"C'est assez," said the Governor, "take the prisoner away; but not to his former quarters. Lodge him in Prynne's old cell."
As the prisoner was being removed, in obedience to these orders, he was seen to limp heavily, and there was a bandage on one of his legs.
"March, comrade," said one of his guards, when they were in the corridor.
"My leg was hurt, John Le Gros, when I tried to escape last night."
"Not so badly but you can walk if you like," and the militia-man emphasised his words by a slight thrust with the point of his weapon.
To which of the parties in the island Master Benoist was faithful, the muse that presides over this history declines to reveal: perhaps he was an impartial traitor to both. It became presently clear that, in any case, his lameness was little more than a feint. During that same night he made a rope of his bedding, and letting himself down from the window of his cell at high water, swam like a fish to the unwatched shore of Anneport, and so effected his escape. It was long ere he was again heard of by the Jersey authorities; but there is no record to show that he was either mourned or missed.
For the next three nights a party of soldiers—not militia-men, but Cornishmen of the Royal body-guard—occupied a hut on the landing-place at Boulay Bay, belonging to Lesbirel, the man whose lugger was known to be employed in the communication between the Parliamentary party in the island and their English allies. The third night being dark and stormy, the patrol was suspended by orders of the sergeant in command, and the men devoted themselves to the indoor pleasures afforded by cards, tobacco, and cider. But others were less careful of personal comfort. On the western point of the cliff over their heads (the "Belle Hougue") a beacon was burning, of whose existence the sergeant and his men were unaware. A man watched by the fire, keeping it alive by constant care and attention, or rekindling it from time to time, when it was overcome by the wind and rain. The soldiers in their hut did not see the light; but it was seen by the crew of a lugger, driving through the waves of the flowing tide before a rough but favouring gale. Accordingly, putting the helm down, their steersman drove the craft clear of the threatened danger that was prepared for the occupants below, and made her touch the land in the adjacent bay of Bonne Nuit, hid from observation by the interposing cliffs. Leaping to the shore, Alain Le Gallais, who was the sole passenger, climbing the western heights, made his way by paths with which he was well acquainted from his youth, to the manor-house of his exiled friend the Seigneur of Maufant.
It was near midnight when he arrived. All was dark. The yard-dog, roused by his familiar footsteps, shook himself and sate down without raising any alarm: nay, when Alain lifted the latch and passed through the outer gate of the court-yard, the animal rose once more, and advanced to meet Alain, fawning and wagging his tail. Alain was not sorry that the ladies were asleep. Perhaps the readers of his verses may not have understood that he was a poet; but, be it remembered, those verses were in a language not native to the writer. Those who are able to understand such fragments of his patois-poetry as still survive, declare that it is marked by tenderness and verve; even if this be not so, a man may lack the power of expression and yet have the poet's temper; Alain was certainly of a deep and sensitive nature; he thought that he had borne much from Marguerite, with whom he was now really angry; it was therefore of set purpose that he had chosen this hour to visit the manor instead of waiting till the morning. Depositing a letter with which Lempriere had entrusted him in a cornbin of the stable which Mdme. de Maufant had instructed him to use in such cases, he went his way without disturbing any of the inmates of the house.
His intention was to pass the rest of the night in the barn of a farm called La Rosiere, where he would be safe from pursuit for the moment, and in the morning could join a party of the "well-affected," who were in the habit of meeting in the neighbouring parish of S. Lawrence. Man proposes; but his purpose was destined to failure. The sky had cleared in the sudden way so common at midnight in these islands. The guard at Lesbirel's, turning out to patrol, had at last caught sight of the fire burning on the point above them. Taking alarm, the sergeant, who was an intelligent and aspiring soldier, guessed that something was amiss, and set off at the head of his men to search for the escaped prey. Taking the road to the manor, where he had reason to believe Lempriere's messenger would be found, and spreading his men among the shadows of the bordering walls and hedges, he came upon the fugitive in a lane. To his challenge, "Who goes there?" he received for answer a pistol-shot, which laid him low in the mire of the lane, with a great flesh wound in the right shoulder; but the soldiers hearing the report ran up from both sides. Le Gallais was overpowered and secured after a brief resistance.
"Search him and take him to the governor," said the wounded sergeant, as he swooned from loss of blood.
The following morning found Sir George and his clerk in their old places in the Gorey Castle. Pale and draggled, Le Gallais confronted his examiners with such firmness as he could gather from a good cause.
"You have nothing against me, Messire de Carteret," he said firmly.
"If I have not I shall soon make it," said the governor fiercely. "Whence were you coming when you pistolled my sergeant?"
"I was going to join my company of militia, in order to be present at morning exercise," answered the prisoner, undauntedly. "Your sergeant laid hands on me without warrant or warning on a public thoroughfare, and I shot him in self-defence. What would you have done in my place?"
"Insolence will not avail you. If you would save yourself from the gallows, you have but one way. You must make a clean breast of it."
Le Gallais made no answer, but stooping down, drew a letter out of his boot and threw it on the table. The governor started as he read the address:—
"For the honoured hands of Sir George Carteret, Knight and Baronet, these."
He cut the string and opened the missive. After reading a few lines he looked up.
"Clear the room," he said; and as the clerk and guards obeyed, he added, in a changed tone:—
"Be seated, M. Le Gallais!
"This letter, as you probably know, is from Mr. Prynne, of the Parliament. Why did you not bring it to me at once?"
"I should have done so," answered Le Gallais.
"It contains matter of the utmost moment," added the governor, after finishing the perusal. "Are you aware of its contents?"
"Of its general purport, yes," answered Le Gallais. "The emissaries of Queen Henrietta are due from S. Malo this day. They will not go to you (unless they are forced) nor yet to Mr. Secretary Nicholas. They are the bringers of a secret communication from the queen mother to her son. You see, sir, that I may be trusted."
"By the faith of a gentleman, it is too strong," cried the governor, in an impassioned voice. "Was ever honour or gratitude known among that family? But I care not. Your friends, M. Le Gallais, are my enemies. If Whitelock and company send to this island all the rebels outside the gates of hell I will fight them. You may depart and take them that message from me."
Le Gallais did not move. "But in case of a French force landing—?"
"In that case, sir," answered the governor, and his voice rose to a quarter-deck shout. "In that case it would be 'up with the red cross ensign and England for ever!'"
Le Gallais rose and in a gentler tone echoed the cry, sharing the generous impulse.
"Now go," said the governor, more gently, "go to the buttery and get thyself refreshed. I know what a sailor's appetite can be. No words; you came from England last night. God bless England and all her friends!"
So saying the governor departed, and in a few minutes more was seen to mount his horse at the fort gate and gallop towards S. Helier, followed by a single orderly.
Immediately on arriving at the town, Sir George's first care was to send his follower to the Denonciateur and order him to summon an extraordinary meeting of the States. After which be went on to the Castle and demanded an immediate audience of the King.
Charles was sitting in his chamber, indolently trimming his nails. A tall swash-buckler, with a red nose and a black patch over his eye, was with him, also seated and conversing with familiar earnestness, as the governor entered.
"How now?" asked the King, with some show of energy; "To what are we indebted for the honour of this sudden visit? Were you not told, Sir George, that we were giving private audience to Major Querto?"
"Faith I was, Sir," answered Carteret, with a seaman's bluntness. "But, under your pardon, I am Lieutenant-Governor of this island and Castle; I know the matter on which Major Querto hath audience, and it is not one that ought to be debated in my absence."
Charles looked at Carteret with a mixture of impatience and ennui. But the Governor was not a man to be daunted by looks; and with Charles, the last speaker usually prevailed, unless he was much less energetic than in the present instance.
"If there be any man more ready to lay down life in your Majesty's service than George Carteret, I willingly leave you in his hands. But your Majesty knows that there is not. I am here to claim that the message from the Queen be laid before the States. We are your Majesty's to deal with; but if we are to help, we must know in what our help is required."
Charles gave way before a will far stronger and a principle far higher than his own.
"Go, Major," he said, with an expressive look and gesture. "Let Messieurs les Etats know of our Mother's message. Sir George! be pleased to bring Major Querto into your assembly. And, I pray you, bid some one send me here Tom Elliott," added the King, in a more natural tone of voice. "A bientot! Sir George." He waved his visitors out and resumed the care of his finger-ends, neglected in the excitement of the discussion.
