the chief part of the day, while Pastor Merlin was preaching and eloquent sermon upon his good brother Isaac Gardon, and Eustacie shed filial tears, more of tenderness than sorrow.



CHAPTER XLIV. THE GALIMAFRE



Speats and raxes, speats and raxes, speat and raxes Lord Somerville's billet

Never wont to let the grass grow under his feet, Henry of Navarre was impatient of awaiting his troops at Pont de Dronne, and proposed to hasten on to Quinet, as a convenient centre for collecting the neighbouring gentry for conference. Thus, early on Monday, a party of about thirty set forth on horseback, including the Ribaumonts, Rayonette being perched by turns in front of her father or mother, and the Duke de Quinet declaring that he should do his best to divide the journey into stages not too long for Philip, since he was anxious to give his mother plenty of time to make preparations for her royal guest.

He had, however, little reckoned on the young King's promptitude. The first courier he had dispatched was overtaken at a cabaret only five leagues from Pont de Dronne, baiting his horse, as he said; the second was found on the road with a lame horse; and the halt a day's journey remained beyond it. The last stage had been ridden, much to the Duke's discontent, for it brought them to a mere village inn, with scarcely any accommodation. The only tolerable bed was resigned by the King to the use of Philip, whose looks spoke the exhaustion of which his tongue scorned to complain. So painful and feverish a night ensued that Eustacie was anxious that he should not move until the Duke should, as he promised, send a mule litter back for him; but this proposal he resented; and in the height of his constitutional obstinacy, appeared booted and spurred at the first signal to mount.

Nor could Eustacie, as she soon perceived, annoy him more than by showing her solicitude for him, or attracting to him the notice of the other cavaliers. As the only lady of the party, she received a great deal of attention, with some of which she would gladly have dispensed. Whether it were the King's habit of calling her 'la Belle Eurydice,' or because, as she said, he was 'si laid' and reminded her of old unhappy days of constraint, she did not like him, and had almost displeased her husband and his brother by saying so. She would gladly have avoided the gallantries of this day's ride by remaining with Philip at the inn; but not only was this impossible, but the peculiar ill-temper of concealed suffering made Philip drive her off whenever she approached him with inquiries; so that she was forced to leave him to his brother and Osbert, and ride forward between the King and the Duke, the last of whom she really liked.

Welcome was the sight of the grand old chateau, its mighty wings of chestnut forest stretching up the hills on either side, and the stately avenue extending before it; but just then the last courier was discovered, reeling in his saddle under the effects of repeated toasts in honour of Navarre and Quinet.

'We are fairly sped,' said the Duke to Eustacie, shrugging his shoulders between amusement and dismay.

'Madame la Duchesse is equal to any galimafre,' said Eustacie, demurely; at which the Duke laughed heartily, saying, 'It is not for the family credit I fear, but for my own!'

'Nay, triumph makes everything be forgiven.'

'But not forgotten,' laughed the Duke. 'But, allons. Now for the onset. We are already seen. The forces muster at the gateway.'

By the time the cavalcade were at the great paved archway into the court, the Duchess stood at the great door, a grandson on either side, and a great burly fresh-coloured gentleman behind her.

M. de Quinet was off his horse in a second, his head bare, his hand on the royal rein, and signing to his eldest son to hold the stirrup; but, before the boy had comprehended, Henry had sprung down, and was kissing the old lady's hand, saying, 'Pardon, Madame! I trust to your goodness for excusing this surprise from an old friend's son.'

Neither seeing nor caring for king or prince, the stranger gentleman at the same moment pounced upon Eustacie and her little girl, crying aloud in English, 'Here she is! My dear, I am glad to see you. Give her to me, poor Berenger's little darling. Ah! she does not understand. Where's Merrycourt?'

Just then there was another English exclamation, 'My father! Father! dear father!' and Philip, flinging himself from the saddle, fell almost prone on that broad breast, sobbing convulsively, while the eyes that, as he truly boasted, had never wasted a tear on his enemies, were streaming so fast that his father's welcome savoured of reproof: 'What's all this? Before these French too.'

'Take care, father,' cried Berenger, leaping from his horse; 'he has an ugly wound just where you are holding him.'

'Wounded! my poor boy. Look up.'

'Where is your room, sir?' said Berenger, seeing his hosts entirely occupied with the King; and at once lifting the almost helpless Philip like a little child in his strong arms, he followed Sir Marmaduke, who, as if walking in his sleep, led the way up the great stone staircase that led outside the house to the upper chambers.

