Four-and-twenty guns from the nearest ships were playing upon them, answered briskly by the little militia batteries that lined the bay. Gunboats began to stand in, laden with red-coated marksmen discharging their new pattern fire-locks. The militiamen on their part waded into the sea and gave such answer as they could from their clumsy old matchlocks: making good the deficiency—so far as noise was concerned—by shouts of vituperation; and calling on their assailants as "Rebels," "Traitors," and "Murderers of their King." The landing was frustrated for the time.
The next day was occupied in rapid movements from one part of the island to another, in order to meet feigned attacks by the enemy who were ready to turn any of those diversions into a real assault, on finding the Jersey people unprepared. The Lieutenant-Governor had no choice but to distract and weary his men, marching them backwards and forwards to S. Aubin, S. Clement, and Gorey, according as the invaders appeared at one or other of those landing-places. The militiamen were worn out by these tactics, and were moreover of the class on whom Carteret's oppressive taxations had long pressed with an almost intolerable weight. On the third day their strength was reduced both by fatigue and desertion; and in the afternoon, after more demonstrations a real landing took place in S. Owen's Bay, the original point of attack. Carteret, as soon as he perceived what was intended, galloped up his cavalry, ordering up a battalion of militia in support, under his cousin, the Seigneur of S. Owen. The English infantry formed upon the beach, and advanced to the attack with terrible shouts and cheers. The first troop of Carteret's horse met them boldly, and delivered a headlong charge; but the men who had fought Rupert and Goring were not to be intimidated by a handful of untrained cavaliers. The troopers were received with a volley that emptied several saddles; and retired, leaving several of their number dead and carrying off Colonel Bovil, a gallant English officer by whom they had been led, and who soon after died of his wounds. The second troop failed to support them, but guarded the retreat as the troopers drew off without renewing their charge. Meanwhile, the militia who should have been the third line dispersed and gained their homes. The red 'coats meeting no further opposition marched cautiously across the island, and encamped for the night on Gorey Common. Carteret, with such men—mostly Cornishmen and Irish—as remained with him, threw himself into Elizabeth Castle; the other forts, S. Aubin and Mont Orgueil, yielded, almost without show of resistance, in a few days.
In anticipation of such an occasion Carteret had furnished the Castle of S. Helier with abundant provision, alike of victuals and ammunition; the latter being stored in the old Abbey Church, which was proof against the bullets used by the ordinary artillery of those days. His guns were mounted on the landward batteries, so as to command the town and any camp that might be formed there for siege purposes. The hill above—the Mont de la Ville—was too remote to cause any serious danger from the field-pieces of the period, which were not capable of sending shot with effect to a greater distance than half-a-mile. He despatched boats to convey his private property to France, and to take letters to the Royalists there, asking for instructions and assistance; and then stoutly prepared—with a garrison of 350 men—to sustain the siege against the grim victors of Tredagh.
Le Gallais, having lost his men in the late dispersal of the militia, felt no scruple in seeking his friend Lempriere. The latter, after a warm greeting, brought him to Prynne; and all three presently repaired to the head-quarters, in La Motte-street, where they were amicably received by Colonel Haine, the commander of the English forces.
Haine was one of those rapidly-formed soldiers, who had been thrown up and hardened by the war in England ten years before. He listened with due attention to what Le Gallais had to say about the Lieutenant-Governor's resources and probable intentions.
"And who is this youth that hath such knowledge of affairs?" he asked, turning to the Bailiff—for as such was Lempriere now officially recognised.
"He is one, sir, that hath suffered for the cause; a Captain in our Militia, and my brother-in-law."
Alain shot a glance of gratitude at Lempriere, while Haine, laying his hand upon his shoulder, said in a friendly tone; "I pray you, Captain, attend me as aide-de-camp until your company be reformed."
Then calling for his horse, he led the party, swollen by the number of his staff, to the head of the causeway leading to the Castle, "If what I hear from Captain Le Gallais be correct," he said to his Brigade-Major, "the Castle will not yield. But send them a trumpet, and let them not have cause to say the officers of the Commonwealth are unacquainted with the usages of war."