Carteret, accompanied by Major Querto, repaired to the mainland. They proceeded together to the Market-place (now the Royal Square) and entered the newly-built Cohue or Court-house, where the States were assembling. Seven of the Jurats (or Justices) were already collected, in their scarlet robes of office: Sir Philip de Carteret, Seigneur of S. Owen (the Lieutenant-Bailiff); Amice de Carteret, Seigneur of Trinity; Francis de Carteret, Joshua de Carteret, Elias Dumaresq, Philip le Geyt, and John Pipon. These, in official tranquillity—as became their high dignity—took seats on the dais, to the right and left of the Governor's chair. Below them gradually gathered the officers of the Crown, the Procureur du Roy, or Attorney-General (another de Carteret), and the Viscount, or Sheriff, Mr. Lawrence Hamptonne. In the body of the hall sate the Constables of the parishes, and some of the Rectors. The townsmen swarmed into the unoccupied space beyond the gangway. When the hall was full, the usher, having placed the silver mace on the table, thrice proclaimed silence. Then Sir George—who united the little-compatible offices of Bailiff and Lieutenant-Governor—arose from his central seat and presented the Major who stood beside it.
"M. le Lieutenant-Bailly, and Messieurs les Etats!" he said, "I have called you together to consider a message from the Queen: this gentleman here will impart it to you, Major Querto, of his Majesty's army."
The Major's face assumed the colour of his nose.
"I am a rough soldier," he muttered, in English, "and little used to address such an august assembly as I see here; least of all in a foreign language."
"English, English," cried a dozen voices. But Querto was silent, and looked at the Governor with a scared and anxious gaze.
"Since our guest is so modest," resumed Carteret, "it is necessary that I should speak for him. The question is simple. Her Majesty, with her constant care for the subjects of her son, has heard with dismay that the rebels in England are projecting a descent upon Jersey. At the same time, Castle Cornet, in Guernsey, will be attacked by sea. Sir Baldwin Wake, with your active aid, has hitherto held out against the Roundheads of that island; and surely since the time of Troy has seldom been so long a siege, so stout a defence. But, with the Roundheads assaulting him by land, and Blake's squadron by sea—Gentlemen, I know Blake and his brave seamen—what can Wake and a hundred half-starved men avail? To guard us against all these dangers, and against the loss of all the profits that we now have from our letters-of-marque in the Channel, her Majesty has been pleased to devise a means of succour."
Here the Governor's speech was interrupted by cries of "Vive la Reine," led by the Constable of S. Brelade, in whose parish was situated the town of S. Aubin, the principal port and residence of the corsairs.
"Nay, but hear her Majesty's gracious project. Nothing doubting your good affection or your courage, the Queen is persuaded that her royal son's person (to say little of the other small matters already named by me) cannot be safe in your hands against a serious attempt such as can be made as soon as General Cromwell returns victorious—as he doubtless will—from the Irish war. She therefore intends—and here, Gentlemen, I come to the main purpose of our present meeting—she intends, I say, to send over a strong force of French troops to occupy the island."
Consternation kept the assembly silent.
"You are not ignorant of the history of your country," pursued the Governor. "When a former Queen sought the aid of France you know on what terms that aid was given. You know the name of Maulevrier; how for six years he held the Castle of Gorey with the Eastern half of our island. 'We have heard with our ears, and our fathers have declared to us' what things the Papists did in those days, and how the Lord delivered you by the hands of my own ancestor and of the sailors of England. Are we to do it again; it is to be France or England?"
The hall was in an uproar. With startling unanimity the last word was echoed from all sides: "England for ever! England above all!"
Returning to his quarters in the part of the Castle called by the name of the late King, Carteret found Sir Edward Nicholas—who was ageing and felt the cold of sunset—in a mantle and with a black silk skullcap on his head, pacing up and down the little esplanade by the faint light of a waning moon. There was an old friendliness between the two: Nicholas having been long loved and favoured by Hyde, now in Spain, but formerly the cherished guest of the Carterets. Hence the Secretary was both willing and able to give sympathy and counsel to his host almost as well as could have been done by the author of the famous History of the Rebellion, had himself been once more in the Castle.
"I hear by letter from Prynne, this day received," said the Lieutenant-Governor, "to the effect that our giving harbour here to his Majesty is a cause of umbrage to yonder cuckoldy knaves in London. Meanwhile I have grave doubts as to the young man himself—under your favour, Sir Edward. We are undergoing so many and great dangers and distresses for him that we might well hope to have no renewal of the old dealings to our disadvantage. Yet it seems that things are coming to that pass that we may ere long have to choose between England and France."
"As for France," answered the Secretary, "we may expect due provision from his Majesty who is—believe me—a true lover of his own country; as also from your Honour, whose noble house has done well-known service in bye-gone times. For England, we know what her power is; but that power lies in the collection of her organs (as Sir Edward Hyde hath often taught us) by no means in the hypertrophe of one organ, and that one mutilated. The Church, Lords, Commons, are Three Estates—"
"Alack, Sir Edward," interrupted the impatient sailor, "this is that whereto Prynne would lead us. Bethink you of Will Shakspeare's saying, 'If two men ride on a horse one must go behind.' How much more if there be three of them. Here, in Jersey, where there is but one organ of Government—I mean the States—we may have labour, but we have none of these confusions. But in England, look you—"
"If it were as you suppose," cried Nicholas, "the King must needs ride before and the Parliament behind. But let me hear more of Mr. Prynne. Barring his sourness in regard of stage-plays and Bishops—which seemed strangely coupled in his mind—he was ever a wise and moderate man."
"Marry," replied Carteret, "I will show you what he hath writ. He would persuade us—I will be plain with you—to send Charles packing, and to yield ourselves wholly to the present Government in England. He argues that might is right, and that it is to that a weak state like ours must needs bow;—Here be your three organs of Government—or rather were—yet one hath ever the last word, the casting vote; and that it is which in very truth governs: the others are but baubles. For, put case it were otherwise, then how would it fare with the public weal when one organ says, 'This shall be so, while another saith, 'Nay, but it shall be so;' and a third perhaps is divided. It is put to the touch, as hath been lately seen in this nation, where the King came forth on one side with his cavaliers, followed by tapsters, serving-men and clodhoppers; officers and men for the most part broken in fortune, debauched in body and mind. Against him were ranged the citizens, the gentry, many even of the lords and the sober well-informed part of the yeomen. Your Royal tapsters are scattered in almost every encounter, your King is taken, dethroned, slain. Where be then your joint-organs, your paper-balance? Is it not the merest audit of a bankrupt's books?' So far Mr. Prynne, of whose wisdom you perhaps will make short work."
"I do not say that he is wrong," answered the Secretary, with a puzzled look. "I must own that we are beaten for the nonce. And it may be that if we were uppermost we should equally destroy the balance. But who will judge a man's constitution by the symptoms of calenture? The nation is sick, yet it is not like to die."
"My faith!" said Sir George, after a brief pause of reflection, "I think thou must be right, Sir Edward. This present condition of things cannot endure: but England will not die. When once men are earnestly disposed upon a way of reconciliation there must be give-and-take on either side until we get to work again. Mr. Prynne's own tyranny, that of the Parliament, hath been already encountered by a stronger tyranny, that of the army. But that is a regimen to which Englishmen will not submit."
"Then you are for the English, Sir George, rather than for the French."
"Aye, aye, Sir," answered the other. "For the King of England, if possible. But for the Gaul we are not. We are of the old blood of the Franks and Normans. We have served our Dukes ever since the battle of Hastings; but when they became English, why, we became English too. We beat the French under Du Guesclin, we beat them under Maulevrier. From England we have had none but good and honest handling. We are English above all."
"Well said!" cried the Secretary. "I am no boaster, neither do I claim the gift of prophecy, like some of our saints yonder. But I am persuaded that a day will come when your words will be put to the proof. You will have to choose not between King and Commons, but between England and France you yourself said so but now."
"Mon Dieu! the choice will be soon made," cried Carteret. "And now let us to table. For albeit Dame Carteret is lying-in, it will be hard but I can furnish a friend some junk and biscuit."
Tom Elliot was a very bad sample of the cavalier party. Trained in camps, he had learned betimes to seek his happiness in wine, dice, loose speech, and morals to match. As in France, the successors of the Sullys and Du Plessis Mornays had become the coxcombs of the Fronde, and the grandson of Bras-de-Fer was known as Bras-de-Laine, so the character and conduct of men like Hyde, Ormonde, and Falkland furnished no example to such as Villiers and Wilmot, whose only ideal of imitation was scurrilous mimicry. Where the elder cavaliers had been proud to serve their king, the rising generation was content if it could amuse him; and with that Charles was satisfied.
Thus Elliot had learned that for such an escapade as his last he might easily obtain forgiveness. It was not that Charles was, even in youth, a sincere or warm friend. His easy good nature had its root in self-indulgence. Clarendon, who knew him and his family intus et in cute, has pointed this out in one of his best character sentences. "They were too much inclined to love men at first sight," so writes the faithful servant of the Stuarts. "They did not love the conversation of men of more years than themselves. They did not love to deny, ... not out of bounty or generosity, which was a flower that did never grow naturally in the heart of either family—that of Stuart or the other of Bourbon—and when they prevailed with themselves to make some pause rather than to deny, importunity removed all resolution." [Continuation of Life, p. 339, fol. ed.]