After a short interval, the Duchess, in the plenitude of her glory at entertaining her dear Queen's son, came up en grande tenue, leading the King by the hand, the Duke walking backwards in front, and his two sons each holding a big wax candle on either side.

'Here, Sire, is the chamber where the excellent Queen did me the honour to repose herself.'

The Duke swung open the door of the state bed-chamber. There on the velvet-hung bed sat le gros Chevalier Anglais, whom she had herself installed there on Saturday. Both his hands were held fast in those of a youth who lay beside him, deadly pale, and half undressed, with the little Ribaumont attending to a wound in his side, while her child was held in the arms of a very tall, bald-headed young man, who stood at the foot of the bed. The whole group of interlopers looked perfectly glorified with happiness and delight. Even the wounded youth, ghastly and suffering as he was, lay stroking the big Englishman's hand with a languid, caressing air of content, almost like that of a dog who has found his master. None of them were the least embarrassed, they evidently thought this a visit of inquiry after the patient; and while the Duchess stood confounded, and the Duke much inclined to laugh, Eustacie turned eagerly, exclaiming, 'Ah! Madame, I am glad you are come. May I beg Mademoiselle Perrot for some of your cooling mallow salve. Riding has sadly inflamed the wound.'

'Riding—with such a wound! Are we all crazed?' said Madame la Duchesse, absolutely bewildered out of her dignified equanimity: and her son, seeing her for once at a loss, came to her rescue. 'His Grace will condescend to the Andromeda Chamber, Madame. He kindly gave up his bed to our young friend last night, when there was less choice than you can give him.'

They all moved off again; and, before Eustacie was ready for the mallows, Madame de Quinet, for whom the very name of a wound had an attraction, returned with two hand-maidens bearing bandages and medicaments, having by this time come to the perception that the wounded youth was the son of the big Englishman who had arrived with young Mericour in search of her little protegee, and that the tall man was the husband so long supposed to be dead. She was curious to see her pupil's surgery, of which she highly approved, though she had no words to express her indignation at the folly of traveling so soon. Indeed, nothing but the passiveness of fatigue could have made her despotism endurable to Philip; but he cared for nothing so long as he could see his father's face, and hear his voice—the full tones that his ear had yearned for among the sharp expression of the French accent—and Sir Marmaduke seemed to find the same perfect satisfaction in the sight of him; indeed, all were so rejoiced to be together, that they scarcely exerted themselves to ask questions. When Berenger would have made some explanation, Sir Marmaduke only said, 'Tell me not yet, my dear boy. I see it is all right, and my head will hold no more yet but that I have you and the lad again! Thank God for it! Never mind how.'

When, however, with some difficulty they got him away from Philip's bedside down to supper, the King came and made him high compliments upon the distinguished bravery of his sons, and Mericour interpreted, till Sir Marmaduke—though answering that of course the lads must do their duty, and he was only glad to hear they had done it—became more and more radiant and proud, as he began to gather what their trials and what their steadfastness and courage had been. His goodly face, beaming with honest gladness, was, as Henry told the Duchess, an absolute ornament to her table.

Unable, however, to converse with any one but Berenger and Mericour, and pining all the time to get back to his son, the lengthy and ceremonious meal was a weary penance to him; and so soon as his release was possible, he made his way up-stairs again, where he found Philip much refreshed by a long sleep, and only afraid that he should find the sight of his father merely a dream; then, when satisfied on that head, eager to hear of all at home—'the sisters, the dogs, my mother, and my little brother?' as he arranged his inquiry.

'Ha! you heard of that, did you?'

'Yes,' said Philip, 'the villains gave us letters once—only once—and those what they thought would sting us most. O father, how could you all think such foul shame of Berry?'

'Don't speak of it, Phil; I never did, nor Aunt Cecily, not for a moment; but my Lord is not the man he was, and those foes of yours must have set abroad vile reports for the very purpose of deceiving us. And then this child must needs be born, poor little rogue. I shall be able to take to him now all is right again; but by St. George, they have tormented me so about him, and wanted me to take him as a providence to join the estates together, instead of you and Berry, that I never thought to care so little for a child of my own.'

'We drank his health at Nid de Merle, and were not a little comforted that you would have him in our place.'

