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- The Chaplet of Pearls - 30/101 -
broken with a terrible blow with a sword, a broad gash from the left temple to the right ear, and worse than all, _'le baiser d'Eustacie,'_ a bullet wound where the muzzle of the pistol had absolutely been so close as to have burnt and blackened the cheek; so that his life was, as Osbert averred, chiefly owing to the assassin's jealousy of his personal beauty, which had directed his shot to the cheek rather than the head; and thus, though the bullet had terribly shattered the upper jaw and roof of the mouth, and had passed out through the back of the head, there was a hope that it had not penetrated the seat of life or reason. The other gash on the face was but a sword-wound, and though frightful to look at, was unimportant, compared with the first wound with the pistol-shot in the shoulder, with the arm broken and further injured by having served to suspend him round Osbert's neck; but it was altogether so appalling a sight, that it was no wonder that Sis Marmaduke muttered low but deep curses on the cowardly ruffians; while his wife wept in grief as violent, though more silent, than her stepson's, and only Cecily gathered the faintest ray of hope. The wounds had been well cared for, the arm had been set, the hair cut away, and lint and bandages applied with a skill that surprised her, till she remembered that Landry Osbert had been bred up in preparation to be Berenger's valet, and thus to practise those minor arts of surgery then required in a superior body-servant. For his part, though his eyes looked red, and his whole person exhausted by unceasing watching, he seemed unable to relinquish the care of his master for a moment, and her nunnery French would not have perceived her tender touch and ready skill. These were what made him consent to leave his post even for a short meal, and so soon as he had eaten it he was called to Lord Walwyn to supply the further account which Humfley had been unable to give. He had waited, he explained, with a lackey, a friend of his in the palace, till he became alarmed by the influx of armed men, wearing white crosses and shirt-sleeves on their left arms, but his friend had assured him that his master had been summoned to the royal bedchamber, where he would be as safe as in church; and obtaining from Landry Osbert himself a perfectly true assurance of being a good Catholic, had supplied him with the badges that were needful for security. It was just then that Madame's maid crept down to his waiting-place with the intelligence that her mistress had been bolted in, and after a short consultation they agreed to go and see whether M. le Baron were indeed waiting, and, if he were, to warn him of the suspicious state of the lower regions of the palace.
They were just in time to see, but not to prevent the attack upon their young master; and while Veronique fled, screaming, Landry Osbert, who had been thrown back on the stairs in her sudden flight, recovered himself and hastened to his master. The murderers, after their blows had been struck, had hurried along the corridor to join the body of assassins, whose work they had in effect somewhat anticipated. Landry, full of rage and despair, was resolved at least to save his foster-brother's corpse from further insult, and bore it down-stairs in his arms. On the way, he perceived that life was not yet extinct, and resolving to become doubly cautious, he sought in the pocket for the purse that had been well filled for the flight, and by the persuasive argument of gold crowns, obtained egress from the door-keeper of the postern, where Berenger hoped to have emerged in a far different manner. It was a favourable moment, for the main body of the murderers were at that time being poster in the court by the captain of the guard, ready to massacre the gentlemen of the King of Navarre's suite, and he was therefore unmolested by any claimant of the plunders of the apparent corpse he bore on his shoulders. The citizens of Paris who had been engaged in their share of the murders for more than an hour before the tragedy began in the Louvre, frequently beset him on his way to the quay, and but for the timely aid of his English comrades, he would hardly have brought off his foster-brother safely.
The pass with which King Charles had provided Berenger for himself and his followers when his elopement was first planned, enabled Osbert to carry his whole crew safely past all the stations where passports were demanded. He had much wished to procure surgical aid at Rouen, but learning from the boatmen on the river that the like bloody scenes were there being enacted, he had decide on going on to his master's English home as soon as possible, merely trusting to his own skill by the way; and though it was the slightest possible hope, yet the healthy state of the wounds, and the mere fact of life continuing, had given him some faint trust that there might be a partial recovery.
Lord Walwyn repeated his agitated thanks and praises for such devotion to his grandson.
Osbert bower, laid his hand on his heart, and replied--'Monseigneur is good, but what say I? Monsieur le Baron is my foster-brother! Say that, and all is said in one word.'
He was then dismissed, with orders to take some rest, but he obstinately refused all commands in French or English to go to bed, and was found some time after fast asleep.
