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- The Chaplet of Pearls - 3/101 -
'I will have it!'
'Thou shalt not have it!'
'Diane says it is mine.'
'Diane knows nothing about it.'
'Gentlemen always yield to ladies.'
'Wives ought to mind their husbands.'
'Then I will not be thy wife.'
'Thou canst not help it.'
'I will. I will tell my father what M. le Baron reads and sings, and then I know he will.'
Eustacie put out her lip, and began to cry.
The 'husband and wife,' now eight and seven years old, were in a large room hung with tapestry, representing the history of Tobit. A great state bed, curtained with piled velvet, stood on a sort of _dais_ at the further end; there was a toilet-table adorned with curiously shaped boxes, and coloured Venetian glasses, and filagree pouncet-boxes, and with a small mirror whose frame was inlaid with gold and ivory. A large coffer, likewise inlaid, stood against the wall, and near it a cabinet, of Dutch workmanship, a combination of ebony, ivory, wood, and looking-glass, the centre retreating, and so arranged that by the help of most ingenious attention to perspective and reflection, it appeared like the entrance to a magnificent miniature cinque-cento palace, with steps up to a vestibule paved in black and white lozenges, and with three endless corridors diverging from it. So much for show; for use, this palace was a bewildering complication of secret drawers and pigeon- holes, all depending indeed upon one tiny gold key; but unless the use of that key were well understood, all it led to was certain outer receptacles of fragrant Spanish gloves, knots of ribbon, and kerchiefs strewn over with rose leaves and lavender. However, Eustacie had secured the key, and was now far beyond these mere superficial matters. Her youthful lord had just discovered her mounted on a chair, her small person decked out with a profusion of necklaces, jewels, bracelets, chains, and rings; and her fingers, as well as they could under their stiffening load, were opening the very penetralia of the cabinet, the inner chamber of the hall, where lay a case adorned with the Ribaumont arms and containing the far-famed chaplet of pearls. It was almost beyond her reach, but she had risen on tip-toe, and was stretching out her hand for it, when he, springing behind her on the chair, availed himself of his superior height and strength to shut the door of this Arcanum and turn the key. His mortifying permission to his wife to absent herself arose from pure love of teasing, but the next moment he added, still holding his hand on the key--'As to telling what my father reads, that would be treason. How shouldst thou know what it is?'
'Does thou think every one is an infant but thyself?'
'But who told thee that to talk of my father's books would get him into trouble?' continued the boy, as they still stood together on the high heavy wooden chair.
She tossed her pretty head, and pretended to pout.
'Was it Diane? I will know. Didst thou tell Diane?'
Instead of answering, now that his attention to the key was relaxed, Eustacie made a sudden dart, like a little wild cat, at the back of the chair and at the key. They chair over-balanced; Beranger caught at the front drawer of the cabinet, which, unlocked by Eustacie, came out in his hand, and chair, children, drawer, and curiosities all went rolling over together on the floor with a hubbub that brought all the household together, exclaiming and scolding. Madame de Ribaumont's displeasure at the rifling of her hoards knew no bounds; Eustacie, by way of defence, shrieked 'like twenty demons;' Beranger, too honourable to accuse her, underwent the same tempest; and at last both were soundly rapped over the knuckles with the long handle of Madame's fan, and consigned to two separate closets, to be dealt with on the return of M. le Baron, while Madame returned to her embroidery, lamenting the absence of that dear little Diane, whose late visit at the chateau had been marked by such unusual tranquility between the children.
Beranger, in his dark closet, comforted himself with the shrewd suspicion that his father was so employed as not to be expected at home till supper-time, and that his mother's wrath was by no means likely to be so enduring as to lead her to make complaints of the prisoners; and when he heard a trampling of horses in the court, he anticipated a speedy release and summons to show himself to the visitors. He waited long, however, before he heard the pattering of little feet; then a stool scraped along the floor, the button of his door was undone, the stool pushed back, and as he emerged, Eustacie stood before him with her finger to her lip. 'CHUT, Beranger! It is my father and uncle, and Narcisse, and, oh! so many _gens d'armes_. They are come to summon M. le Baron to go with them to disperse the _preche_ by the Bac de l'Oie. And oh, Beranger, is he not there?'
'I do not know. He went out with his hawk, and I do not think he could have gone anywhere else. Did they say so to my mother?'
