The Battle of the Strong
THERE is no man living to-day who could tell you how the morning broke and the sun rose on the first day of January, 1801, who walked in the Mall, who sauntered in the Park with the Prince; none lives who heard and remembers the gossip of the hour, or can give you the exact flavor of the speech and accent of the time. We may catch the air but not the tone, the trick of form but not the inflection. The lilt of the sensations, the idiosyncrasy of voice, emotion, and mind of the first day of our century, must now pass from the printed page to us, imperfectly realized, and not through the convincing medium of actual presence and retrospection. The more distant the scene, the more uncertain the reflection ; and so it must needs be with this tale, which will take you back to twenty years before the century began.
Then, as now, England was a great power outside the British Isles. She had her foot firmly planted in Australia, in Asia, and in America, — though, in bitterness, the thirteen colonies had broken free, and only Canada was left to her in North America. She has had to strike hard blows even for Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. But among her possessions there is one which, from the day its charter was granted it by King John, has been loyal, unwavering, and unpurchasable. Until the beginning of this century the language of this province was not our language, nor is English its official language to-day ; and with a pretty pride oblivious of contrasts, and a simplicity unconscious of mirth, its people say, “We are the conquering race: we conquered England ; England did not conquer us.”
A little island lying in the wash of St. Michael’s basin off the coast of France, speaking Norman-French still, Norman in its foundations and in its racial growth, it has been as the keeper of the gate to England, though so near to France is it that from its shores, on a fine day, may be seen the spires of Coutances, whence its spiritual welfare was ruled long after England lost Normandy. A province of British people, speaking the NormanFrench that the Conqueror spoke, such is the island of Jersey, which with Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, Herm, and Jethou forms what we call the Channel Islands and the French call the Iles de la Manche.
In all the world there is no coast like that of Jersey; so treacherous, so snarling, serrated with rocks seen and unseen, tortured by currents maliciously whimsical, washed and circled by tides that sweep up from the Antarctic world with the devouring force of some monstrous serpent projecting itself towards its prey. The captain of these tides, traveling up through the Atlantic at the rate of a thousand miles an hour, enters the English Channel, and drives on to the Thames. Presently retreating, it meets another pursuing Antarctic wave, which, thus opposed in its straightforward course, recoils into St. Michael’s Bay, then plunges, as it were, upon a terrible foe. They twine and strive in the mystic conflict, and in their rage of equal power, neither vanquished nor conquering, circle, furious and desperate, round the Channel Isles. Ungovernable, willful, violent, they sweep between the islands ; impeded, cooped up, they turn violently and smite the cliffs and rocks and walls and towers of their prison-house. With the mad winds helping them, the island coasts and the shores of Normandy are battered by their hopeless onset. And in that channel between Alderney and Cap de la Hague man or ship must well beware, for the Race of Alderney is one of the death-flumes of the tides ! Before they find their way into the Atlantic, these harridans of nature bring forth a brood of currents which ceaselessly fret the boundaries of the isles.
Always, always, the white foam beats the rocks, and always must man go warily along these coasts. A swimmer plunges into a quiet pool, the snowy froth that masks the reefs seeming only the pretty fringe of sentient life to a sleeping sea ; but presently an invisible hand reaches up and clasps him, an unseen power drags him exultingly out to the main, and he returns no more. Many a Jersey boatman and fisherman, who has lived his whole life in sight of the Paternosters on the north, the Ecréhos on the east, the Dog’s Nest on the south, or the Corbière on the west, has in some helpless moment been caught by the sleepless currents that harry his peaceful borders, or by the rocks that have eluded the hunters of the sea, and has yielded up his life within sight of his own doorway, an involuntary sacrifice to the navigator’s knowledge and to the calm perfection of an Admiralty chart.
