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- The Chaplet of Pearls - 101/101 -


him. He was now no boy who could be coerced, but a staid, self- reliant, scholarly person, with a sword by his side and an English passport to secure him, and his brother did not regard him as quite the disgrace to his family he had at first deemed him. He was at least no rebel; and though the law seemed to French eyes infinitely beneath the dignity of a scion of nobility, still it was something not to have him a heretic preacher, and to be able at least to speak of him as betrothed to the sister of the Baron de Ribaumont. Moreover, that Huguenot kinsman, whose extreme Calvinist opinions had so nearly revolted Mericour, had died and left him all his means, as the only Protestant in the family; and the amount, when Claude arranged matters with his brother, proved to be sufficient to bear him through his expenses handsomely as a student, with the hope of marriage so soon as he should have kept his terms at the Temple.

And thus the good ship THROSTLE bore home the whole happy party to Weymouth, and good Sir Marmaduke had an unceasing cause for exultation in the brilliant success of his mission to France.

After all, the first to revisit that country was no other than the once homesick Philip. He wearied of inaction, and thought his county neighbours ineffably dull and lubberly, while they blamed him for being a fine, Frenchified gentleman, even while finding no fault with their old friend Berenger, or that notable little, lively, housewifely lady his wife, whose broken English and bright simplicity charmed every one. Sorely Philip needed something to do; he might have been a gentleman pensioner, but he had no notion, he said, of loitering after a lady to boat and hunt, when such a king as Henry of Navarre was in the field; and he agreed with Eustacie in her estimate of the court, that it was horribly dull, and wanting in all the sparkle and brilliancy that even he had perceived at Paris.

Eustacie gladly retreated to housewifery at Combe Walwyn, but a strenuous endeavour on Lady Thistlewood's part to marry her stepson to a Dorset king's daughter, together with the tidings of the renewed war in France, spurred Philip into writing permission from his father to join the King of Navarre as a volunteer.

Years went by, and Philip was only heard of in occasional letters, accompanied by presents to his sisters and to little Rayonette, and telling of marches, exploits, and battles,--how he had taken a standard of the League at Coutras, and how he had led a charge of pikemen at Ivry, for which he received the thanks of Henry IV. But, though so near home, he did not set foot on English ground till the throne of France was secured to the hero of Navarre, and he had marched into Paris in guise very unlike the manner he had left it.

Then home he came, a bronzed gallant-looking warrior, the pride of the county, ready for repose and for aid to his father in his hearty old age, and bearing with him a pressing invitation from the King to Monsieur and Madame de Ribaumont to resume their rank at court. Berenger, who had for many years only known himself as Lord Walwyn, shook his head. 'I thank the King,' he said, 'but I am better content to breed up my children as wholly English. He bade me to return when he should have stirred the witch's caldron into clearness. Alas! all he has done is to make brilliant colours shine on the vapour thereof. Nay, Phil; I know your ardent love for him, and marvel not at it. Before he joined the Catholic Church I trusted that he might have given truth to the one party, and unity to the other; but when the clergy accepted him with all his private vices, and he surrendered unconditionally, I lost hope. I fear there is worse in store. Queen Catherine did her most fatal work of evil when she corrupted Henry of Navarre.'

'If you say more, Berry, I shall be ready to challenge you!' said Philip. 'When you saw him, you little knew the true king of souls that he is, is greatness, or his love for his country.'

'Nay, I believe it; but tell me, Philip, did you not hint that you had been among former friends--at Lucon, you said, I think?'

Philip's face changed. 'Yes; it was for that I wished to see you alone. My troop had to occupy the place. I had to visit the convent to arrange for quartering my men so as least to scandalize the sisters. The Abbess came to speak to me. I knew her only by her eyes! She is changed--aged, wan, thin with their discipline and fasts--but she once or twice smiled as she alone in old times could smile. The place rings with her devotion, her charity, her penances, and truly her face is'--he could hardly speak--'like that of a saint. She knew me at once, asked for you all, and bade me tell you that NOW she prays for you and yours continually, and blesses you for having opened to her the way of peace. Ah! Berry, I always told you she had not her equal.'

'Think you so even now?'

'How should I not, when I have seen what repentance has made of her?'

'So!' said Berenger, rather sorrowfully, 'our great Protestant champion has still left his heart behind in a French convent.'

'Stay, Berenger! do you remember yonder villain conjurer's prediction that I should wed none but a lady whose cognizance was the leopard?'

'And you seem bent on accomplishing it,' said Berenger.

'Nay, but in another manner--that which you devised on the spur of the moment. Berenger, I knew the sorcerer spake sooth when that little moonbeam child of yours brought me the flowers from the rampart. I had speech with her last night. She has all the fair loveliness that belongs of right to your mother's grandchild, but her eye, blue as it is, has the Ribaumont spirit; the turn of the head and the smile are what I loved long ago in yonder lady, and, above all, she is her own sweet self. Berenger, give me your daughter Berangere, and I ask no portion with her but the silver bullet. Keep the pearls for your son's heirloom; all I ask with Rayonette is the silver bullet.'

THE END


The Chaplet of Pearls - 101/101

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