'I'd rather—Well, it skills not talking of it, but it just shows the way of women. After all the outcry Dame Annora had made about her poor son, and no one loving him or heeding his interest save herself, no sooner was this little fellow born than she had no thought for any but he, and would fain have had her father settle all his lands on him, protesting that if Berry lived, his French lands were enough for him. Out of sight, out of mind, is the way with women.'

Womanhood was already made accountable for all Lady Thistlewood's follies, and Philip acquiesced, asking further, 'Nay, but how came you hither, father? Was it to seek us or Eustacie?'

'Both, both, my lad. One morning just after Christmas, I rid over to Combe with my dame behind me, and found the house in commotion with a letter that young Sidney, Berry's friend, had just sent down by special messenger. It had been writ more than a year, but, bless you, these poor foreigners have such crooked ears and tongues that they don't know what to make of a plain man's name, and the only wonder was that it ever came at all. It seems the Duke here had to get it sent over by some of the secret agents the French Protestants have in England, and what do they do but send it to one of the Vivians in Cornwall; and it was handed about among them for how long I cannot say, till there was a chance of sending it up to my Lord of Warwick; and he, being able to make nothing if it, shows it to his nephew, Philip Sidney, who, perceiving at once whom it concerned, sends it straight to my Lord, with a handsome letter hoping that it brought good tidings. There then it was, and so we first knew that the poor lady had not been lost in the sack of the town, as Master Hobbs told us. She told us how this Duchess had taken her under her protection, but that her enemies were seeking her, and had even attempted her child's life.'

'The ruffians! Even so.'

'And she said her old pastor was failing in health, and prayed that some trusty person might be sent to bring home at least the child to safety with her kindred. There was a letter to the same effect, praising her highly too, from the Duchess, saying that she would do her best to guard her, but the kinsmen had the law on their side, and she would be safer in England. Well, this was fair good news, save that we marveled the more how you and Berry should have missed her; but the matter now was who was the trusty person who should go. Claude Merrycourt was ready—-'

'How came he there?' demanded Philip. 'I thought he had gone, or been sent off with Lady Burnet's sons.'

'Why, so he had; but there's more to say on that score. He was so much in favour at Combe, that my Lord would not be denied his spending the holiday times there; and, besides, last summer we had a mighty coil. The Horners of Mells made me a rare good offer for Lucy for their eldest son, chiefly because they wanted a wife for him of my Lady Walwyn's and Mistress Cecily's breeding; and my wife was all for accepting it, having by that time given up all hope of poor Berry. But I would have no commands laid on my girl, seeing that I had pledged my word not to cross her in the matter, and she hung about my neck and prayed me so meekly to leave her unwedded, that I must have been made of stone not to yield to her. So I told Mr. Horner that his son Jack must wait for little Nancy if he wanted a daughter of mine—and the stripling is young enough. I believe he will. But women's tongues are not easy to stop, and Lucy was worn so thin, and had tears in her eyes—that she thought I never marked—whenever she was fretted or flouted, and at last I took her back to stay at Combe for Aunt Cecily to cheer up a bit; and—well, well, to get rid of the matter and silence Dame Nan, I consented to a betrothal between her and Merrycourt—since she vowed she would rather wait single for him than wed any one else. He is a good youth, and is working himself to a shadow between studying and teaching; but as to sending him alone to bring Berry's wife back, he was over-young for that. No one could do that fitly save myself, and I only wish I had gone three years ago, to keep you two foolish lads out of harm's way. But they set up an unheard-of hubbub, and made sure I should lose myself. What are you laughing at, you Jacksauce?'

'To think of you starting, father, with not a word of French, and never from home further than once to London.'

'Ah! you thought to come the traveled gentleman over me, but I've been even with you. I made Dame Nan teach me a few words, but I never could remember anything but that "mercy" is "thank ye". However, Merrycourt offered to come with me, and my Lord wished it. Moreover, I thought he might aid in tracing you out. So I saw my Lord alone, and he passed his word to me that, come what would, no one should persuade him to alter his will to do wrong to Berenger's daughter; and so soon as Master Hobbs could get the THROSTLE unladen, and fitted out again, we sailed for Bordeau, and there he is waiting for us, while Clause and I bought horses and hired a guide, and made our way here on Saturday, where we were very welcome; and the Duchess said she would but wait till she could learn there were no bands of the enemy at hand, to go down with me herself to the place where she had sent the lady. A right worthy dame is this same Duchess, and a stately; and that young King, as they call him, seems hard to please, for he told Berry that his wife's courtliness and ease in his reception were far above aught that he found here. What he means is past a plain man, for as to Berry's wife she is handy, and notable enough, and 'tis well he loves her so well; but what a little brown thing it is, for a man to have gone through such risks for. Nothing to look at beside his mother!'