Yet within the circle of danger bounding this green isle the love of home and country is stubbornly, almost pathetically strong. Isolation, pride of lineage, independence of government, antiquity of law and custom, and jealousy of imperial influence or action have played their important part in making a race self-reliant even to perverseness, proud and maybe vain, sincere almost to commonplaeeness, unimaginative and reserved, with the melancholy born of monotony ; for the life of the little country has coiled in upon itself, and the people have drooped to see but just their own selves reflected in all the dwellers of the land, whichever way they turn. A hundred years ago, however, there was a greater and more general lightness of heart and vivacity of spirit than now. Then the song of the harvester and the fisherman, the boat - builder and the stocking-knitter, was heard on a summer afternoon, or from the veille of a winter night, when the dim cresset hung from the roof and the seaweed burned in the chimney ; when the gathering of the vraic was a fête, and the lads and lasses footed it on the green or on the hard sand to the chance flageolet of some sportive seaman home from the war. This simple gayety was heartiest at Christmastide, when the yearly reunion of families took place ; and because nearly everybody in Jersey was " couzain ” to his neighbor these gatherings were as patriarchal as they were festive.
The New Year of 1781 had been ushered in by the last impulse of such festivities. The English cruisers which had been in port had vanished up the Channel ; and at Elizabeth Castle, Mont Orgueil, the Blue Barracks and the Hospital, three British regiments had taken up the dull round of duty again, so that by the fourth day of the year a general lethargy, akin to happiness or content, had settled on the whole island.
On the morning of the fifth day of the year a little snow was lying upon the ground, but the sun rose strong and unclouded, the whiteness vanished, and there remained only a pleasant dampness which made the sod and sand firm, yet springy and easy to the foot. As the day wore on, the air became more amiable still, and a delicate haze settled over the water and the land, making softer to the sight house and hill and rock and sea.
There was little life in the town of St. Helier’s, and few persons upon the beach, though now and then some one who had been praying beside a grave in the parish churchyard came to the railings and looked out on the calm sea almost washing its foundations, and on the dark range of rocks which, when the tide was out, showed like a vast gridiron blackened by large fires ; or some loitering sailor eyed the yawl-rigged fishing-craft from Holland, and the codfish-smelling cul-depoule schooners of the great fishing-company which exploited the far-off fields of Gaspé in Canada.
St. Helier’s lay in St. Aubin’s Bay, which, shaped like a horseshoe, had Noirmont Point for one end of the segment, and the lofty Town Hill for the other. At the foot of this hill, hugging it close, straggled the town. From the bare green promontory above one might see two thirds of the south coast of the island : to the right, St. Aubin’s Bay ; to the left, Grève d’Azette, with its fields of volcanic - looking rocks; and St. Clement’s Bay beyond. Than this no better place for a watch - tower could be found ; a perfect spot for the reflective idler, and for the sailorman who on land still must be within smell and sound and sight of the sea, and loves that spot best which gives him the widest prospect.
This day a solitary figure was pacing back and forth upon the cliff edge, stopping at intervals to turn a telescope now upon the water and now upon the town. It was a lad of not more than sixteen years, erect, well-poised, and with an air of self-reliance, even of command. Yet it was a boyish figure, too, and the face was very young, save for the eyes : these were frank, but still sophisticated.
The first time he looked towards the town he laughed outright, freely, spontaneously ; threw his head back with merriment, and then glued his eye to the glass again. What he had seen was a girl, about six years of age, and a man, in the Rue d’Egypte, near the old prison, even then called the Vier Prison. The man had stooped and kissed the child, and she, indignant, snatching the cap from his head, had thrown it into the stream running through the street. The lad on the hill grinned, for the man was none other than the lieutenant - bailly of the island, next in importance to the lieutenant-governor.
The boy could almost see the face of the child, its humorous anger and indignant and willful triumph; and also the enraged face of the lieutenant-bailly, as he raked the stream with his long stick tied with a sort of tassel of office. Presently he saw the child turn at the call of a woman in the Place du Vier Prison, who appeared to apologize to the lieutenant-bailly, busy now with drying his recovered hat by whipping it through the air. The lad recognized the woman as the child’s mother.