And there were not wanting particular reasons to dispose Charles to favour and forgiveness in this instance. Though Elliot had concealed the fact at Maufant, he was in fact a married man. His wife was the daughter of the Mrs. Wyndham who had been the king's nurse. To this family connection he owed his first introduction to the royal household, which had been constantly improved by his lawless and pushing nature. A contemporary remarked of Elliot that "he was not one who would receive any injury from his modesty." The late king's grave and virtuous mind had been greatly alienated by these things, and he had once dismissed him from his family. The passionate youth had recovered his position owing to the Wyndham influence, but he came back with illwill in his heart. The memory of the royal martyr inspired him with scant reverence, nor did he feel either respect or compassion for the queen-mother. From these sentiments, however, one advantage flowed. Elliot was bitterly opposed to Jermyn and the French interest, and made use of his opportunities about the king's person to strengthen him in a like opposition. So it came to pass that, after sulking an hour, the facile master not only pardoned the petulant servant, but promoted him to be a groom of the bedchamber; and the return was made in an increased persistence in efforts on Elliot's part to amuse the king and flatter all his propensities, whether political or personal.
The "Indian summer," or ete de S. Martin, was at its height in Jersey, when Carteret, obtaining Charles's ready acquiescence, resolved on ordering a general review of the militia. Soon after daybreak on the 30th October the population began streaming in from all parishes, under the mild splendour of a cloudless heaven. The scene was on the sands of S. Aubin's Bay, between the Mont Patibulaire and Millbrook. On the right wing stood two squadrons of mounted infantry, with their standards displayed in the morning breeze. On the left were the parish batteries, with their guns, caissons, and tumbrils. In the centre were the Cornish body guard and the militia infantry in battalion six deep, while the reserve and recruits brought up the rear. All but the last-named carried matches for their firearms, which were loaded with blank cartridge. The supports carried pikes. The drums beat, the colours flew, as Charles and his staff, surrounded by an escort of the mounted infantry, emerging from the south gate of the castle, rode along the low-water causeway.
Mme. de Maufant and her sister, mounted on sober but well-bred nags, and accompanied by some of their farm hands in gala costume, occupied a foremost place among the spectators. But the appearance of the castle cortege threatened their comfort, if not their safety. For the public excitement grew from moment to moment, "and those behind cried forward! and those before cried back!" The younger and more excitable especially, spurred by the fine weather and the novel spectacle, pressed eagerly to the front, mixed with mothers of scrofulous children, desirous of gaining for them the healing virtue of the royal touch. The king's horse, short of work, and participating in the general excitement, reared and curvetted in the crowd, but was reined in by his skillful rider.
Charles was in his purple velvet, with no token of a military purpose. But on his left rode a gigantic guardsman in full panoply, while Elliot came on the right (but with his horse half a length behind) in gorgeous array, though more for show than for service. In his silver helmet fluttered a lissom ostrich plume, his shining cuirass was damascened with gold, which metal also glittered on the hilt of his sword. The tops of his buff boots and gauntlets were fringed with costly Brussels point. As they approached the crushed and alarmed ladies, a militia officer rushing to their aid from his place between the guns and the nearest company of foot, came into involuntary contact with the glistening groom of the chamber. The lace of the later's boot caught in the steel shoulder piece of the infantry officer, and was torn. Irritated and excited Elliot brought down his hand upon the unconscious offender, and dealt him a heavy blow on the side of the face. At this sight—with nerves already overstrung—Marguerite became unable to control her usually placid steed; and Alain le Gallais—for he was the militia officer—was diverted from his instinctive but imprudent impulse of immediate retaliation, by seeing the young lady slip from her saddle into his arms.
The little incident was over in an instant, and the king passed on, but not without taking it all in with the observation natural to him.
"A comely wench, Tom!" he said to his companion, "and one that seemeth to know thee. But it seems that others gather what thou fellest."
"Faith, sir," answered Elliot, smilingly, "I have given him his wage beforehand. It is well that he should do my work."
There was no time for longer or plainer speech. The guns began a royal salute, their muzzles fortunately directed towards the sea—for many of the pieces had been charged for ball practice. This somewhat dangerous demonstration was followed by a dropping fire of blank cartridge from the matchlocks of the foot, and then by general acclamations of "Vive le Roi" from all ranks. Then Philip de Carteret, Seigneur of S. Ouen, being called to the front, received the congratulations of the king on the appearance of the forces, in which, under the lieutenant-governor, his uncle, he held the chief command. He was then bidden to kneel, touched with the royal sword, and told to "Rise, Sir Philip de Carteret." The eighteen stand of colours were displayed on the outer sides of the columns. Again the drums beat, the trumpets blew, and with the same state as that in which he had arrived, the king was escorted back to the castle.
As soon as Charles and his followers had been relieved of their full dress they renewed the conversation in which they had been interrupted on the sands, Elliot first endeavouring to improve the occasion into an argument against the king's remaining in Jersey.
"That malapert bumpkin will be no friend either to me or to your majesty," he said. "At himself I snap my fingers. But it seems to me there are some two thousand of them who cry 'Vive le Roi' for half a pistole, but would cry 'Vivent nous autres' for nothing. If the French land here they will turn against you at once. If the Parliament prevail they will submit, willy nilly. And your majesty may feel no ailment, yet have to be attended by the surgeon who cured your father."
"Whither should I go hence?" asked the other. "The news of Ireland is hardly such as to give colour to Ormonde's invitation."
"I have told you what to do, sir, but got small thanks for my pains. Think on it well. Now, by your leave I must attend to affairs of my own. May I find you in a wiser mood when I return!"
"Farewell, then, Tom," said Charles. "But beware of poaching on a Jersey manor!"
"There are no game laws here, or if there be the keeper is away." With these words Elliot retired with a careless bow, and the king waved his hand gaily as he disappeared.
The forward young man bent his way, as often before, in the direction of Maufant. On entering the garden he saw the lady of the manor—a rose among the roses, as Malherbe might have said. The moment she perceived Elliot she stood sternly, and with dilated eye before the entry of the house, as if to bar the way, the united blazon of her husband's ancestors and her own appearing above her head like a crest of battle.
"Why so stern, fair lady?" demanded the courtier, saluting her, "And why alone?"
"My sister is not here," said Mme. de Maufant, answering but the second of Elliot's questions. "She has spoken with you for the last time, Mr. Elliot. I hope that I too have the same advantage. You should go home, Monsieur, to your wife."
Elliot started, but quickly recovering himself, said, with an insolent smile, "Always thinking of marriage, these dear creatures. Ah, ah! madame, sits the wind in that quarter? You thought the poor Scots gentleman might be caught by the rosy cheeks of a Jersey farm girl. Pas si bete."
Rose pointed to the garden archway. "If you do not relieve me of your presence this very instant," she said, pale and panting, "my farm labourers shall drive you out with cudgels."
"It shall not need, madame, to pay me this last attention, so worthy of your habits. 'Au revoir, madame!'" And with a profound and mocking reverence the wanton cavalier slowly retreated, leaving Rose to sink, half fainting, into a stone seat by the house door.
Elliot strode off, smarting with the sting of his well-merited humiliation. A brief moment of reflection was enough to show its probable origin. It was evident that the secret of his marriage had found its way to the manor, where the court he had been paying to Marguerite had consequently ceased to be regarded as a harmless gallantry, and come to be taken for insult, as indeed it deserved. Nor was it difficult to go on to guess the channel of this information. Le Gallais was Marguerite's acknowledged lover, the person who would benefit by the removal of a fascinating dog like Elliot—a formidable rival, as he flattered himself such as he must be to a bumpkin officer of militia. How Le Gallais could have learned the fact of his having a wife in France might be a harder question, but it was one that was not material. Revenge would be equally sweet, whether that were answered or not.
Full of these thoughts the groom of the chamber stalked on to S. Helier. On reaching the quay, he came to "The White Ship"—a tavern frequented alike by the officers of the garrison and by those of the island militia. The parlour was full of men, some in uniform, some in plain clothes, smoking, drinking, playing cards—a scene of Teniers. One of the first faces on which his eye fell was that of Le Gallais, who sprang from his chair on Elliot's entrance, but was restrained by his neighbours, and sat down watching the intruder's movements with glaring eye. Striding up to the hearth, and standing with his back to it, the cavalier broke into a forced laugh.
