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- Stray Pearls - 4/67 -
strict abbe who had gone with him to the war, and from whom he was only now to be set free upon his marriage. He had scarcely ever spoken to any lady but his old aunt--his parents had long been dead-- and he had only two or three times seen his little sister through the grating of her convent. So, as he afterwards confessed, nothing but his military drill and training bore him through the affair. He stood upright as a dart, bowed at the right place, and in due time signed his name to the contract, and I had to do the same. Then there ensued a great state dinner, where he and I sat together, but neither of us spoke to the other; and when, as I was trying to see the viscount under my eyelashes, I caught his eyes trying to do the same by me, I remember my cheeks flaming all over, and I think his must have done the same, for my father burst suddenly out into a laugh without apparent cause, though he tried to check himself when he saw my mother's vexation.
When all was over, she highly lauded the young gentleman, declaring that he was an example of the decorum with which such matters were conducted in France; and when my father observed that he should prefer a little more fire and animation, she said: 'Truly, my lord, one would think you were of mere English extraction, that you should prefer the rude habits of a farmer or milkmaid to the reserve of a true noble and lady of quality.'
'Well, dame, I promised that you should have it your own way with the poor lass,' said my father; 'and I see no harm in the lad, but I own I should like to know more of him, and Meg would not object either. It was not the way I took thee, Margaret.'
'I shall never make you understand that a widow is altogether a different thing,' said my mother.
I suppose they never recollected that I could hear every word they said, but I was full in view of them, and of course I was listening most anxiously for all I could gather about my new life. If I remember right, it was an envoy-extraordinary with whom the marquis and his nephew had come, and their stay was therefore very short, so that we were married after a very few days in the Queen's Chapel, by her own almoner.
I do not remember much about the wedding, as indeed it was done very quietly, being intended to be kept altogether a secret; but in some way, probably through the servants, it became known to the mob in London, and as we drove home from Whitehall in the great coach with my father and mother, a huge crowd had assembled, hissing and yelling and crying out upon Lord Walwyn for giving his daughter to a French Papist.
The wretches! they even proceeded to throw stones. My young bridegroom saw one of these which would have struck me had he not thrown himself forward, holding up his hat as a shield. The stone struck him in the eye, and he dropped forward upon my mother's knee senseless.
The crowd were shocked then, and fell back, but what good did that do to him? He was carried to his chamber, and a surgeon was sent for, who said that there was no great injury done, for the eye itself had not been touched, but that he must be kept perfectly quiet until the last minute, if he was to be able to travel without danger, when the suite were to set off in two day's time. They would not let me go near him. Perhaps I was relieved, for I should not have known what to do; yet I feared that he would think me unkind and ungrateful, and I would have begged my mother and Eustace to thank him and make my excuses, but I was too shy, and I felt it very hard to be blamed for indifference and rudeness.
Indeed, we four young ones kept as much together as we could do in the house and gardens, and played all our dear old games of shuttlecock, and pig go to market, and proverbs, and all that you, my children, call very English sports, because we knew only too well that we should never play at them altogether again. The more I was blamed for being childish, the more I was set upon them, till at last my mother said that she was afraid to let me go, I was so childish and unfeeling; and my father replied that she should have thought of that before. He and I were both more English at heart than French, and I am sure now that he perceived better than I did myself that my clinging to my brothers and sister, and even my noisy merriment, were not the effect of want of feeling.
As to my bridegroom, I have since known that he was dreadfully afraid of us, more especially of me, and was thankful that the injury kept him a prisoner. Nay, he might have come downstairs, if he had been willing, on the last evening, but he shrank from another presentation to me before the eyes of all the world, and chose instead to act the invalid, with no companion save Eustace, with whom he had made friends.
I will not tell you about the partings, and the promises and assurances that we should meet again. My father had always promised that my mother should see France once more, and he now declared that they would all visit me. Alas! we little thought what would be the accomplishment of that promise.