This little episode over, he turned once more toward the sea, watching the light of late afternoon fall upon the towers of Elizabeth Castle and the great rock out of which St. Helier the hermit had chiseled his lofty home. He breathed deep and strong, and the carriage of his body was light, for he had a healthy enjoyment of all physical sensations and of all the obvious drolleries of life. A certain sort of humor was written in every feature, — in the full, quizzical eye, in the width across the cheek-bone, in the broad mouth, in the depth of the laugh, which, however, often ended in a sort of chuckle not quite pleasant to hear. It suggested a selfish enjoyment of the odd or the melodramatic side of other people’s difficulties.
At last the youth encased the telescope, and turned to descend the hill to the town. As he did so a bell began to ring. From where he stood he could look down into the Vier Marchi, or market-place, where was the Cohue Royale and place of legislature. In the belfry of this court-house the bell was ringing to call the jurats together for a meeting of the states. A monstrous tin pan would have yielded as much assonance. Walking down towards the Vier Marchi, the lad gleefully recalled the remark of a wag who, some days before, had imitated the sound of the bell with the words : —
“Chicane — chicane ! Chicane — chicane ! ”
The native had, as he thought, suffered somewhat at the hands of the twelve jurats of the royal court, whom his vote had helped to elect, and this was his revenge ; so successful that, for generations, when the bell called the states or the royal court together, it said in the ears of the Jersey people, thus insistent is the apt metaphor : —
“ Chicane — chicane ! Chicane — chicane ! ”
As the lad came down to the town, tradespeople whom he met touched their hats to him, and sailors and soldiers saluted respectfully. In this regard the lieutenant-bailly could not have fared better. It was not due to the fact that the youth came of an old Jersey family, nor by reason of his being genial and handsome, but because he was a midshipman of the King’s navy, home on leave ; and these were the days when sailors were more popular than soldiers.
He came out of the Vier Marchi into the Grande Rue, along the stream called the Fauxbie, which flowed through it, till he passed under the archway of the Vier Prison, making towards the place where the child had snatched the hat from the head of the lieutenant-bailly. Presently the door of a cottage opened, and the child came out, followed by her mother. The young gentleman touched his cap politely, for though the woman was not fashionably dressed, she was neat and even distinguished in her appearance, with an air of remoteness that gave her a sort of agreeable mystery.
“ Madame Landresse,” said he, with deference.
“ Monsieur d’Avranche,” responded the lady quietly, pausing.
“ Did the lieutenant - bailly make a stir ? ” asked d’Avranche, smiling. “ I saw the little affair from the hill, through my telescope,”
“ My little daughter must have better manners,” said Madame Landresse, looking down at her child reprovingly, yet lovingly.
“ Or the lieutenant - bailly must, eh, madame ? ” replied d’Avranche, and, stooping, he offered his hand to the little girl. Glancing up at her mother, she took it. She was so demure, one could scarcely think her capable of tossing the lieutenant-bailly’s hat into the stream ; yet, looking closely, one might see in her eyes a slumbrous sort of fire, a touch of mystery. They were neither blue nor gray, but a mingling of both, rendering them the most tender, grayish sort of violet. Down through generations of Huguenot refugees had passed sorrow and fighting and piety and love and occasional joy, until in the eyes of this child they all met, delicately vague, and with the wistfulness of the early morning of life.
“ What is your name?” inquired the lad.
“ Guida, sir,” the child answered simply.
“ Mine is Philip. Won’t you call me Philip ? ”
She looked up at him, turned to her mother, regarded him again, and then answered, “Yes, Philip — sir.”
D’Avranche wanted to laugh, but the girl’s face was sensitive and serious, and he only smiled.
“ Say, ' Yes, Philip,’ won’t you ? ” he asked.
“Yes, Philip,” came the reply obediently. ,
After a moment of speech with Madame Landresse, Philip stooped to say good-by to the child.
“ Good-by, Guida.”
A queer, mischievous little smile flitted over her face ; a second, and it was gone.
“ Good-by, sir — Philip,” she said, and they parted.