"Strange company you keep, gentlemen. I spy one among you whom you had better put forth without delay."
"Whom mean you?" asked the patch-wearing Querto. "'May I not take mine ease in mine inn?' as the fat fellow says in the play. May not a plain soldier choose his own company?"
"A soldier is a gentleman, and should keep company with gentlemen," answered the flushed youth. "Mr. Le Gallais is no mate for cavaliers. I say to his face that he is a cropeared rebel, a busybody, and a pestilent knave."
"I appeal to you, Major Querto," said Le Gallais, roused from his temporary pause, and turning to the major, whom indeed he had brought to the place, and for whose refreshment he was providing.
"Appeal me no appeals," said the Major, with a truculent look. "No man shall appeal to Dick Querto till he is purged of such epitaphs."
Confusion reigned. Le Gallais looked about him for a friendly face, and presently saw sympathy on that of a fellow-countryman and brother officer.
"Captain Bisson," he said, "you will speak to Mr. Elliot's friend."
Elliot flung out of the house, followed by Querto and two or three Royalist officers, Le Gallais, and Bisson in the rear. They walked towards the beach, and on their arriving at the foot of the Gallows Hill—near where the picquet-house now stands—an Irish officer came from Elliot's group and met Bisson, hat in hand.
"Are the gentlemen to fight now?" he asked.
"The sooner the better," answered Bisson.
"Will it be a pas de deux, or will we all join the dance?"
"Surely, a combat of two," gravely replied the islander. "We do not understand Paris fashions here. With you and me, sir, there need be no quarrel."
"Sure, and we could have an elegant fight without quarrelling," muttered the Irishman, with a disappointed frown. "But 'anything for a quiet life' is my motto. This is a mighty fine place, I'm thinking, where two brave fellows can cut each other's throats in peace and without disturbance." Major Querto stood by with the air of an indispensable umpire.
The escrime of those days had not attained its later refinements. The combatants were placed opposite to each other, each flinging a cloak about his left arm, to serve as a shield, and they prepared to encounter in what would seem a fashion of "rough-and-tumble" to our modern masters.
Both were brave men, and in the bloom of manhood. Elliot was the taller, but Le Gallais, some seven or eight years older, far exceeded in strength and weight. After scant ceremony the thrusting began. Feet trampled, steel rang. A furious pass from the Jerseyman was with difficulty caught in Elliot's cloak, and the sword for a moment hampered. Before Le Gallais could extricate it, Elliot, with a savage cry, ran in upon him, drawing back his elbow, so as to stab his adversary with a shortened sword. A scuffle ensued, of which no bystander could follow with his eye the full details, till the Scot's sword was seen to turn upwards, and the point to pierce his own throat. Each combatant fell backwards, Le Gallais bleeding from the left hand, and Elliot spouting black gore from a severed artery.
At that instant cries name from the outside of the ring, "The guard!" On which the spectators hastened to disperse, while the Lieutenant-Governor rode up at the head of a mounted patrol. Elliot was taken from the ground in a dying state, and Le Gallais arrested, and ordered to Mont Orgueil, to await the arrival of the magistrate, who should make the preliminary inquiry.
Left in that irksome durance, but with wound duly cared for, Alain had abundant time to muse over the mistakes and misfortunes of the past. After the inquiry he was necessarily committed for trial at the next criminal session; and fell at first into a semi-mechanical existence. But slowly the twin stars of memory and hope rose out of the dark, while conscious integrity began to clear the moral aether. He tried in vain to cherish remorse, but Elliot's treachery overbore the effort; slowly calm returned.
It was true that the news of Elliot's fraud had been made known to the ladies of Maufant by himself. But as he thought over the matter in the solitude of his chilly cell, he could not see any reason to blame himself on that account. Hearing from Querto—who was connected with the family—that Elliot was unquestionably a married man, he had only done his duty in warning Rose and her sister against the groom of the chamber. He would not admit to himself that jealousy had influenced him in so doing. As Lempriere's agent, as the old friend of the family, he could not have done otherwise. All was over between him and Marguerite, yet he could not forget that, by the wish of the young lady's friends, if not by her own, he had once been her affianced husband. As for the death of the courtier, it was not in itself a subject for much regret; and, further, it had been wholly the consequence of the dead man's own actions, from his deceit towards the ladies to his final ferocity and foul play in an encounter of his own provoking.
While Alain Le Gallais thus sought comfort by the road of reason and of conscience, his heart continued very sore. But on the morrow of his commitment an event occurred which changed his cheer, and made his prison for an instant more lovely than a palace. All the Jerseymen were acquainted with each other, and the prison warder, though fully meaning to keep his captive, did not by any means understand his duty to extend to making such detention a punishment to a man whom he liked, and who had not yet been condemned. So when Mme. de Maufant and her sister presented themselves at the gate, seeking admission to Alain's cell, the worthy jailor unhesitatingly showed them into his own parlour, and fetched Alain to them, only taking the precaution of turning the door key upon the outside as he left them alone with the priser, on the understanding that they should call him from the window when they wished to leave.
Pale as death, her lovely eyes ringed with dark shades, poor Marguerite fell upon Alain's breast, without pretence of coyness.
"Alain, mon ami!" she cooed in her soft rich voice, "can you give me your pardon?"
How far Alain believed this sudden revelation cannot certainly be told. All that he felt able to do was to strain the girl to his heart and be silent. Rose stood discreetly at the window; but finding that the lovers had no more to say to each other, she by and by broke silence.
"We shall not leave you to suffer for us," she said. "Carteret is without scruple and without mercy. As a friend of Michael's, he will seek every loophole for your ruin. I have already seen the Advocate Falle. He says that you will be tried for murder next week, and that if Carteret presides you are no better than a dead man."
"To die for you and Marguerite is not so hard," said the young man, with a smile.
"You shall do nothing of the sort," cried Rose, warmly, "listen to me. The day is setting in for rain and storm. At five in the afternoon it will be dark. Then one of us will come back with John Le Vesconte, of La Rosiere, who is your match in stature, and who will be admitted on account of his being of kin to us. He will change clothes with you, and will remain in your stead while you come out of prison in his. He is in favour with Carteret, and will be quit for a fine, which I will gladly pay."
As she stood, warm and bright with zeal, and intellect flushing in her eye, Alain thought that, with all his troubles, her exiled lord was a happy man. But he had to think of his own case. Placing the broken form of Marguerite tenderly in a chair, he stood up and looked full in Rose's face, his hands joined, almost in an attitude of prayer.
"Do not tempt me," he said, in a low, but determined voice. "I will not put another in my place to save my life, nor even to please Michael Lempriere's wife. Moreover, John Valpy, the jailor here—who is somewhat of my family, too, for our fathers married cousins—has dealt tenderly with me, and I will not do what would bring ruin upon him. Tempt me no more," he repeated hastily, seeing Rose about to interrupt him. "My mind is fully made up."
"But for her sake," pleaded Mme. de Maufant, eyeing the almost senseless girl with yearning pity. "Think of her young life, bound up with yours."
"Alas!" answered he, "who knows what maidens mean? She has been excited by all that has befallen, and will doubtless be sorry for me, and remember me. But her life can never be bound but by herself. Briefly, I will not be saved on the terms you offer. Existence for me is without value, honour is not."
After this speech, delivered in a tone of conviction, Rose could say no more. For her part, Marguerite was helpless. Her nerves had broken in the excitement of the whole scene, and by the time that Alain had done speaking, she was on the edge of a fit of violent hysterics. When her sister had succeeded, by the aid of the jailor's wife, hastily summoned, in restoring a little calm, Marguerite insisted upon being taken away. Alain was left unshaken in his resolve, and Rose, weary of the unsuccessful interview, removed her sister to their temporary lodgings in the town. Leaving her there in the careful hands of the woman of the place—an old acquaintance—she hurried off to Hill-street, where she had another consultation with the Advocate Falle.
The result was soon apparent. To whatever motive Carteret may have yielded, he did not preside at the trial of Le Gallais, leaving the task—as indeed he usually did—to the Lieutenant-Bailiff. The record of the trial has perished, along with many public papers of those troublous times. But thus much we know, that Alain Le Gallais was tried before the Lieutenant-Bailiff and six jurats, and, in spite of a strenuous defence by Advocate Falle, was found guilty and sentenced to death.
It would be impossible to describe the anguish of the ladies of Maufant, who had remained in town during these proceedings. Rose had already spent in the conduct of the case money that she could ill afford. But she knew that her husband would never forgive her if she neglected any means of delivering their champion. Nor was she in any way disposed to do so. Secret service money was laid out to the full extent of Mme. de Maufant's powers of borrowing.
