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- The Chaplet of Pearls - 6/101 -
corners of the wall. The square contained a bowling-green of exquisitely-kept turf, that looked as if cut out of green velvet, and was edged on its four sides by a raised broad-paved walk, with a trimming of flower-beds, where the earliest blossoms were showing themselves. In the centre of each side another paved path intersected the green lawn, and the meeting of these two diameters was at a circular stone basin, presided over by another merman, blowing a conch on the top of a pile of rocks. On the gravelled margin stood two distressed little damsels of seven and six years old, remonstrating with all their might against the proceedings of a roguish-looking boy of fourteen of fifteen, who had perched their junior--a fat, fair, kitten-like element of mischief, aged about five--_en croupe_ on the merman, and was about, according to her delighted request, to make her a bower of water, by extracting the plug and setting the fountain to play; but as the fountain had been still all the winter, the plug was hard of extraction, especially to a young gentleman who stood insecurely, with his feet wide apart upon pointed and slippery point of rock-work; and Berenger had time to hurry up, exclaiming, 'Giddy pate! Dolly would Berenger drenched to the skin.'
'And she has on her best blue, made out of mother's French farthingale,' cried the discreet Annora.
'Do you know, Dolly, I've orders to box your ears, and send you in?' added Berenger, as he lifted his half-sister from her perilous position, speaking, as he did so, without a shade of foreign accent, though with much more rapid utterance than was usual in England. She clung to him without much alarm, and retaliated by an endeavour to box his ears, while Philip, slowly making his way back to the mainland, exclaimed, 'Ah there's no chance now! Here comes demure Mistress Lucy, and she is the worst mar-sport of all.'
A gentle girl of seventeen was drawing near, her fair delicately- tinted complexion suiting well with her pale golden hair. It was a sweet face, and was well set off by the sky-blue of the farthingale, which, with her white lace coif and white ruff, gave her something the air of a speedwell flower, more especially as her expression seemed to have caught much of Cecily's air of self- restrained contentment. She held a basketful of the orange pistils of crocuses, and at once seeing that some riot had taken place, she said to the eldest little girl, 'Ah, Nan, you had been safer gathering saffron with me.'
'Nay, brother Berry came and made all well,' said Annora; 'and he had been shut up so long in the library that he must have been very glad to get out.'
'And what came of it?' cried Philip. 'Are you to go and get yourself unmarried?'
'Unmarried!' burst out the sisters Annora and Elizabeth.
'What, laughed Philip, 'you knew not that this is an ancient husband, married years before your father and mother?'
'But, why? said Elizabeth, rather inclined to cry. 'What has poor Lucy done that you should get yourself unmarried from her?'
There was a laugh from both brothers; but Berenger, seeing Lucy's blushes, restrained himself, and said. 'Mine was not such good luck, Bess, but they gave me a little French wife, younger than Dolly, and saucier still; and as she seems to wish to be quit of me, why, I shall be rid of her.'
'See there, Dolly,' said Philip, in a warning voice, 'that is the way you'll be served if you do not mend your ways.'
'But I thought,' said Annora gravely, 'that people were married once for all, and it could not be undone.'
'So said Aunt Cecily, but my Lord was proving to her out of all law that a contract between such a couple of babes went for nought,' said Berenger.
'And shall you, indeed, see Paris, and all the braveries there?' asked Philip. 'I thought my Lord would never have trusted you out of his sight.'
'And now it is to be only with Mr. Adderley,' said Berenger; 'but there will be rare doings to be seen at this royal wedding, and maybe I shall break a lance there in your honour, Lucy.'
'And you'll bring me a French fan?' cried Bess.
'And me a pouncet-box?' added Annora.
'And me a French puppet dressed Paris fashion?' said Dolly.
'And what shall he bring Lucy?' added Bess.
'I know,' said Annora; 'the pearls that mother is always talking about! I heard her say that Lucy should wear them on her wedding- day.'
'Hush!' interposed Lucy, 'don't you see my father yonder on the step, beckoning to you?'