Her last words kept ringing in his ears as he made his way homeward : “ Goodby, sir — Philip.” The arrangement of the words was odd and amusing, and at the same time suggested something more. “ Good-by, Sir Philip,” had a different meaning, though the words were the same.
“ Sir Philip, eh ? ” he said to himself, with a jerk of the head. “ I 'll be more than that some day ! ”
The night came down with leisurely gloom. A dim starlight pervaded rather than shone in the sky. Nature appeared somnolent and gravely meditative ; it brooded as broods a man who is finding his way through a labyrinth of ideas to a conclusion which still evades him. This sense of cogitation enveloped land and sea, and was as tangible and sensible to feeling as human presence.
At last the night seemed to rouse itself from reverie. A movement, a thrill, ran through the spangled vault of dusk and sleep, and seemed to pass over the world, rousing the sea and the earth. There was no wind, apparently no breath of air, yet the leaves of the trees trembled, the weather-vanes moved slightly, the animals in the byres roused themselves, and slumbering folk opened their eyes, turned over in their beds, and dropped into a troubled sleep again.
Presently there came a long moaning sound from the sea ; not loud, but rather mysterious and distant, — a plaint, a threatening, a warning, a prelude ?
A dull laborer, returning from late toil, felt it, and raised his head in a perturbed way, as though some one had brought him news of a far-off disaster. A midwife, hurrying to a lowly birthchamber, shivered and gathered her mantle more closely about her. She looked up at the sky, she looked out over the sea; then she bent her head and said to herself that this would not be a good night, that ill luck was in the air. " Either the mother or the child will die,” she muttered. A longshoreman, reeling home from deep potations, was conscious of it, and, turning round to the sea, snarled at it and said “Yah!” in swaggering defiance. A young lad, wandering along the deserted street, heard it, began to tremble, and sat down on a block of stone in the doorway of a baker’s shop. He dropped his head on his arms and his chin on his knees, shutting out the sound, and sobbing quietly. It was more the influence of the night and the deserted street and the awe of loneliness than his sufferings which overpowered him.
Yesterday his mother had been buried ; to-night his father’s door had been closed in his face. He scarcely knew whether his being locked out was an accident or whether it was intended. He remembered the time when his father had ill treated his mother and him. That, however, had stopped at last, for the woman had threatened her husband with the royal court, and, having no wish to face its summary convictions, he thereafter conducted himself towards them both with a morose indifference, until this year of her death, when forbearance and suffering ended for the unhappy wife.
During this year the father had even pursued his profession as an écrivain with something like industry, though he had lived long on his wife’s rapidly diminishing income. The house belonged to him, but the mother had left all her little property to her son. The boy was called Ranulph, — a name which had passed to him through several generations of Jersey forbears, — Ranulph Delagarde. He was being taught the trade of ship-building in St. Aubin’s Bay. He was not beyond fourteen years of age, though he looked more, so tall and straight and self-possessed was he.
He sat for a long time in the doorway. His tears having soon ceased, he began to think of what he was to do in the future. He would never go back to his father’s house or be dependent on him for anything. He began to make plans. He would learn his trade of shipbuilding ; he would become a master builder; then he would become a shipowner; then he would have fishing-vessels like the great company which sent fleets to Gaspé.
At the moment when these plans had reached the highest point of imagination and satisfaction, the upper half of the door beside which he sat opened suddenly, and he heard men’s voices. He was about to rise and disappear, but the words arrested him, and he cowered down beside the stone. One of the men was leaning on the half-door, speaking in French.
“ I tell you it can’t go wrong. The pilot knows every crack in the coast. I left Granville at three ; Rullecour left Chaussey at nine. If he lands safe, and the English troops are not alarmed, he 'll take the town and hold the island easy enough.”
“ But the pilot, — is he safe and sure ? ” asked another voice. Ranulph recognized it as that of the baker, Carcaud, who owned the shop. “ Olivier Delagarde is n’t so sure of him.”