Meanwhile the political horizon grew darker day by day. Charles fretted and yawned; but he continued to attend Divine service in the town church. He also dined in public, "touched" for the king's evil, and exercised such functions of royalty (as understood in that period of transition) as the conditions of the place permitted. Just before the end of the Stuart dynasty kingship in England was in much the same condition among the English as it is now among the German nations. The monarch was still regarded as the head of the feudal State, while a number of the leading men were beginning to perceive more or less clearly that society had passed out of a condition in which it could be deeply or permanently swayed by the absolute will of one individual, however highly placed by what one called the Divine pleasure, and another the accident of birth. Among the personal prerogatives of the Crown was the pardon of persons condemned to death.
On the morning of the day when Mr. Secretary Nicholas was ordered to bring up the papers in the case of Rex v. Le Gallais, the Lieutenant-Governor of the small territory to which Charles's sway was for the present restricted had a long audience. The king had, in his light way, lamented the loss of his petulant favourite. But Carteret had, with less pains than he had looked for, succeeded in convincing the facile and intelligent sovereign that for both the quarrel and its result Tom Elliot had been alone answerable. Probability leads us to suspect that Charles had his own reasons for the readiness with which he accepted the governor's arguments. Among all the young king's heavy faults, vindictiveness was not, at that time, in the faintest degree traceable; but, besides that, he had learned, in the intercourse of the last day or two before the fatal encounter, too much of Elliot's nefarious designs upon Marguerite de St. Martin to suppose that he would with decency punish the conduct of her defender. Nor need we wonder if a bag of Rose Lempriere's pistoles lent weight, even to royal scruples.
"Odsfish, Sir George," he said, finally, "I believe that you must e'en take the pardon of your choleric countryman."
"Your majesty is ever gracious," answered Carteret, with his best quarter-deck reverence, "though under your pardon my countrymen are in no respect to be taxed with ready choler. They are ever courteous and patient. Only steadfast malice is what they cannot abide."
"I dare be bold to say that human nature hath its operation amongst them," answered Charles, with his languid smile. "Give them what they want and their temper is easy. But enough of this, Nicholas will draw the pardon, and it shall be signed and sealed anon. But, further, take order that there be no more duelling. And now, as touching another of your prisoners, Major Querto?"
"The major was arrested among those present at the duel, in which it hath been shown that he was not a participator," said Sir George; "but letters have been found in his possession which hinder his release without further inquiry."
"I can be the major's warrant," answered Charles. "He was a trooper in Goring's horse, and rose by reason of his wife being chosen to nurse my mother's last-born infant at Exeter. When her majesty retired into France, Querto, raised to be a commissioned officer, remained in Exeter. When that city was taken he followed his wife to France, from whence he is now come, bringing letters from her majesty to me."
"By your leave, sir," answered Carteret, "your information lacks completeness. Querto by no means repaired from Exeter to France. We have searched his valise, and have taken therefrom a packet of papers, from which it plainly appears that he is a false knave, who hath bubbled both sides. There is among these papers a letter from Sir John Grenville, to the effect that this fellow was to obtain money from the Parliament on a false pretence of delivering Scilly into their hands. There is another from Bulstrode Whitelock, in which the matter assumes a different and a more heinous aspect. According to that paper, Querto had been to London, and there undertaken, on the receipt of two thousand pounds, to aid in the betrayal, not merely of Scilly, but of Jersey. He had taken handsell of his price, and went to France, either to complete the bargain or else to trade with Mazarin. I leave to your majesty to determine which."
The king moved uneasily in his chair. He shunned the governor's searching eye, and affected to be watching a ship in the offing, of which a view was commanded by his casement.
"That vessel appears to interest your majesty," said Carteret, "she flies St. Andrew's Cross."
"I opine that it is the vessel of the Scots Commissioners," answered Charles. "An it be so, we will receive them in council. Matters of great moment may be awaiting their arrival. For the present, Sir George, I bid you farewell."
It was now December. The "St. Martin's summer" of the Channel Islands was almost over. The trees were losing their leaves. The last roses lingered still only in sheltered nooks, rich as the Maufant garden. The sky was, however, serene, and the sea calm, as the Scottish ship sailed into the harbour. She had come over from Holland with a favouring wind, bringing the Chief Commissioner of the Parliament and clergy of Scotland, together with other gentlemen and officers, and an emissary from the Duke of Lorraine. The result of their arrival demands another chapter, for it seriously affected the fortunes of several persons concerned in the events which our history relates. Our scene changes to the ancient monastic chapel of the castle, in which the commissioners were brought before the king in council.
FAREWELL TO JERSEY.
The king's ordinary cabinet council was now reduced to three persons besides himself, for it must be remembered that down to the days of the German sovereigns, who could not join from ignorance of the language, the English kings were always members of the cabinet, as the viceroy is to this day in British India. Hyde still playing the vain Ind futile part of ambassador in Madrid, Lord Hopton and the two secretaries, Nicholas and Long, were the only ministers present.
But the matter now opened by the arrival of the Scottish commissioners, was considered of so much moment as to justify, and even to demand, the summoning of the lieutenant-governor, and of all the peers then resident in Jersey. The deliberations of this assembly—which may be regarded as being tantamount to the Privy Council at large—lasted to the end of the month of December. But we are not dealing with general history. It will suffice to record that Winram, of Liberton, the chief of the mission, appeared charged, in the name of the parliament and clergy of the northern kingdom, to present and enforce certain written addresses, of which the gist was this.
Charles was to subscribe the "solemn league and covenant," to give pardon and amnesty to all past political offences, and to agree to maintain the Protestant religion, according to the Presbyterian rite. Our fathers fought for freedom, but it was freedom only for themselves.
Upon these conditions it was observed by the foremost of the king's advisers, that the so-called "Scottish Parliament" was no Parliament at all, neither having been called by royal mandate nor dissolved by the late king's death. It was thus wanting in the essential elements and attributes. Dishonour and prejudice would accrue to any sovereign who should upset the very nature of the constitution. Yet the commissioners asserted stoutly that their employers would not be treated with under any other style, title, or appellation. The king's councillors frowned. It was added, further, that the clergy of the Church of England, as might be learnt from his majesty's own chaplains then present in Jersey, would strenuously oppose the Scottish alliance. They would indeed rather see the king go among the Papists in Ireland than among such strict Protestants as the Scots. These counsels were upheld by certain of the lords; and the Lord Byron, though not giving such extreme lengths, thought it not well to form a conclusive opinion until it was seen what advices should be received from Ireland, where Ormonde was still endeavouring to withstand the forces of the English Parliament under General Cromwell.
About the end of the month, however, all hope from that side faded away. The defence of Ireland had melted before the two passions of fear and avarice. All the strong places in Ireland had yielded themselves to the parliament. Ormonde admitted his failure in a letter to Charles, dated "Waterford, December 15, 1619." On this Lord Byron joined in urging the king to yield the questions of form or title, and to treat with the Scots on their own terms.
While things were still in suspense, Alain le Gallais was wandering idly on the rude quay of S. Helier, looking up at the insulated castle, and vainly seeking to conjecture what might be the nature of the plans being there matured, when he was suddenly addressed from behind in a rough, but not wholly unfamiliar voice. Turning about he beheld the grim face and gaunt form of Major Querto, by no means softened by prison fare and restraint.
"I cannot say much in praise of your island, Captain," growled the veteran, "either as regards hospitality or diversion. Out of bare eight weeks that I have lived here, six have been spent in prison; and now that they have let me out, I can find nothing better to do than to count the pebbles upon this beach here."
Le Gallais led the grumbling officer to a neighbouring tavern, and called for a mug of cider and two glasses. When the liquor had begun to do its office, Querto showed signs of better cheer, nothing loth to have a companion.
"It is not often that a poor gentleman hath even such refreshment as this," he said presently, after lighting a pipe of tobacco. The words were hardly courteous, but the speaker had not been bred in courtesy. "We had short commons in Exeter, but then there was none of the citizens fared better than we. Here in Jersey Mr. Lieutenant takes good care that they who have keep and they who want go on lacking. Yet methinks he might find it worth his while to take care for something else."
"What, mean you, major?" demanded the Jerseyman.
"Marry this," answered his companion, "that there be some among your friends who do not choose to starve while there are pistoles to be won by a brave action. Hark ye, captain, are you well affected or no? You need have no fear, sir, in telling me. I am not strait-laced, and I can keep counsel.
"Dost thou call to mind a certain evening in London when you and Mr. Lempriere were walking home together, and a warning was uttered in your ears?"
"Was it thou that played the raven? Didst thou think that we were of your side?"
"Of my side, quotha. Why, man, do you think me one to take sides? O, lord Sir, sides are for the quality. Dick Querto is of his own side, no other. Now, see here, Captain le Gallais, mayhap you know one Pierre Benoist that was then in limbo?"