The trumpeter rode forward to summons the Castle, a white flag flying from the tube of his instrument. Ere he could reach the gate, a gun boomed out from the Castle, a round shot whizzed over the heads of the summoners, and Haine roared at the top of his well-trained voice, "Come back; it is a sufficient answer."
And so the fiery duet began—the batteries of the Churchyard sounding daily in harmony with those of the Castle, whilst ever and anon a piece of greater calibre roared its bass from the Town-hill.
Lempriere made haste to remove his wife and their sister from the noisy alarms of war to their quiet home at Maufant, where he left them to remove the traces of the usurper, and restore the old state of things with the help of the steward and such of the farmers as had not died out or left the country. One consequence of this removal was that Le Gallais saw nothing of the ladies. His new duties kept him much at the Brigadier's side; when not so employed, he was chiefly occupied with Prynne, who was attracted by the turn of the young man's mind, more akin to his own than that of the "hot gospellers," the "levellers," and the professional soldiers by whom he was surrounded.
Meanwhile, the siege dragged slowly on, until one dark night in the end of November an old acquaintance, Pierre Benoist, threw himself in the way of a party of Carteret's scouts, who had come on the mainland and were questing for intelligence or plunder. Taken before Sir George, he was threatened with the doom of a prisoner-of-war, who was also a spy, unless he would tell all that he knew. He asked for nothing better, having got himself taken by the patrol for the express purpose of furnishing the garrison grounds for an early surrender. Especially pleased was the rogue when the Lieutenant-Governor pressed him to explain the nature of a movement of the enemy upon the top of the Town-hill, which had been perceived before nightfall; and of the cargo landed at S. Aubin by a heavy-looking craft that had arrived in the morning, and which seemed neither man-of-war nor trader.
"That I can tell you," said Benoist; "they are preparing engines for your ruin. I saw the pieces landed, and drawn by oxen to the Mont de la Ville. Two pieces of ordnance whereof each shot weighs four hundred Jersey pounds, and takes ten pounds of powder to discharge. The like has never been seen, and they will carry a ball from Mont Orgueil to the coast of Prance. Ver di!"
Carteret laughed; but his laughter was only justified by the exaggeration. It did not altogether conceal the genuine anxiety caused by so much of the information as might be reasonably believed.
The anxiety was soon realised. When the mists of the winter dawn cleared up, it was seen that a strong work of granite had been newly thrown up on the nearest point of the hill, and while the besieged were still examining the structure, a vivid jet of flame and a puff of smoke darted from one of the embrasures, and a thirteen-inch shell—the largest projectile then seen—came booming over their astonished heads. Two more followed, at short intervals. After the third, an awful report was heard, a babel of tumult followed, and a gigantic column of smoke towered up behind them, from the magazine in the old Abbey Church. Splinters and fragments of stone and timber, mingled with pieces of powder, barrels, and ghastly members of human carcases were scattered, as they rose as out of a horrid volcano. The magazine had been struck and exploded by the great shell, killing no less than sixteen men, and wounding horribly ten others, including soldiers on guard, armourers, and workmen who had been collected for the daily labours of the arsenal. Among the bystanders was Pierre Benoist, who now lay among the ruins, half crushed by a stone, and who died after intense suffering in the course of the day.
A panic spread through the garrison; some prepared to fly at once, others clamoured for surrender. Carteret called them together; and when the officers and men were all collected on parade, appealed to all classes, as Lieutenant-Governor of the King whom they had all seen trusting himself in their protection, and as commander of the royal forces in the loyal island "I am determined," said the undaunted seaman, "to keep this castle for His Majesty so long as I have a man left to fire a gun, and a loblolly boy to fetch the ammunition. The royal standard still flies over our heads, the sea still lies between us and France, to bring us Prince Rupert and his fleet. Let those who are afraid depart—I keep no man against his will. Those who remain will be all the more trustworthy. Let the gate stand open for the next half-hour."