CHAPTER XIV. SWEET HEART
Ye hae marred a bonnier face than your ain. DYING WORDS OF THE BONNIE EARL OF MORAY
One room at Hurst Walwyn, though large, wainscoted, and well furnished, bore as pertinaciously the air of a cell as the appearance of Sister Cecily St. John continued like that of a nun. There was a large sunny oriel, in which a thrush sang merrily in a wicker cage; and yet the very central point and leading feature of the room was the altar-like table, covered with rich needlework, with a carved ebony crucifix placed on it, and on the wall above, quaint and stiff, but lovely-featured, delicately tinted pictures of Our Lady in the centre, and of St. Anne and St. Cecilia on either side, with skies behind of most ethereal blue, and robes tenderly trimmed with gold. A little shrine of purple spar, with a crystal front, contained a fragment of sacred bone; a silver shell help holy water, perpetuated from some blessed by Bishop Ridley.
'With velvet bound and broidered o'er, Her breviary book'
Lay open at 'Sext,' and there, too, lay with its three marks at the Daily Lessons, the Bishop's Bible, and the Common Prayer beside it.
The elder Baron de Ribaumont had never pardoned Cecily his single glance at that table, and had seriously remonstrated with his father-in-law for permitting its existence, quoting Rachel, Achan, and Maachah. Yet he never knew of the hair-cloth smock, the discipline, the cord and sack-cloth that lay stored in the large carved awmry, and were secretly in use on every fast or vigil, not with any notion of merit, but of simple obedience, and with even deeper comprehension and enjoyment of their spiritual significance, of which, in her cloister life, she had comprehended little.
It was not she, however, who knelt with bowed head and clasped hands before the altar-table, the winter sunbeams making the shadows of the ivy sprays dance upon the deep mourning dress and pale cheek. The eyelashes were heavy with tear-drops, and veiled eyes that had not yet attained to the region of calm, like the light quivering of the lips showed that here was the beginning of the course of trial through which serenity might be won, and for ever.
By and by the latch was raise, and Cecily came forward. Lucy rose quickly to her feet, and while giving and returning a fond embrace, asked with her eyes the question that Cecily answered, 'Still in the same lethargy. The only shade of sense that I have seen is an unclosing of the eyes, a wistful look whenever the door opened, and a shiver through all his frame whenever the great bell rings, till my Lord forbade it to be sounded.'
'That frightful bell that the men told us of,' said Lucy, shuddering; 'oh, what a heart that murderess must have had!'
'Hold, Lucy! How should we judge her, who may at this moment be weeping in desolation?'
Lucy looked up astonished. 'Aunt,' she said, 'you have been so long shut up with him that you hardly can have heard all-how she played fast and loose, and for the sake of a mere pageant put off the flight from the time when it would have been secure even until that dreadful eve!'
'I know it,' said Cecily. 'I fear me much that her sin has been great; yet, Lucy, it were better to pray for her than to talk wildly against her.'
'Alas!' murmured Lucy, 'I could bear it and glory in it when it seemed death for the faith's sake, but,' and the tears burst out, 'to find he was only trapped and slain for the sake of a faithless girl--and that he should love her still.'
'She is his wife,' said Cecily. 'Child, from my soul I grieve for you, but none the less must I, if no other will, keep before your eyes that our Berenger's faith belongs solely to her.'
'You--you never would have let me forget it,' said Lucy. 'Indeed I am more maidenly when not alone with you! I know verily that he is loyal, and that my hatred to her is more than is meet. I will--I will pray for her, but I would that you were in your convent still, and that I could hide me there.'
'That were scarce enough,' said Cecily. 'One sister we had who had fled to our house to hide her sorrows for her betrothed had wedded another. She took her sorrows for her vocation, strove to hurry on her vows, and when they were taken, she chafed and fretted under them. It was she who wrote to the commissioner the letter that led to the visitation of our house, and, moreover, she was the only one of us who married.'
'To her own lover?'
'No, to a brewer at Winchester! I say not that you could ever be like poor sister Bridget, but only that the cloister has no charm to still the heart--prayer and duty can do as much without as within.'
'When we deemed her worthy, I was glad of his happiness,' said Lucy, thoughtfully.
'You did, my dear, and I rejoiced. Think now how grievous it must be with her, if she, as I fear she may, yielded her heart to those
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