"Aye, do I, and what of him?"
"Why, marry this; that he is at large, and hath a lure for your young Charlie there that will bring him from his perch on the rock yonder, and mew the tercel in London town. What think ye the Parliament will deem a meet reward for the men who bring them such a prize as that?"
Le Gallais was aghast. He was asked to consent to a plot to kidnap the king, and convey him into the hands of those who had taken his father's anointed head from his shoulders. A plot to be carried out in Jersey, and by the aid of Jerseymen! Alain was not a blind royalist, as we have seen, but he had not learned, either from Prynne or from Lempriere, either that Jersey could exist without a King of England or that treachery was a necessary part of the work of liberty. At the same time the ruffian before him must not be prematurely alarmed. So he played his part as best he might.
"I must think of it," he said, "the enterprise is bold. Tell me no more of your projects," he added, with a sudden shame, as the swashbuckler was about to enter into details. "I cannot now take part in your work, for reasons."
"All the better," said the bravo, "but see that you betray me not. The fewer of us the larger the share; but you were best not betray me."
"Threats are not needed, major," answered the Jerseyman, "I am no traitor."
Le Gallais paid the reckoning and sauntered off, a prey to contending thoughts. That the cruel plot should come to nought, if its frustration were within his means, he unhesitatingly resolved. That Querto's confidence—unasked though it had been—should be used against himself, was equally unwelcome to Alain's sense of honour.
In his perplexity, he wandered almost as by instinct to the lodgings of the Lemprieres. He had long been accustomed to regard the simple good faith and courage of Mme. de Maufant as an infallible oracle in cases of conscience. Never had so hard a need for an infallible oracle presented itself to his mind as this.
He found the ladies seated in a parlour on the ground floor, engaged in their usual employment of knitting. The room was small, but warm and snug. Under a pledge of secrecy, he told them in general terms that there was a plot to seize the king, but took care not to mention the names either of Querto or Benoist.
Meanwhile the council having broken up for the day, the king retired to his chamber. But instead of resting and calling for refreshment, as was his wont on such occasions, he seemed to meditate an excursion. Only that, in deference to the prudent scruples of his council, he was apparently going forth in strict disguise, for he unbuckled his jewel-hilted sword, and took off his velvet doublet. Then tucking his long hair under a fur cap, and putting on a blouse, such as was worn by the country people, he walked out of the castle in the dark of the winter evening, passing the sentries by giving the parole of the day. The tide being low he walked across the "bridge," and at the town end was accosted by a man, attired like himself, who was waiting for him there.
"Owls be abroad," said the stranger.
"They mouse by night," answered the king.
Without further communication the two walked silently through the town, and up the steep lane in which Mme. de Maufant had taken up her abode. It was on a hill over-looking the town, still known by the name of "The King's Cliff." At the back were woods and fields.
All this time Alain and the ladies of Maufant had remained in earnest consultation. Rose was for letting matters take their course. She had scant sympathy with those whose policy had separated her from her husband, and who were, as she believed, plotting the betrayal of her country, Jersey, and her Michael. In these lay all her world. That the king should be carried off to London was nothing to her. But Marguerite was younger and more generous. Wronged as she had been by Elliot's insolent schemes, that account was balanced and closed by the great audit. But she was not without a woman's romance, and the thought that a king, young and unfortunate, was to be sold to his father's relentless enemies and murderers, presented to her ardent mind a thing to be prevented at all hazards.
While they were thus debating the dog was heard to bark excitedly, and footsteps were audible in the garden behind the house.
"Mme. de Maufant," said a voice at the window, "come forth. It is I, Pierre Benoist. I bring a message from your husband."
"Wait an instant, Benoist," answered the lady, unalarmed, "I will let you in."
She went to the door, and gave admittance to two men in blouses. While one conversed with Mme. de Maufant, the other advanced to her sister, and, without taking heed of Le Gallais, addressed her in courtly tones, holding his fur cap in his hand, his brown hair fell down upon his shoulders.
"Fear nothing, bright pearl of Jersey," said the stranger. "A traveller who has heard of your charms asks leave to prove them."
"Marguerite!" whispered Le Gallais on the other side, "be careful, it is the king. I know his face. I have seen him many times in church."
Marguerite slipped to the ground on her knees. "Ah, sir," she said, imploringly, "the honour that you do us may cost your life. Your enemies are at hand. Perhaps the house is already surrounded. Ah, heaven! put up your hair!" So saying she aided the smiling young king to restore his disguise, whilst Alain, with a sudden impulse, threw himself upon Benoist, whom he gagged and pinioned almost before the rascal could utter a sound.
Charles, meanwhile not unwilling to wait the conclusion of the adventure, retired by a back door, followed by Rose, who showed him into the kitchen. The barking of the dog was at the same moment renewed, and other footsteps and voices were heard further from the house, which was apparently surrounded.
Marguerite sank into a chair, while Le Gallais carried the helpless Benoist out with whispered threats; and, throwing him into a dark stable, shut the door upon him, locking it behind him and putting the key into his pocket. He then returned into the parlour, and telling Rose—who had re-entered the room—what he had done, bade her be of good cheer. Marguerite continued to kneel, and her lips moved as if in prayer.
Meantime the voices came nearer. The dog, with one sharp yell ceased to bark, and knocks were heard at the door. Alain gave Rose one encouraging look and went out alone and unarmed to meet Querto and a number of peasants, most of whom he recognised as belonging to his own company of the parish militia.
"What is it, neighbours?" he said, taking no notice of the major, and speaking the local dialect.
"Why, this gentleman hath brought us here to seize a spy," said one of them—our old acquaintance Le Gros.
"There is no spy here but himself," answered Le Gallais. Do you not know who he is, Maitre Le Gros? This is Major Querto, who came here about selling Jersey to the French.
"What are you saying in your whoreson lingo?'" cried the major. "Let us in."
"He wishes to do some mischief here," pursued Le Gallais. "Perhaps to rob the ladies. Will you see Michael Lempriere's wife plundered?"
"Never," said another of the peasants. "He said a spy had got admission on false pretences."
"There is no one here but I," said Le Gallais. "Do you take me for a spy?"
"We do not, Alain. Vive M. le Capitaine! What shall we do with him?" said many friendly voices.
"Take him to the Centenier under the Gallows-hill," said Alain, availing himself of the rising tide. "Or, stay"—as he caught a look from Querto, in which agony and reproach were mingled—"If he prefers it, carry him on board the first ship bound for France. I will answer for his passage money. Handle him as he deserves."
To hear was to obey with the angry islanders. Hustled and disarmed, bonnetted and bound with handkerchiefs, Querto was borne off, howling and cursing. In a few minutes all was once more still in and about the house, only the good watch dog had suffered. He would never sound another alarm. One strobe of Querto's sabre had severed his faithful head from his body.
Alain returned to the parlour.
Reassured by his telling them the story, they were easily persuaded to retire to their chamber. Alain's next care was to seek the king's hiding place.
"You must stay where you are till morning, sir," he said, without entering. "I will watch over the only way by which any one can approach you."
"As you will," cried Charles from within. "But hark ye, captain! methinks a pint of claret would not be amiss, warm with a spiced toast floating on the top."
The man and his wife who waited on the ladies had been spirited away by some intrigue on the part of Benoist, and the king would have to pass the night alone in the small kitchen.
More amused than disgusted with the royal levity, Le Gallais—who knew the ways of the house—brewed the desired tankard, and, returning to the kitchen, set the hot drink upon the table; then wishing the king "good repose;" left him to his meditations.
On returning to the parlour, Le Gallais carefully secured both the inner and the outer door, put a log upon the fire, looked to the priming of his pistols, laid his sword upon the table, threw a cloak over his knees, sate up in his arm chair with a look of resolute vigilance, and sank into a profound sleep, from which he did not wake till day streamed through the casement. His first care was to go to the stable and release Benoist, but that slippery rascal, after his wont, had released himself. His gag and bandage lay upon the stable floor, along with a bar shaken out of the loophole in the wall, leaving an aperture just large enough for a lean man to push through.
Returning to the house, Le Gallais found the graceless monarch seated at table before a steaming bowl of porridge, while Rose was pouring him some cider.
"Odsfish," he heard Charles say, "I owe Captain Le Gallais thanks for a fair deliverance, and you, madame, a courteous usage under difficulty. But a la guerre comme a la guerre, and I have slept in worse conditions than those of your house, madame. Let me but bid farewell to your sweet sister, and I will be back in the castle before my absence has been observed. Ha! Captain Le Gallais, you must be my guide back to the quay. This part is strange to me."
