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- Stray Pearls - 67/67 -


My husband kept his post till my Lord Clarendon went out and the Cabal came in, and then, not liking those he had to work with, he gave up his office, and we retired into the country, while our children were still young enough to grow up in the love to Walwyn that I had always felt.

CHAPTER XXXIV

ANNORA'S HOME

It seemed as if I had scarcely time to understand what was the meaning of my party with my beloved brother and sister. My poor Cecile was still so ill that I could hardly attend to anything else, and when I returned in the morning I found that, missing me, she had fallen into another crisis, and that all the danger was renewed.

However, the poor frail creature lived, little as she cared to do so, except to pray for the soul of the husband to whom her whole being had been given, ever since they had wedded her to him as a mere child. It was well that I had her to attend to, or my home would have seemed very desolate to me, empty as it now was of my brother and sister, and with my mother spending her time between her Queen and her favourite convent. Happily for me there was no longer required to be in waiting, but was free to finish his education. Indeed, I believe the Queen had found out that Gaspard had put into King Louis's head certain strange ideas about sovereigns and subjects, so that she was glad to keep him at a distance. Queen Henrietta bade me take care what I was doing. Thus Cardinal Mazarin being absent, and the events of former years not brought to mind, it was possible to obtain permission to retire for a time to our estates. Indeed I fancy it was meant to disgrace two such Frondeuses as we were supposed to have been.

Cecile recovered something like health in the country, but she would not hear of doing anything save entering a convent. She longed to be constantly praying for her husband, and she felt herself utterly incapable of coping with the world, or educating her son. She took her little girl with her to be a pensionnaire at the Visitation, and entrusted her boy to me, to be brought up with mine. They have indeed always been like brothers, and to me the tenderest and most dutiful of sons. Maurice d'Aubepine never ceased to love his own mother, but as a sort of saint in a shrine, and he used to say that when he went to see her he always felt more as if he had been worshipping than making a visit.

I had learned a little prudence by my former disasters among the peasantry at Nid de Merle, and we did contrive to make them somewhat happier and more prosperous without giving umbrage to our neighbours. They learned to love M. le Marquis with passionate devotion, and he has loved them in his turn with equal affection. I delight to hear the shouts of ecstasy with which they receive him when he is seen riding through the narrow lanes of the Bocage on a visit to his mother and his home.

The King has always treated him with distinguished politeness, but without seeming desirous to retain him about Court, so that, as you know, he has always had employment either in the army or in governments, gaining ample honour, but without enjoying personal favour or intercourse with the King, who, it may be, trusts his loyalty, without brooking his plain speaking.

I saw my sister once again. When she had at last settled in the old chateau, and after my son and nephew had made their first campaign at the siege of Lille, we had to join in the progress of the Court to Dunkirk and Lille to see the King's new fortifications. A strange progress it was to me, for Mademoiselle was by this time infatuated by her unfortunate passion for the Duke of Lauzun, and never ceased confiding to me her admiration and her despair whenever there was a shower of rain on his perruque. However, when the Duchess of Orleans crossed to England I obtained permission to go with my son to visit our relations, since it was then the object to draw together as close as possible the links between the countries.

It was a joyous visit, though it was a shock to me to see the grand old castle of the Walwyn replaced by a square Dutch-looking brick house of many windows, only recently built, and where I remembered noble woods and grand trees to see only copse-wood and fields. But who could regret anything when I saw my dear sister, a glad, proud, happy wife and mother, a still young, active, and merry matron, dazzlingly fair as ever, among her growing sons and pretty daughters, and indeed far more handsome than when she sat in the salons of Paris, weary and almost fierce, in her half-tamed, wild-cat days, whereas now her step was about the house and garden everywhere, as the notable housewife and good mother.

And her husband--Mr. Darpent, as every one called him, with true English pronunciation--it amused us to see how much of an Englishman he had become, though Harry Merrycourt told us the squires had began by calling him Frenchy, and sneering at his lack of taste and skill in their sports; but they came to him whenever they had a knotty point to disentangle in law or justice, they turned to him at Quarter-Sessions for help; and though they laughed at the plans of farming, gardening, and planting he had brought from Holland, or had learned from Mr. Evelyn of Says Court, still, when they saw that his trees grew, his crops prospered, and his sheep fetched a good price at market, some of them began to declare he was only too clever, and one or two of the more enlightened actually came privately to ask his advice.

It was pleasant to see him in his library, among books he had picked up, one by one, at stalls in London, where he read and wrote and taught his sons, never long without the door being opened by Nan to see whether his fire needed a fresh log, or whether his ink-stand were full, or to announce that the pigs were in the garden, and turn out all his pupils in pursuit! Interrupt as she would, she never seemed to come amiss to him.

He was glad to talk over all the affairs of our country with us. In his office in London he had of course been abreast with facts, but he was keenly interested in all the details of the Prince's return to favour, of the Cardinal's death, of the King's assumption of the entire management of State affairs, and of the manner in which the last hopes of the Parliament of Paris had been extinguished. France was--as he allowed to my eager son--beginning to advance rapidly on the road of glory, it might be of universal empire. He agreed to it, but, said he, with a curious perverse smile: 'For all that, M. le Marquis, I remain thankful that my wife's inheritance is on this side of the Channel, and though I myself may be but an exile and a fugitive, I rejoice that my sons and their children after them will not grow up where there is brilliancy and grandeur without, but beneath them corruption and a people's misery!'

THE END.


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