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- Stray Pearls - 60/67 -
though you can never know what it has cost me. Those eyes, as clear- sighted as they are beautiful, saw only too plainly the folly of expecting anything in the service I was ready to adopt, and scorned my hopes of thus satisfying her family. I deserved it. May she find happiness in the connection she has accepted.'
'Stay, sir,' I said. 'What has she accepted? What have you heard?'
He answered with a paler look and strange smile that his clerk had been desired by M. de Poligny's notary to let him see the parchments of the Ribaumont estate, preparatory to drawing up the contract of marriage, to be ready to be signed in a week's time.'
'Ah, sir,' I said, 'you are a lawyer, and should know how to trust to such evidence. The contract is impossible without my brother, who is too ill to hear of it, and my sister has uttered no word of consent, nor will she, even though she should remain unmarried for life.'
'Will she forgive me?' he exclaimed, as though ready to throw himself at my feet.
I told him that he must find out for himself, and he returned that I was an angel from heaven. On the whole I felt more like a weak and talkative woman, a traitress to my mother; but then, as I looked at him, there was such depth of wounded affection, such worth and superiority to all the men I was in the habit of seeing, that it was impossible not to feel that if Annora had any right to choose at all she had chosen worthily.
But I thought of my mother, and would not commit myself further, and I rose to leave him; I had, however, waited too long. The mob were surging along the streets, as they always did when the magistrates came home from the Parliament, howling, bellowing, and yelling round the unpopular ones.
'Death to the Big Beard!' was the cry, by which they meant good old Mathieu Mole, who had incurred their hatred for his loyalty, and then they halted opposite to the Maison Darpent to shout: 'Death to the Big Beard and his jackal!'
'Do not fear, Madame, it will soon be over,' said Darpent. 'It is a little amusement in which they daily indulge. The torrent will soon pass by, and then I will do myself the honour of escorting you home.'
I thought I was much safer than he, and would have forbidden him, but he smiled, and said I must not deny him the pleasure of walking as far as the door of the Hotel de Nidemerle.
'But why do they thus assail you and the Garde des Sceaux?' I asked.
'Because so few in this unfortunate country can distinguish between persons and causes,' he said. 'Hatred to Mazarin and to the Queen as his supporter is the only motive that sways them. If he can only be kept out they are willing to throw themselves under the feet of the Prince that he may trample them to dust. Once, as you know, we hoped that there was public spirit enough in the noblesse and clergy, led by the Coadjutor, to join with us in procuring the assembling of the States-General, and thus constitutionally have taken the old safeguards of the people. They deceived us, and only made use of us for their own ends. The Duke of Orleans, who might have stood by us, is a broken reed, and now, in the furious clash of parties, we stand by, waiting till the conqueror shall complete our destruction and oppression, and in the meantime holding to the only duty that is clear to us--of loyalty to the King, let that involve what it may.'
'And because it involves the Cardinal you are vituperated,' I said. 'The Court ought to reward your faithfulness.'
'So I thought once, but it is more likely to reward our resistance in its own fashion if its triumph be once secured,' he answered. 'Ah, Madame, are visions of hope for one's country mere madness?'
And certainly I felt that even when peace was made between him and my sister, as it certainly soon would be, the future looked very black before them, unless he were too obscure for the royal thunderbolts to reach.
However, the mob had passed by, to shriek round the Hotel de Ville.
Food and wine were dealt out to them by those who used them as their tools, and they were in a frightful state of demoralization, but the way was clear for the present, and Clement Darpent would not be denied walking by my chair, though he could hardly have guarded me, but he took me through some by-streets, which avoided the haunts of the mob; and though he came no further than our door, the few words I ventured to bring home reassured Eustace, and made Annora look like another being.
PORTE ST. ANTOINE
When I try to look back on the time that followed, all is confusion. I cannot unravel the threat of events clearly in my own mind, and can only describe a few scenes that detach themselves, as it were, from a back-ground of reports, true and false, of alarms, of messages to and fro, and a horrible mob surging backwards and forwards, so that when Mademoiselle returned to Paris and recalled me, I could only pass backwards and forwards between the Louvre and the Hotel de Nidemerle after the servants had carefully reconnoitred to see that the streets were safe, and this although I belonged to the Orleans' establishment, which was in favour with the mob. Their white scarves were as much respected as the tawny colours of Conde, which every one else wore who wished to be secured from insult.