All Charles's prayers were vain. Marguerite had a migraine, and could not have the honour of receiving the king's farewell. He finished his breakfast, took a courtier's leave of his hostess, and set forth on his homeward way, respectfully attended by Le Gallais. They walked through the streets in silence for some time, the king having quite enough sense to be ashamed of his situation.
"You have an interest," he presently said, "in yonder ladies, captain?"
"I have, sir. I am M. de Maufant's friend."
"And therefore my enemy, I take it. No matter, you have served me a good turn."
Soon the strangely-assorted couple approached the quay. Scarcely anyone being abroad at that early hour. Moreover they had come down to the bridge head by way of the Gallows-hill, to avoid the publicity of the main streets. As they parted, Charles turned kindly to his unwonted follower, and said once more—
"We shall not forget our obligation to you, Captain Le Gallais, whenever a time comes for proper acknowledgment. Meantime, if you will not own us as your king, tell me, as man to man, if there be anything in which Charles Stuart can serve you."
"Aye, is there," answered the Jerseyman, out of the fullness of his heart. "For your own sake, sir, leave us. We are a simple folk, unused to the ways of the great world, and only asking to be left in peace."
"By the faith of a gentleman," muttered Charles, as he made his way out to the castle, "the islander is right in his amphibious way. The solemn league and covenant is not amusing, but it cannot be worse than living here like a seal upon a rock; and when one goes forth to talk to a comely wench, being reconducted to one's rock by a Puritan with webbed feet. Yet he hath saved me from a shrewd pinch, and that is the truth."
It will not be supposed that Charles was all at once prepared to drop the little intrigue—so united to his already corrupted character, into which he had been led by Benoist's insidious suggestions, acting upon a mind always anxious for excitement, and predisposed by the talk of the deceased groom-of-the-chamber. But the danger which he had incurred was a warning in the opposite direction. Benoist was in hiding, and appeared no more in the castle; lastly, the negotiations with the Scots now became so urgent and so perpetual as to require his almost constant presence and personal influence. The opposing motives and conflicting opinions of his various advisers often kindled into violent altercation, in composing which the really excellent qualities of the young king's prematurely developed character had room for beneficial action. So the ladies of Maufant were left free from a troublesome persecution, against which, nevertheless, they took all due precautions.
Upon general grounds Charles was now willing enough to leave Jersey. The bluff firmness of Sir George Carteret, and the grave counsels of Nicholas, by whom the lieutenant-governor was usually backed up, were unwelcome to a sovereign; and his tiny kingdom afforded but little compensation, especially when he was forbidden to visit it, and was virtually prisoner on an almost insulated corner thereof. For Carteret and Nicholas had heard of his nocturnal adventure, and had extorted a promise from him not to go on land without their knowledge. They had also taken other precautions in the same behalf, which were perhaps more trustworthy.
It was finally determined that the king and his retinue should leave the island. The Scots' invitation was accepted on the terms proposed by what it was agreed to call "the committee of estates;" and Breda, in Holland, was named as the place where the final agreement should be engrossed and signed by the high contracting parties. Here Charles would be safe in the protection of his brother-in-law, the Prince of Orange, until matters should be ripe for his departure to Scotland.
Since the events related in the foregoing chapters nearly two years had gone by. Jersey had been saved from intrigues of the Queen and Lord Jermyn. Charles had gone to France, and thence to Holland, followed by the Duke of York, his brother, and later by Sir Edward Nicholas and the other members of his council and court. The lieutenant-governor, freed from even the slight control afforded by their presence, had given full scope to the worse parts of his peculiar and complicated character. More than ever was his administration of his native island marked by unblushing egotism. Oppressive, grasping, unguarded in speech, and almost unrestrained in action, he seemed, from one point of view, the model of a sordid, short-sighted despot, making hay while the sun shone. But he had a fund of caution which kept him from proceeding quite to extremes, and his energy and ability were undeniable, as was also his attention to business. Hence, while feared and even hated, he was still respected and obeyed. Most of the militia officers were his creatures, as were also—as we have already seen—the civil, judicial, and legislative officers of the little republic. The seat of his government was at S. Helier, while S. Aubin, on the opposite point of the bay, was filled with his skippers and their crews, and the traders who profited by their piratical proceedings. Hardly a week passed but some rich prize—usually an English merchantman—was brought in there, to be condemned by Carteret's court, and sold, together with her cargo, while the unfortunate mariners who had manned her were left to their own resources. Adventurers from all parts flocked to Jersey, to share the gains of this new and irregular trade, while the lawful commerce of England was menaced as with a cancer. With the resources derived from his maritime enterprise, joined to what he drew from his fines, taxes, exactions, compositions, and confiscations within the limits of the island, the unscrupulous governor was founding a sort of Christian Barbary, and becoming a hostile power no less than a public scandal. Nevertheless, he could on occasion make a generous use of his ill-gotten gains.[v. Appendix.] He sent money more than once to the necessitous court in Holland, continuing to do so until the king departed thence to Scotland. And he kept up such a stream of supplies for Castle Cornet, in Guernsey, as enabled Sir Baldwin Wake, the commandant, to hold out against all the force of the Parliamentary power in that island, and against all attempts by sea. Indeed this remarkable siege lasted longer than the fabled one of Troy, and the feat, however creditable to the handful of men by whom it was performed, and to Osborne and his successor Wake, was only rendered possible by the constant aid of Sir George Carteret. Most of all, however, did that energetic officer enrich himself, laying in fact the foundation of that greatness which afterwards culminated in his descendant, the famous Lord Granville, the rival of Walpole. He obtained from Charles a grant of Crown lands, including the escheated manor of Meleches. And he further appropriated to his own use the revenues of his personal enemies, the chief of whom were the exiled Seigneurs Dumaresq, of Samares, and Lempriere, of Maufant. It should, however, be added that he shed no more blood. In fact with the exception of the Bandinels and Messervy, Seigneur of Bagot (already mentioned), no one lost life for opposition to Sir George. He even attempted to conciliate some of his opponents, restoring Le Gallais to his post of captain in the militia, and empowering him to offer to Lempriere's wife the use of her house at Maufant, which he had confiscated. But that valiant lady resolutely refused to hold or inhabit under the favour of an usurper, and continued to occupy the lodgings on King's Cliff, though in constant straits for want of money. Marguerite, who, however wild and light others found her, was always faithful to her good sister, cast in her lot with Mme. de Maufant, with the consent of her own family at Rozel; and it was chiefly by her assistance that the expenses were in any way met. Le Gallais also lost no opportunity of visiting the ladies and ministering to their wants like a brother, to the great straining of his own slender savings. He carefully forebore to press Mlle. de St. Martin with a lover's suit, whether or no to that young lady's complete satisfaction we are not informed. In any case, her manner, though composed by trouble, gave no sign of the state of her feelings; and whether she was fond of Alain or weary of him, her self-control was equally to her credit. As for Alain, he seemed to be stupefied, rather awaiting ruin than expecting better times.
Matters were in this state, when one lovely day in September, 1651, Alain came before Mme. de Maufant and her sister as they sate knitting in the doorway.
"Great news!" he cried, as soon as he was near enough for the ladies to hear. "Great news! General Cromwell has thoroughly purged the garner. He has beaten and scattered the Scots at Worcester. 'Tis said Charles Stuart their king is taken prisoner. This 'crowning mercy,' as it is called by the lord general, befel on the 3rd, the same day last year he beat these same Scots at Dunbar. 'Tis a great and a bright day in his lordship's life."
"Count no man happy till his end," answered Rose gravely. "A day of triumph may be a day of doom when God pleases. And how does this event touch us, thinkest thou, Alain?"
"Why thus," replied the young man. "The general is not a man to bear with our lieutenant-governor's oppressions and piracies for ever. Like Satan in the Apocalypse, Carteret hath great wrath, because he knoweth that his time is short. For Admiral Blake hath been collecting his ships at Portsmouth, and our informant says that they were to sail to-day, eighty vessels of war. They carry a strong force of fantassins, pikemen, and arquebussiers, with the new snaphaunces devised in the low countries. Their commander is Major-General Haine, Prynne is there as commissioner, and, best of all, Michael Lempriere is on board!"
Rose looked at him with swimming eyes.
"And Michael Lempriere comes as bailiff. He said that he would. And then, when your fortunes are once more high, and you have no further need of me ..."
Alain faltered and looked down. But for that gesture even his despondent mind might have been roused by the look that Marguerite cast upon him. But the dart was parried by the shield of an obstinate depression.
"I have arranged," he pursued, "with Sir George. You know that last year he sent out a ship of five guns to America, laden with passengers, all sorts of grain, and tools for husbandry. She was lost, being captured (that is to say) off the Isle of Wight by Captain Green, of the Commonwealth's navy. The stores were confiscated, but most of the passengers came back to the island, and have been here ever since awaiting a fresh opportunity for New Jersey. It will come soon, and I sail with the next venture."