'If you could only see Madame de Selinville!' sighed Philip; then—'Ah! sir, you would know the worth of Eustacie had you seen her in yonder town.'

'Very like!' said Sir Marmaduke; 'but after all our fears at home of a fine court madam, it takes one aback to see a little homely brown thing, clad like a serving wench. Well, Dame Nan will not be displeased, she always said the girl would grow up no beauty, and 'tis the way of women to brook none fairer than themselves! Better so. She is a good Protestant, and has done rarely by you, Phil.'

'Truly, I might be glad 'twas no court madam that stood by me when Berry was called back to the fight: and for the little one, 'tis the loveliest and bravest little maid I ever saw. Have they told you of the marigolds, father?'

'Why, the King told the whole to the Duchess, so Berry said, and then drank the health of the daughter of the bravest of knights; and Berry held her up in his arms to bow again, and drink to them from his glass. Berry looked a proud man, I can tell you, and a comely, spite of his baldness; and 'tis worth having come here to see how much you lads are thought of—though to be sure 'tis not often the poor creatures here see so much of an Englishman as we have made of Berry.'

Philip could not but laugh. ''Tis scarce for that that they value him, sir.'

'Say you so? Nay, methinks his English heart and yours did them good service. Indeed, the King himself told me as much by the mouth of Merrycourt. May that youngster's head only not be turned! Why, they set him at table above Berenger, and above half the King's gentlemen. Even the Duchess makes as if he were one of her highest guests—he a poor Oxford scholar, doubting if he can get his bread by the law, and flouted as though he were not good enough for my daughter. 'Tis the world topsy turvy, sure enough! And that this true love that Berenger has run through fire and water after, like a knight in a pedlar's run through turn out a mere little, brown, common-looking woman after all, not one whit equal to Lucy!'

Sir Marmaduke modified his disappointment a little that night, when he had talked Philip into a state of feverishness and suffering that became worse under Madame de Quinet's reproofs and remedies, and only yielded to Eustacie's long and patient soothing. He then could almost have owned that it was well she was not like his own cherished type of womanhood, and the next day he changed his opinion still more, even as to her appearance.

There was a great gathering of favourers of the Huguenot cause on that day; gentlemen came from all parts to consult with Henry of Navarre, and Madame de Quinet had too much sense of the fitness of things to allow Madame de Ribaumont to appear at the ensuing banquet in her shabby, rusty black serge, and tight white borderless cap. The whole wardrobe of the poor young Duchess de Quinet was placed at her service, and though, with the thought of her adopted father on her heart, she refused gay colours, yet when, her toilette complete, she said into Philip's room, he almost sprang up in delight, and Sir Marmaduke rose and ceremoniously bowed as to a stranger, and was only undeceived when little Rayonette ran joyously to Philip, asking if Manan was not si belle, si belle.

The effects of her unrestful nights has now passed away, and left her magnificent eyes in their full brilliancy and arch fire; the blooming glow was restored to her cheek; and though neck, brow, and hands were browner than in the shelter of convent or palace, she was far more near absolute beauty than in former days, both from countenance and from age. Her little proud head was clustered with glossy locks of jet, still short, but curling round her brow and neck, whose warm brunette tints contrasted well with the delicate, stiffened cobweb of her exquisite standing ruff, which was gathered into a white satin bodice, with a skirt of the same material, over which swept a rich black brocade train open in front, with an open body and half-sleeves with falling lace, and the hands, delicate and shapely as ever, if indeed a little tanned, held fan and handkerchief with as much courtly grace as though they had never stirred broth nor wrung out linen. Sir Marmaduke really feared he had the court madam on his hands after all, but he forgot all about his fears, as she stood laughing and talking, and by her pretty airs and gestures, smiles and signs, making him enter into her mirth with Philip, almost as well as if she had not spoken French.