I longed the more to be at home because my very dear brother, now convalescent, was preparing everything for his journey to the Hague. He had an interview with M. de Poligny, and convinced him that it was hopeless to endeavour to gain Annora's consent to the match with his son, and perhaps the good gentleman was not sorry to withdraw with honour; and thus the suit waited till the Parliament should be at leisure to attend to private affairs.
My mother was greatly disappointed, above all when my brother, in his gentle but authoritative manner, requested her to withdraw her opposition to my sister's marriage with Darpent, explaining that the had consented, as knowing what his father's feeling would have been towards so good a man. She wept, and said that it certainly would not have been so bad in England, but under the nose of all her friends--bah! and she was sure that Solivet would kill the fellow rather than see canaille admitted into the family. However, if the wedding took place at the Hague, where no one would hear of it, and Annora chose to come back and live en bourgeoise, and not injure the establishment of the Marquis de Nidemerle, she would not withhold her blessing. So Annora was to go with Eustace, who indeed had not intended to leave her behind him, never being sure what coercion might be put on her.
In the meantime it was not possible for any peaceful person, especially one in my brother's state of health, to leave Paris. The city was between two armies, if not three. On the one side was that of the Princes, on the other that of M. le Marechal de Turenne, with the Court in its rear, and at one time the Duke of Lorraine advanced, and though he took no one's part, he felled the roads with horrible marauders trained in the Thirty Year's War. The two armies of Conde and Turenne skirmished in the suburbs, and it may be imagined what contradictory reports were always tearing us to pieces. Meantime Paris was strong enough to keep out either army, and that was the one thing that the municipality and the Paliarment were resolved to do. They let single officers of the Prince's army, himself, the Duke of Beaufort, Nemours, the Court d'Aubepine, and the rest, come in and out, but they were absolutely determined not to be garrisoned by forces in direct rebellion to the King. They would not stand a siege on their behalf, endure their military license, and then the horrors of an assault. The Duke of Orleans professed to be of the same mind, but he was a mere nonentity, and merely acted as a drag on his daughter, who was altogether devoted to the Prince of Conde. Cardinal de Retz vainly tried to persuade him to take the manly part of mediation, that would have been possible to him, at the head of the magistracy and municipality of Paris.
The Prince--Heaven forgive him--and the Duke of Beaufort hoped to terrify the magistracy into subservience by raising the populace against them. Foolish people! as if their magistrates were not guarding them from horrible miseries. In fact, however, the mobs who raved up and down the streets, yelling round the Hotel de Ville, hunting the magistrates like a pack of wolves, shouting and dancing round Monsieur's carriage, or Beaufort's horse--these wretches were not the peaceable work-people, but bandits, ruffians, disbanded soldiers, criminals, excited by distributions of wine and money in the cabarets that they might terrify all who upheld law and order. If the hotels of the nobles and magistrates had not been constructed like little fortresses, no doubt these wretches would have carried their violence further. It seems to me, when I look back at that time, that even in the Louvre or the Luxembourg, one's ears were never free from the sound of howls and yells, more or less distant.
Clement Darpent, who had been separated from his work by his injury, and had not resumed it, so far as I could learn, was doing his best as a deputy at the Hotel de Ville to work on those whom he could influence to stand firm to their purpose of not admitting the King's enemies, but, on the other hand, of not opening their gates to the royal arm itself till the summons to the States-General should be actually issued, and the right of Parliament to refuse registration acknowledged. His friends among the younger advocates and the better educated of the bourgeois had rallier round him, and in the general anarchy made it their business to protect the persons whom the mob placed in danger. My mother, in these days of terror, had recurred to her former reliance on him, and admitted him once more. I heard there had been no formal reconciliation with Annora, but they had met as if nothing had happened; and it was an understood thing that he should follow her to the Hague so soon as there should be an interval of peace; but he had a deep affection for his country and his city, and could not hear of quitting them, even for Annora's sake, in this crisis of fate, while he had still some vision of being of use, and at any rate could often save lives. Whenever any part of the mob was composed of real poor, who had experienced his mother's charities, he could deal with them; and when they were the mere savage bandits of the partisans, he and his friends scrupled not to use force. For instance, this I saw myself. The Duke of Orleans had summoned the Prevot des Marchands and two of the echevins to the Luxembourg, to consult about supplies. The mob followed them all the way down the street, reviling them as men sold to Mazarin, and insisting that they
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