His orders were obeyed; but as he probably foresaw, no one dared to leave openly. By night, however, many of the garrison, who were of the Jersey Militia, silently departed. The bulk of the garrison, however, had heard of the storm of Drogheda, and chose what they deemed the lesser evil of trusting to the strength of their walls and the resources of their commander. To go to a town where they were unpopular strangers, and where the soldiers of the Commonwealth were in undisputed possession, would be to go to certain and immediate slaughter—to remain with Carteret was to gain the present hour and the chances of the future. Lady Carteret and the women and children were sent by the next opportunity to France; and then the work of defence was renewed; the guns were fired, as powder served and supplies were received from France; injured walls were repaired, and aid was anxiously awaited. Castle Cornet, in Guernsey, had held out since the Outbreak of hostilities more than ten years before—why should not Elizabeth, do as much, until the king enjoyed his own again? Meanwhile, December had begun, and the days grew short and cold. Haine's great mortars proved rude and cumbrous; before they could be loaded and fired, and cooled again, one after the other, many times, the darkness would come on. The remaining stores were buried out of range. In the black and stormy nights, which lasted nearly sixteen hours, the men of the garrison threw up mounds of shingle and sand behind the breaches made during the day.
On the morning of the 5th December the sun rose clear and bright, and a south-west wind softly threw out the silken folds of the Royal Standard on the main tower of the Castle. Haine was standing by a cromlech that in those days occupied the summit of the Town-hill; Prynne, Lempriere, and some officers, of whom Le Gallais was one, stood beside him. In their immediate front the gunners, under an officer, were preparing to renew their apparently endless operations.
"This must be brought to an end, Mr. Bailiff," said Haine. "For seven weeks and more I have exhausted the powers of modern war upon that eyry of malignants; and there is still the Guernsey Castle to be dealt with. Mr. Prynne knoweth what is the mind of the Lord General; but a time comes when sharp measures become necessary. I must take up scaling-ladders and deliver an assault."
As they looked out to sea a small barque was seen standing in; by the help of field-glasses, it was observed that she flew the French flag. At the same instant the Castle guns saluted.
"Lo you, now!" pursued the commander, "there comes to them a promise of help from France. As the Lord liveth, it must be prevented! I must recall our cruisers from Guernsey; that castle shall be breached and stormed on Monday. And then on their own heads be the blood of Sir George and of those that hold with him!"
"Under your favour, sir," said Prynne, "I think it shall not need." He exchanged a hurried whisper with Lempriere. "What flag is that which you see flying on the Castle staff?"
"It is not a flag of truce," shouted Haine. "God do so to me and more also if I make them not like unto Oreb and Zeb!"
The text seemed to relieve the veteran like an execration.
"What mean you by your flag, Mr. Prynne? I am not to take my orders from you, sir, I hope."
"It is the flag of England," answered the politician, "of your country and of theirs—the red cross of S. George. The Royal Ensign has been hauled down; do you not see? God save England!"
With the impulse of Latin manners, Lempriere held out his arms, and Le Gallais fell upon his breast. Meanwhile a drummer from the Castle was seen to ascend the bill, bearing a white pennon at the end of a lance, which he planted on the ground when he came within sight, and beat the chamade upon his instrument.
The messenger being brought before the Brigadier, handed him a small packet. Among them was a short note to the address of Captain Le Gallais, in which Carteret, reminding the militia officer of their past relations, invited him to plead his cause and that of the garrison with Lempriere and Prynne. This note Le Gallais, after attentive perusal, handed to Lempriere, who read it over, and waited in silence until Haine had finished his own despatch. He then addressed the Brigadier, and pleaded strongly the cause of his countrymen, concluded with these words:
"Carteret, sir, was a sentinel; he hath but done his duty to his master. So long as he was not relieved, he could not honestly leave or surrender that which he was placed to guard. Why he now lowers his arms he hath made plain I doubt not, to your Honour."
"Why, yes, Mr. Bailiff; for the matter of that, he hath put a fair case. Yonder barque, it seems, brought him cold comfort. As for that thing they call their 'King,' he is lost. He can only offer them aid on condition of delivering the island to the French. Not that Mazarin dares affront us by sending a French army to occupy the Castle in the name of his King, and risk the giving us battle. Far from that, he hath a conjunction of counsels with the Lord General, and they understand one another. Nevertheless, there is ever a rabble of Irish cut-throats, Flemish mercenaries, and such-like, and no lack of Maulevriers to be their leaders."