Olivier Delagarde! The lad started : that was his father’s name ! He shrank as from a blow, — his father betraying Jersey to the French !
“Of course, the pilot, — he’s all right,” the Frenchman answered. “ He was to have been hung here for murder. He got away, and now he’s having his turn by fetching Rullecour’s wolves to eat up these green-bellies ! By to - morrow at seven Jersey ’ll belong to King Louis.”
“ I’ve done my promise,” rejoined Carcaud: “ I’ve been to three of the guard-houses on St. Clement’s and Grouville. In two the men are drunk as donkeys ; in another they sleep like squids. Rullecour, he can march straight to the town and seize it — if he land safe. But will he stand by his word to we ? ‘ Cadet Roussel has two sons : one’s a thief, t’other’s a rogue ! ’ There’s two Rullecours: Rullecour before the catch, and Rullecour after! ”
“ He ’ll be honest to us, man, or he ’ll be dead inside a week, — that’s all.”
“I’m to be connétable of St. Helier’s, and you ’re to be harbor-master ? ”
“Nothing else. You don’t catch flies with vinegar. Give us your hand. Why, man, it‘s doggish cold ! ”
“Cold hand, healthy heart. How many men will Rullecour bring ? ”
“Two thousand; mostly conscripts and devils’ beauties from Granville and St. Malo jails.”
“ Any signals yet ? ”
“ Two from Chaussey at five o’clock. Rullecour ’ll try to land at Gorey. Come, let. ’s be off. Delagarde’s at Grouville now.”
The boy stiffened with horror : his father was a traitor ! The thought pierced his brain like a hot iron. He must prevent this crime and warn the governor. He prepared to steal away.
Carcaud laughed a low, malicious laugh as he replied to the Frenchman : “Trust the quiet Delagarde ! There’s nothing worse than still waters! He ’ll do his trick, and he ’ll have his share if the rest suck their thumbs. He does n’t wait for larks to drop into his mouth. What’s that ? ”
It was Ranulph stealing away. .
In an instant the two men were on him, and a hand was clapped to his mouth. In another minute he was bound and thrown on the stone floor of the bake-room, his head striking, and he lost consciousness.
When he came to himself, there was absolute silence round him, — deathly, oppressive silence. At first he was dazed, but gradually all that had happened came back to him.
Where was he now? His feet were free ; he began to move them about. He remembered that he had been flung on the stone floor of the bake-room. This place was hollow underneath ; it certainly was not the bake-room ! He rolled over and over. Presently he touched a wall: it was stone. He drew himself up to a sitting posture, but his head struck a curved stone ceiling. Then he swung round and moved his foot along the wall: it touched iron. He felt further with his foot: something clicked. Then he understood: he was in the baker’s oven, with his hands bound.
The iron door had no inside latch. There was a small damper covering a barred hole, through which perhaps he might be able to get a hand, if it were only free. He turned so that his fingers could feel the grated opening. The edges of the little bars were sharp. He placed the straps which bound his wrists against these sharp edges, and drew his arms up and down, a hard and painful business. He cut his hands and wrists at first, so awkward was the movement; but, steeling himself, he kept on steadily.
At last the straps fell apart, and his hands were free. With difficulty he thrust one of them between the bars : his fingers could just lift the latch. The door creaked on its hinges, and in a moment he was out on the stone flags of the bake-room. Hurrying through an unlocked passage into the shop, he felt his way to the street door; but it was securely fastened. The windows ? He tried them both, one on either side ; but while he could free the stout wooden shutters on the inside, a heavy iron bar secured them without, and it was impossible to open them.
Feverish with anxiety, he sat down on the low counter, with his hands between his knees, and tried to think what to do. There was only the window in the bake-room, and it also was fastened with a heavy iron bar. In the numb hopelessness of the moment he became very quiet. His mind was confused, but his senses were alert; he was in a kind of dream, yet he was acutely conscious of the smell of new-made bread. It pervaded the air of the place; it somehow crept into his brain and his being, so that, as long as he might live, the smell of new-made bread would fetch back upon him the nervous shiver and numbness of this hour of danger.