Even Berenger started, when he came up after the counsel to fetch her to the banqueting-hall. She was more entirely the Eustacie of the Louvre than he had ever realized seeing her, and yet so much more; and when the Duchess beheld the sensation she produced among the noblesse, it was with self-congratulation in having kept her in retirement while it was still not known that she was not a widow. The King of Navarre had already found her the only lady present possessed of the peculiar aroma of high-breeding which belonged to the society in which both he and she had been most at home, and his attentions were more than she liked from one whose epithet of Eurydice she had never quite forgiven; at least, that was the only reason she could assign for her distaste, but the Duchess understood her better than did Berenger, nay, better than she did herself, and kept her under the maternal wings of double form and ceremony.

Berenger, meanwhile, was in great favour. A command had been offered him by the King of Navarre, who had promised that if he would cast in his lot with the Huguenots, his claims on all the lands of Ribaumont should be enforced on the King of France when terms were wrung from him, and Narcisse's death removed all valid obstacle to their recognition; but Berenger felt himself bound by all home duties to return to England, nor had he clear convictions as to the absolute right of the war in which he had almost unconsciously drawn his sword. Under the Tudors the divine right of kings was strongly believed in, and it was with many genuine misgivings that the cause of Protestant revolt was favoured by Elisabeth and her ministers; and Berenger, bred up in a strong sense of loyalty, as well as in doctrines that, as he had received them, savoured as little of Calvinism as of Romanism, was not ready to espouse the Huguenot cause with all his heart; and as he could by no means have fought on the side of King Henry III. or of the Guises, felt thankful that the knot could be cut by renouncing France altogether, according to the arrangement which had been defeated by the Chevalier's own supper-subtle machinations.

At the conference of gentlemen held at Quinet, he had been startled by hearing the name of the Sieur de Bellaise, and had identified him with a grave, thin, noble-looking man, with an air of high-bred and patient poverty. He was a Catholic but no Guisard, and supported the middle policy of the Montmorency party, so far as he possessed any influence; but his was only the weight of personal character, for he had merely a small property that had descended to him through his grandmother, the wife of the unfortunate Bellaise who had pined to death in the dungeon at Loches, under Louis XI. Here, then, Berenger saw the right means of riding himself and his family of the burthen that his father had mourned over, and it only remained to convince Eustacie. Her first feeling when she heard of the King's offer, was that at last her ardent wish would be gratified, she should see her husband at the head of her vassals, and hear the war-cry motto 'A moi Ribaumont.' Then came the old representation that the Vendeen peasants were faithful Catholics who could hardly be asked to fight on the Calvinist side. The old spirit rose in a flush, a pout, a half-uttered query why those creatures should be allowed their opinions. Madame la Baronne was resuming her haughty temperament in the noblesse atmosphere; but in the midst came the remembrance of having made that very speech in her Temple ruin—of the grave sad look of rebuke and shake of the head with which the good old minister had received it—and how she had sulked at him till forced to throw herself on him to hinder her separation from her child. She burst into tears, and as Berenger, in some distress, began to assure her that he would and could do nothing without her consent, she struggled to recover voice to say, 'No! no! I only grieve that I am still as wicked as ever, after these three years with that saint, my dear father. Do as you will, only pardon me, the little fierce one!'

And then, when she was made to perceive that her husband would have to fight alone, and could not take her with him to share his triumphs or bind his wounds, at least not except by bringing her in contact with Henry of Navarre and that atmosphere of the old court, she acquiesced the more readily. She was a woman who could feel but not reason; and, though she loved Nid de Merle, and had been proud of it, Berenger's description of the ill-used Sieur de Bellaise had the more effect on her, because she well remembered the traditions whispered among the peasants with whom her childhood had been passed, that the village crones declared nothing had gone well with the place since the Bellaise had been expelled, with a piteous tale of the broken-hearted lady, that she had never till now understood.

For the flagrant injustice perpetrated on her uncle and cousin in the settlement on Berenger and herself she cared little, thinking they had pretty well repaid themselves, and not entering into Berenger's deeper view, that this injustice was the more to be deplored as the occasion of their guilt; but she had no doubt or question as to the grand stroke of yielding up her claims on the estate to the Sieur de Bellaise. The generosity of the deed struck her imagination, and if Berenger would not lead her vassals to battle, she did not want them. There was no difficulty with Sir Marmaduke; he only vowed that he liked Berenger's wife all the better for being free of so many yards of French dirt tacked to her petticoat, and Philip hated the remembrance of those red sugar-loaf pinnacles far too much not to wish his brother to be rid of them.

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