‘So white!’ repeated Berenger to himself; and the Prioress, struck, perhaps, by the almost flaxen locks that sparsely waved on his temples, and the hue of the ungloved hand that rested on the edge of the grille, said, smiling, ’You come of a fair family, Monsieur.
‘The White Ribaumonts,’ said Berenger, ’and, moreover, my mother was called the Swan of England; my little sisters have skins like snow. Ah! Madame, though I have failed, I go away far happier than if I had succeeded.
‘And reveal the true faith,’ began the nun; but Philip in the meantime was nudging his brother, and whispering in English, ’No Popish prayers, I say! Stay, give these poor little prisoners one feast of the sweetmeats we brought.
Of this last hint Berenger was glad, and the Prioress readily consented to a distribution of the dainties among the orphans. He wished to leave a more lasting token of his gratitude to the little maiden whose father had perhaps saved Eustacie’s life, and recollecting that he had about him a great gold coin, bearing the heads of Philip and Mary, he begged leave to offer it to Agathe, and found that it was received by good Mere Monique almost in the light of a relic, as bearing the head of so pious a queen.
Then, to complete Philip’s disgust he said, ’I took with me my aunt’s blessing when I set out; let me take yours with me also, reverend Mother.
When they were in the street again, Philip railed at him as though he had subjected himself to a spell.
‘She is almost a saint,’ answered Berenger.
’And have we not saints enough of our own, without running after Popish ones behind grates? Brother, if ever the good old days come back of invading France, I’ll march straight hither, and deliver the poor little wretches so scandalously mewed up here, and true Protestants all the time!
’Hush! People are noticing the sound of your English.
’Let them! I never thanked Heaven properly before that I have not a drop of French—–’ Here Berenger almost shook him by the shoulder, as men turned at his broad tones and foreign words, and he walked on in silence, while Berenger at his side felt as one treading on air, so infinite was the burden taken off his mind. Though for the present absolutely at sea as to where to seek Eustacie, the relief from acquiescence in the horrible fate that had seemed to be hers was such, that a flood of unspeakable happiness seemed to rush in on him, and bear him up with a new infusion of life, buoyancy, and thankfulness.
CHAPTER XXIX. IN THE KING’S NAME
’Under which king, Bezonian? speak or die.
’Under King Harry.
—KING HENRY IV.
’One bird in the hand is not always worth two in the bush, assuredly,’ said Philip, when Berenger was calm enough to hold council on what he called this most blessed discovery; ’but where to seek them?