The children flew towards Sir Marmaduke, leaving Berenger and Lucy together.
'Not a word to wish me good speed, Lucy, now I have my wish?' said Berenger.
'Oh, yes,' said Lucy, 'I am glad you should see all those brave French gentlemen of whom you used to tell me.'
'Yes, they will be all at court, and the good Admiral is said to be in high favour. He will surely remember my father.'
'And shall you see the lady?' asked Lucy, under her breath.
'Eustacie? Probably; but that will make no change. I have heard too much of _l'escadron de la Reine-mere_ to endure the thought of a wife from thence, were she the Queen of Beauty herself. And my mother says that Eustacie would lose all her beauty as she grew up- -like black-eyed Sue on the down; nor did I ever think her brown skin and fierce black eyes to compare with you, Lucy. I could be well content never to see her more; but,' and here he lowered his voice to a tone of confidence, 'my father, when near his death, called me, and told me that he feared my marriage would be a cause of trouble and temptation to me, and that I must deal with it after my conscience when I was able to judge in the matter. Something, too, he said of the treaty of marriage being a burthen on his soul, but I know not what he meant. If ever I saw Eustacie again, I was to give her his own copy of Clement Marot's Psalter, and to tell her that he had ever loved and prayed for her as a daughter; and moreover, my father added,' said Berenger, much moved at the remembrance it brought across him, 'that if this matter proved a burthen and perplexity to me, I was to pardon him as one who repented of it as a thing done ere he had learnt to weigh the whole world against a soul.'
'Yes, you must see her,' said Lucy.
'Well, what more were you going to say, Lucy?'
'I was only thinking,' said Lucy, as she raised her eyes to him, 'how sorry she will be that she let them write that letter.'
Berenger laughed, pleased with the simplicity of Lucy's admiration, but with modesty and common sense enough to answer, 'No fear of that, Lucy, for an heiress, with all the court gallants of France at her feet.'
'Ah, but you!'
'I am all very well here, when you have never seen anybody but lubberly Dorset squires that never went to London, nor Oxford, nor beyond their own furrows,' said Berenger; 'but depend upon it, she has been bred up to care for all the airs and graces that are all the fashion at Paris now, and will be as glad to be rid of an honest man and a Protestant as I shall to be quit of a court puppet and a Papist. Shall you have finished my point-cuffs next week, Lucy? Depend upon it, no gentleman of them all will wear such dainty lace of such a fancy as those will be.'
And Lucy smiled, well pleased.
Coming from the companionship of Eustacie to that of gentle Lucy had been to Berenger a change from perpetual warfareto perfect supremacy, and his preference to his little sister, as he had been taught to call her from the first, had been loudly expressed. Brother and sister they had ever since considered themselves, and only within the last few months had possibilities been discussed among the elders of the family, which oozing out in some mysterious manner, had become felt rather than known among the young people, yet without altering the habitual terms that existed between them. Both were so young that love was the merest, vaguest dream to them; and Lucy, in her quiet faith that Berenger was the most beautiful, excellent, and accomplished cavalier the earth could afford, was little troubled about her own future share in him. She seemed to be promoted to belong to him just as she had grown up to curl her hair and wear ruffs and farthingales. And to Berenger Lucy was a very pleasant feature in that English home, where he had been far happier than in the uncertainties of Chateau Leurre, between his naughty playfellow, his capricious mother, and morose father. If in England his lot was to be cast, Lucy was acquiesced in willingly as a portion of that lot.
CHAPTER IV. TITHONUS
A youth came riding towards a palace gate, And from the palace came a child of sin And took him by the curls and led him in! Where sat a company with heated eyes. Tennyson, A VISION OF SIN
It was in the month of June that Berenger de Ribaumont first came in sight of Paris. His grandfather had himself begun by taking him to London and presenting him to Queen Elizabeth, from whom the lad's good mien procured him a most favourable reception. She willingly promised that on which Lord Walwyn's heart was set, namely, that his title and rank should be continued to his
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