"But if such men come into Jersey," said the Bailiff, "who can say when or how they would quit, or what mischief they might not have wrought first."
"One remedy for that," said the soldier, grimly, "will be to storm the Castle forthwith, and let all be over before their friends can arrive."
"For God's sake, do not so!" cried Lempriere; "not now that they have surrendered."
"I will be bail," added Prynne, "that Carteret shall depart in peace, after giving up all that is in his charge. Only let Captain Le Gallais go to him with a note of your Honour's terms; and let us await, I pray you, his return."
The General having at last consented, after just so much show of hesitation as to make it appear that the terms were yielded to the persuasion of his chief associates, Le Gallais returned with the drummer bearing the ultimatum of the English commander. He found the interior of the Castle a scene of havoc; among the debris Carteret, like a modern Marius, maintained an air of resolution.
"It is not enough, Captain," said he, after brief salutations had been exchanged, "that we have fired away all our ammunition, and eaten our last horse, while the blockade of your friend's cruisers ever increases its rigour. After all was done, we could die in the breach or in a general sortie. But there is treachery abroad. Not indeed among ourselves, but among those whom we desire to serve."
"Your King, urged by his necessities, would sell you to the French?"
"It shall not be!" cried Carteret, with a fierce oath. "Let me see your General's terms. Better an English Parliament than a Popish King." He called into the corridor, "Bring the best bottle of wine that is left in my cellar!"
Le Gallais handed him the note containing the heads of Haine's terms. "Perhaps, messire, you would consult with your council?" he asked.
"'A quoi bon?" said Carteret. "You heard what the States carried by acclamation, in October, 1649? All who are with me are of the same mind still." The wine was brought. "What was said then in a triumph, I say now in the day of my downfall; Captain, fill your glass! 'England for ever! England above all!'"
* * * * *
The happy effect of this unexpected but welcome end of strife was soon made known throughout the island. In the towns and villages tar-barrels blazed all through the winter-night, and the best cider flowed free in the farms.
At Maufant all was happiness. The character of Marguerite de S. Martin had come out purified from the trials of the past two years, and the coquette-girl had grown into a woman, with but a lingering spice of mutinerie. Rose, happy in the restoration of her husband to all public honour and private joy, was anxious that her sister should partake in her happiness.
"Alain Le Gallais is no Solomon; that I grant you," so she concluded a conversation on family matters, which they held after the labours and excitement of the day; "but he can do his duty to his country; he has proved himself a serviceable friend. Take him, tel quel, my little heart, thou canst not hope for a better."
"Marriage is a slavery, quand meme," said Marguerite, with a saucy shake of the head. "But it is not," she presently added, "I that will be the slave; and there is some comfort in knowing so much."
So the public and private troubles wore brought to an end at the same time. Carteret and his followers were allowed to go to France in peace and honour. Lempriere and he had held no intercourse since the surrender, but the Bailiff and his wife were honoured members of the assembly that gathered on the quay on the morning of the Cavaliers' departure. The rising sun threw his orange hues on their swelling sails.
"We have won this time," said Rose, pressing her husband's arm. "Mr. Prynne, have you no compliment for us?"
"It is our advantage," said Prynne in answer; "let us see that we deserve it. There as a Power that judgeth right, and in serving of whom there is great reward. For my part, I have done much wrong, to your husband among others. I have been punished for mine offences; if I would avoid more punishment, I must offend no more."
The character of Sir George Carteret is taken from the materials of the time, without aid from fancy.
It should be added that Charles showed no ingratitude towards this faithful servant. After the Restoration he settled in London, where—in spite of his bad English, noticed by Andrew Marvell—he rose to high rank and founded a noble family, now represented by the Marquess of Bath.
Carteret was employed at the Admiralty, first as Treasurer, afterwards as Commissioner—or Junior Lord. He was also Vice-Chamberlain of the Royal Household; and he amassed considerable wealth.
But he never forgot his native island. He endeavoured to found a High School at St. Helier, what in the pompous style of these days would be called a "College." But the project broke down for want of earnestness on the part of the Jersey people, though Sir George offered the then very large sum of 50,000 livres tournois towards the endowment. He lived till 1680.