My father and Eustace rode with us from London to Dover, and all the time I kept close to them. M. de Bellaise was well enough to ride too. His uncle, the marquis, went in a great old coach with the ladies, wives of some of his suite, and I should have been there too, but that I begged so hard to ride with my father that he yielded, after asking M. le Vicomte whether he had any objection. M. le Vicomte opened great eyes, smiled, blushed and bowed, stammering something. I do not think that he had a quite realised previously that I was his wife, and belonged to him. My father made him ride with us, and talked to him; and out in the open air, riding with the wind in our cheeks, and his plume streaming in the breeze, he grew much less shy, and began to talk about the wolf-hunts and boar-hunts in the Bocage, and of all the places that my father and I both knew as well as if we had seen them, from the grandam's stories.
I listened, but we neither of us sought the other; indeed, I believe it seemed hard to me that when there was so little time with my father and Eustace, they should waste it on these hunting stories. Only too soon we were at Dover, and the last, last farewell and blessing were given. I looked my last, though I knew it not at that dear face of my father!
CELADON AND CHLOE
My tears were soon checked by dreadful sea-sickness. We were no sooner out of Dover than the cruel wind turned round upon us, and we had to go beating about with all our sails reefed for a whole day and night before it was safe to put into Calais.
All that time I was in untold misery, and poor nurse Tryphena was worse than I was, and only now and then was heard groaning out that she was a dead woman, and begging me to tell some one to throw her over board.
But it was that voyage which gave me my husband. He was not exactly at his ease, but he kept his feet better than any of the other gentlemen, and he set himself to supply the place of valet to his uncle, and of maid to me, going to and fro between our cabins as best he could, for he fell and rolled whenever he tried to more; sharp shriek or howl, or a message through the steward, summoned him back to M. le Marquis, who had utterly forgotten all his politeness and formality towards the ladies.
However, our sufferings were over at last. My husband, who was by this time bruised from head to foot by his falls, though he made no complaints, came to say we should in a few moments be in port. He helped me to dress, for Tryphena thought she was dead, and would not move; and he dragged me on deck, where the air revived me, and where one by one the whole party appeared, spectacles of misery.
M. le Marquis did not recover himself till he was on shore, and caused himself to be assisted to the quay between his nephew and the valet, leaving me to myself; but the dear viscount returned for me, and after he had set me ashore, as he saw I was anxious about Tryphena, he went back and fetched her, as carefully as if she had been a lady, in spite of the grumblings of his uncle and of her own refractoriness, for she was horribly frightened, and could not understand a word he said to her.
Nevertheless, as soon as we had all of us come to ourselves, it turned out that he had gained her heart. Indeed, otherwise I should have had to send her home, for she pined sadly for some time, and nothing but her love for me and her enthusiastic loyalty to him kept her up during the first months.
As to my husband and me, that voyage had made us as fond of one another's company on one side of the Channel as we had been afraid of it before on the other, but there was no more riding together for us. I had to travel in the great coach with M. le Marquis, the three ladies, and all our women, where I was so dull and weary that I should have felt ready to die, but for watching for my husband's plume, or now and then getting a glance and a nod from him as he rode among the other gentlemen, braving all their laughter at his devotion; for, bashful as he was, he knew how to hold his own.
I knew that the ladies looked on me as an ugly little rustic foreigner, full of English mauvaise honte. If they tried to be kind to me, it was as a mere child; and they went on with their chatter, which I could hardly follow, for it was about things and people of which I knew nothing, so that I could not understand their laughter. Or when they rejoiced in their return from what they called their exile, and found fault with all they had left in England, my cheeks burned with indignation.
My happy hours were when we halted for refreshments. My husband handed me to my place at table and sat beside me; or he would walk with me about the villages where we rested. The ladies were shocked, and my husband was censured for letting me 'faire l'Anglaise,' but we were young and full of spirits, and the being thus thrown on each other had put an end to his timidity towards me. He did indeed blush up to his curls, and hold himself as upright as a ramrod, when satire was directed to us as Celadon and Chloe; but he never took any other notice of it, nor altered his behaviour in consequence. Indeed, we felt like children escaping from school when we crept down the stairs in early morning, and hand-in-hand repaired to the church in time for the very earliest mass among the peasants, who left their scythes at the door, and the women with their hottes, or their swaddled babies at their backs. We would get a cup of milk and piece of barley-bread at some cottage, and wander among the orchards, fields, or vineyards before Mesdames had begun their toiles; and when we appeared at the
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