"With the next fiddlestick," broke in Rose. "Speak to the silly fellow, Marguerite. This is the last time of asking."
Whatever may be thought of Alain's project of emigration, his information was true enough. Cromwell had determined to put a stop to the trouble caused by the present doings in Jersey. Yet he had no desire to repeat the severities of Ireland. The Jersey cavaliers were good Protestants, there had been no massacres, and their cause was warmly supported by Prynne—a man with whom the general could not wholly sympathise, but with whom he could still less afford to break on what appeared to him a not very important difference. Left to himself, he would not probably have been as stern with Jersey as he had been with the blood-stained Rapparees and their allies, solicited by the leader of the Moderates, he was willing to be won. So he readily agreed to the counsels of those who urged him to accept Prynne's offer of service, and appointed the Presbyterian confessor to accompany Blake and Haine as a representative of conciliation and indulgence.
Setting sail with a light north-east wind, the transports and their convoy, multiplied by popular rumour into a vast fleet of war, and really bearing nearly three thousand good troops and a quantum of field guns, made slow way out of Portsmouth harbour on Sunday, September 19th. Next morning they were in the open sea with all sail set. On the quarter-deck of the Constant Warwick, a fine frigate (the first launched by the new government) Lempriere and Prynne—now completely reconciled—paced slowly up and down, talking of the present situation and future policy. As they did so their eyes glanced from time to time on the fair sea scape, illumined by the early autumn sunlight, and shaded by the sails of the surrounding shipping.
"'Tis a fair show, Mr. Bailiff," said the English politician, "And one that ought to bring down our friend's stomach."
"Faith! I do not know," answered the Jerseyman. "Sir George will fight, I doubt. You know him as well as I."
"Nevertheless, he cannot fight to much purpose, and I see not how there can be any great effusion of blood. By himself he can do nothing, and who will be of his side? It is the divine asseveration of the wisest of men, Ecclesiastes vii. 7, 'Surely oppression maketh a wise man mad.' And if it be so, Cartwright should have but few sane men about him. Yet in his fall I pray he may find mercy. And I am forced to lean upon you, Mr. Bailiff, in that behalf."
"Non tali auxilio," began the quotation-loving bailiff. But Prynne gravely pursued his pleading.
"You may recollect what I said to the Commons' House three full years ago. Indeed it was the very night before Pride's Purge. If fines, I reminded them, if imprisonments, grievous mutilations, and brandings of S.L.—which I once called 'stigmata landis;' but 'tis an ill subject for jesting—could bespeak a true friend to liberty, why then sure I am one whose voice might well claim, a hearing. Yet it hath been far otherwise with yonder masterful men of the carnal weapon, who seek their own advancement in the name of the Commonwealth. I have never coveted the transient treasures, honours, or preferments of the world, but only to do to my God, country, aye, and king, too, the best public services I could, even though it brought upon me the loss of my liberty, the ruin of my mean estate, and the hazard of my life. When the late king did wrong I withstood him, to the extent of my poor capacity; but I was not for seeing the crown and lords of the ancient realm of England subverted or submerged by the flood of usurpation let in by some members of the Lower House. My speech of the 4th December, 1649——."
"I heard it," broke in the other, "And well do I remember the hum of assent and approbation with which it was received."
"It was printed no less than three times last year. Then followed my tractate upon their deposing and executing their lawful king; and other leaves against the arbitrary taxation of what I call 'the Westminster Junto.' Think you that these things can be forgotten, or that my being sent here with Haine is more than a hollow compliment? Recollect the word that we exchanged at my lodging in the Strand two years ago, and bear in mind that it is rather in your hands than in mine to temper justice with mercy when my friends shall be overthrown in yonder island."
So pleaded, and to yet greater length, the verbose but earnest advocate. But in truth he might have been more concise, less eloquence would have sufficed had not the idle hours of a sea voyage thrown open a wider door for its display. Lempriere was ready to promise anything on the joy of the long-wished for moment.
"Quod optanti Divum promittere nemo Auderet."
As he himself expressed the matter with wonted Latinity. His own nature would have disposed him to adhere to the promise given long ago, and still so urgently demanded of him by Prynne.
On the evening of Monday, the 20th of September, the flotilla was signalled in the north-western part of Jersey, where a vigilant outlook had long been maintained upon the very top of Plemont. The sea heaved to and fro in smooth fluctuations under the bright weather, which shed mild splendour over the violet surface, studded with orange rocks. With favouring airs the stately ships slid slowly on in crescent formation. They cast anchor for the evening in S. Owen's Bay, sheltered on the north by Grosnez Gape, and on the south by the cliffs that end in the Corbiere—an extent of nearly five miles.
On shore all was bustle and preparation. Sir George's head-quarters were at his cousin's seat, the manor house of S. Owen. The sandy plains to seaward were held by companies of the island militia; the lieutenant-governor's own immediate following consisted of a small squadron of horse, raised and equipped by himself, but mounted on chargers especially presented to them by the king. Considering the natural difficulties of the coast, and that the equinox was at hand, the numerical disparity was not absolutely desperate. Jersey is a strong place yet. In those days of sailing ships and weak artillery it was a gigantic fortress, if only held by a wholehearted and determined garrison. Had that but been now the case, which, however, it was not. The population in general had no insurmountable feeling of hostility towards the de facto government of England. On the other hand, the hearts of the Cavalier party were not high. A rumour had been spread—not traceable to any distinct source—that Charles had been taken after the rout of Worcester. The public, ever credulous of ill tidings, fastened with morbid eagerness on such reports. "Sorrow and despair," writes a Royalist eye-witness with natural exaggeration, "could be seen in every face. The more dispirited began to cry out that it was in vain to contend any longer against powers that, like a torrent, bore down everything before them."
Carteret, who though ambitious and covetous, was never wanting in courage, energy, intelligence or versatility, turned the more obstinately to his task. Concealing his natural anxieties, he rode about from post to post in morion and buff coat, wearing a resolute countenance, and doing all that one man could do to keep up the hearts of his people and prepare a stout defence.
The position of Le Gallais, though humbler, was much more complicated. Nor was he possessed of sufficient strength of character to choose a distinct path and steadily pursue it. Determined enough, as we have seen, under excitement he could fight with his back to the wall. Nor was he one to shrink from any duty that was plainly pointed out to him. He could not prepare himself de longue main for a definite and consistent conduct; still less had he the power—often wielded by natures otherwise inferior—of striking a balance between opposing motives. His duty as a militia-officer was at complete variance with his desires as a friend of Lempriere's. He could not choose between them. He might have thrown up his commission and devoted himself to watching over his friends at King's Cliff. He might have cast his feelings to the winds and accepted the post of orderly officer to the Lieutenant-Governor which was offered him by Carteret. He chose neither line but adopted what he called "a middle-course," in other words left himself to be drifted on the current of events. He saw that the position of the cavaliers was hopeless if they had to maintain a long and unaided contest against the conquerors of Ireland and Scotland. He had no great trust in the willingness of the French, none whatever in their good faith. His ardent desire to prevent effusion of Jersey blood was a preoccupation that hid almost all other considerations from his mind. And he had trust in the discipline and morale of the Parliamentary troops, and in the presence among them of Prynne and Lempriere, which saved him from much anxiety as to the welfare of the ladies at King's Cliff.
As he sate, that night, by the camp-fire of a picquet of his company he heard two militiamen conversing, and recognised Benoist and Le Gros as the speakers.
"To what purpose are we here, mon voisin?" asked the former. "What good would the sacrifice of ourselves do the King now, when perhaps he has already undergone his father's fate and is no longer in this world?"
"If the King be dead, indeed," answered Le Gros, "I for one will not fire a single cartridge. All the same, he was a debonair prince, and once gave me a groat to drink his health when he saw me holding his horse."
"That he is a prisoner is certain," croaked Benoist. "And if prisoner to Maitre Cromouailles he can only make his escape through one door. And that door does not lead to Jersey, though it may to Paradise."
Here the men got up and moved off in search of cider, which was being served out by the Governor's orders at a neigbouring farm-house. But their conversation mingled with the young Captain's thoughts as, wearied with the marchings and countermarchings of the day, he dozed in the still night air, lulled by the fire at his feet. Deep slumber must have followed, for he started from dreams of tumult to feel the vibration of air caused by a round-shot passing over his head. The wind had fallen to an almost complete calm: a light breeze of autumn morning breathed keen over the barren moor; bugles were sounding, drums rattling, men shouting as they collected their accoutrements and fell in under arms.