'Yes; but she never knows. And oh, Beranger, Narcisse told me--ah, was it to tease me?--that Diane has told them all they wanted to know, for that they sent her here on purpose to see if we were not all Huguenots.
'Very likely, the little viper! Le me pass, Eustacie. I must go and tell my father.'
'Thou canst not get out that way; the court is full of men-at-arms. Hark, there's Narcisse calling me. He will come after me.'
There was not a moment to lose. Berenger flew along a corridor, and down a narrow winding stair, and across the kitchen; then snatching at the arm of a boy of his own age whom he met at the door, he gasped out, 'Come and help me catch Follet, Landry!' and still running across an orchard, he pulled down a couple of apples from the trees, and bounded into a paddock where a small rough Breton pony was feeding among the little tawny Norman cows. The animal knew his little master, and trotted towards him at his call of 'Follet, Follet. Now be a wise Follet, and play me no tricks. Thou and I, Follet, shall do good service, if thou wilt be steady.'
Follet made his advances, but with a coquettish eye and look, as if ready to start away at any moment.
'Soh, Follet. I have no bread for thee, only two apples; but, Follet, listen. There's my _beau-pere_ the Count, and the Chevalier, all spite, and their whole troop of savage _gens d'armes_, come out to fall upon the poor Huguenots, who are doing no harm at all, only listening to a long dull sermon. And I am much afraid my father is there, for he went out his hawk on his wrist, and he never does take Ysonde for any real sport, as thou and I would do, Follet. He says it is all vanity of vanities. But thou know'st, if they caught him at the _preche_ they would call it heresy and treason, and all sorts of horrors, and any way they would fall like demons on the poor Huguenots, Jacques and all-- thine own Jacques, Follet. Come, be a loyal pony, Follet. Be at least as good as Eustacie.'
Follet was evidently attentive to this peroration, turning round his ear in a sensible attitude, and advancing his nose to the apples. As Beranger held them out to him, the other boy clutched his shaggy forelock so effectually that the start back did not shake him off, and the next moment Beranger was on his back.
'And I, Monsieur, what shall I do?'
'Thou, Landry? I know. Speed like a hare, lock the avenue gate, and hide the key. That will delay them a long time. Off now, Follet.'
Beranger and Follet understood one another far too well to care about such trifles as saddle and bridle, and off they went through green grassy balks dividing the fields, or across the stubble, till, about three miles from the castle, they came to a narrow valley, dipping so suddenly between the hills that it could hardly have been suspected by one unaware of its locality, and the sides were dotted with copsewood, which entirely hid the bottom. Beranger guided his pony to a winding path that led down the steep side of the valley, already hearing the cadence of a loud, chanting voice, throwing out its sounds over the assembly, whence arose assenting hums over an undercurrent of sobs, as though the excitable French assembly were strongly affected.
The thicket was so close that Beranger was almost among the congregation before he could see more than a passing glimpse of a sea of heads. Stout, ruddy, Norman peasants, and high white-capped women, mingled with a few soberly-clad townsfolk, almost all with the grave, steadfast cast of countenance imparted by unresisted persecution, stood gathered round the green mound that served as a natural pulpit for a Calvinist minister, who more the dress of a burgher, but entirely black. To Beranger's despair, he was in the act of inviting his hearers to join with him in singing one of Marot's psalms; and the boy, eager to lose not a moment, grasped the skirt of the outermost of the crowd. The man, an absorbed- looking stranger, merely said, 'Importune me not, child.'
'Listen!' said Beranger; 'it imports---'
'Peace,' was the stern answer; but a Norman farmer looked round at that moment, and Beranger exclaimed, 'Stop the singing! The _gens d'armes_!' The psalm broke off; the whisper circulated; the words 'from Leurre' were next conveyed from lip to lip, and, as it were in a moment, the dense human mass had broken up and vanished, stealing through the numerous paths in the brushwood, or along the brook, as it descended through tall sedges and bulrushes. The valley was soon as lonely as it had been populous; the pulpit remained a mere mossy bank, more suggestive or fairy dances than of Calvinist sermons, and no one remained on the scene save Beranger with his pony, Jacques the groom, a stout farmer, the preacher, and a tall thin figure in the plainest dark cloth dress that could be worn by a gentleman, a hawk on his wrist.
'Thou here, my boy!' he exclaimed, as Beranger came to his side; and as the little fellow replied in a few brief words, he took him
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