‘Alas!’ sobbed Veronique, ’now she is getting to be a saint outright. She will be sure to die! Ah, Madame—dear Madame! do but listen to me. If you did but know how Madame de Bellaise is afflicting herself on your account! She sent for me—ah! do not be angry, dear Lady?’
‘I wish to hear nothing about her,’ said Eustacie.
’Nay, listen, de grace—one moment, Madame! She has wept, she has feared for you, all the lay-sisters say so. She takes no pleasure in hawking, nor in visiting; and she did not eat more than six of Soeur Bernardine’s best conserves. She does nothing but watch for tidings of Madame. And she sent for me, as I told you, and conjured me, if I knew where you were, or had any means of finding out, to implore you to trust to her. She will swear on all the relics in the chapel never to give a hint to Messieurs les Chevaliers if only you would trust her, and not slay yourself with all this dreadful wandering.’
‘Never!’ said Eustacie; ‘she said too much!’
’Ah! but she declares that, had she known the truth, she never would have said that. Ah, yes, Madame, the Abbess is good!’ And Veronique, holding her mistress’s cloak to secure a hearing, detailed the Abbess’ plan for lodging her niece in secret apartments within the thickness of the convent walls, where Mere Perrine could be with her, and every sacred pledge should be given that could remove her fears.
’And could they make me believe them, so that the doubt and dread would not kill me in themselves?’ said Eustacie.
’But it is death—certain death, as it is. Oh, if Madame would hear reason!—but she is headstrong! She will grieve when it is too late!’
’Listen, Veronique. I have a far better plan. The sacristan has a sister who weaves red handkerchiefs at Chollet. She will receive me, and keep me as long as there is need. Martin is to take me in his cart when he carries the hay to the garrison. I shall be well hidden, and within reach of your mother. And then, when my son is once come—then all will be well! The peasants will rise in behalf of their young Lord, though not for a poor helpless woman. No one will dare to dispute his claim, when I have appealed to the King; and then, Veronique, you shall come back to me, and all will be well!’
Veronique only began to wail aloud at her mistress’ obstinacy. Martin came up, and rudely silenced her, and said afterwards to his wife, ’Have a care! That girl has—I verily believe—betrayed her Lady once; and if she do not do so again, from pure pity and faintness of heart, I shall be much surprised.’
’Tis said, as through the aisles they passed,
They heard strange voices on the blast,
And through the cloister galleries small,
Which at mid-height thread the chancel wall,
Loud sobs and laughter louder ran,
And voices unlike the voice of man,
As if the fiends kept holiday.
Scott, LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL