Read ACT V - FAREWELL TO JERSEY of St George's Cross, free online book, by H. G. Keene, on ReadCentral.com.

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 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 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. 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.