As he waited he heard a noise outside, a clac-clac! clac-clac! which seemed to be echoed back from the wood and stone of the houses in the street, and then to be lifted up and carried away over the roofs and out to sea, — clacclac ! clac-clac! It was not the tap of a blind man’s staff, — at first he thought it might be; it was not a donkey’s foot on the cobbles ; it was not the broomsticks of the witches of St. Clement’s Bay, for the rattle was below in the street, and the broomstick rattle is heard only on the roofs as the witches fly across country from Rocbert to Cat’s Corner at Bonne Nuit Bay.
This sound came from the sabots of some nightfarer. Should he make a noise and attract the attention of the passer-by ? No, that would not do. It might be some one who would wish to know whys and wherefores. He must, of course, do his duty to his country, but he must save his father, too. Bad as he was, he must save him, though the alarm must be given, no matter what happened to his father. His reflections tortured him. Why had he not stopped the nightfarer ?
Even as these thoughts passed through the lad’s mind, the clac-clac had faded away into the murmur of the stream flowing through the Rue d’Egypte to the sea, and almost beneath his feet. There flashed on him at that instant what little Guida Landresse had said to him a few days before, as she lay down beside this very stream and watched the water wimpling by. Trailing her fingers through it dreamily, the little child had asked, “ Ro, won’t it never come back ? ” She always had called him “ Ro,” because when beginning to talk she could not say “ Ranulph.”
“ Ro, won’t it never come back ? ” As he repeated the child’s question another sound mingled with the stream, — clac-clac ! clac-clac ! Suddenly it came to him who was the wearer of the sabots which made this peculiar clatter in the night. It was Dormy Jamais, the man who never slept. For two years the clacclac of Dormy Jamais’ sabots had not been heard in the streets of St. Helier’s; he had been wandering in France, a daft pilgrim. Ranulph remembered how they used to pass and repass the doorway of his own home. It was said that while Dormy Jamais paced the streets there was no need of guard or watchman. Many a time Ranulph had shared his supper with the poor béganne, whose origin no one knew, and whose real name had long since dropped into oblivion.
The rattle of the sabots came nearer ; the footsteps were now in front of the window. Even as Ranulph was about to knock and call the poor vagrant’s name the clac - clac stopped, and then there came a sniffing at the shutters as a dog sniffs at the door of a larder. Following the sniffing came a guttural noise of emptiness and desire. Now there was no mistake : it was the halfwitted fellow beyond all doubt, and he would help him, — Dormy Jamais should help him. He should go and warn the governor and the soldiers at the hospital, while he himself would speed to Grouville Bay in search of his father ; and he would alarm the regiment there at the same time.
He knocked and shouted. Dormy Jamais, frightened, jumped back into the street. Ranulph called again, and yet again, and now at last Dormy recognized the voice. With a growl of mingled reassurance and hunger, he lifted down the iron bar from the shutters. In a moment Ranulph was outside with two loaves of bread, which he put into Dormy Jamais’ arms. The daft one whinnied with delight.
“What’s o’clock, bread - man ? ” he asked, with a chuckle.
Ranulph gripped his shoulders. “ See, Dormy Jamais,” said he, “ I want you to go to the governor’s house at La Motte and tell him that the French are coming ; that they ’re landing at Gorey now. Then go to the hospital and tell the sentry there. Go, Dormy, — allez kédainne ! ”
Dormy Jamais tore at a loaf with his teeth, and crammed a huge piece of crust into his mouth.
“ Come, tell me, tell me, will you go, Dormy ? ” the lad asked impatiently.
Dormy Jamais nodded his head and grunted, and, turning on his heel with Ranulph, clattered slowly up the street. The boy sprang ahead of him, and ran swiftly up the Rue d’Egypte into the Vier Marchi, and on over the Town Hill along the road leading to Grouville.
Since the days of Henry III. of England the hawk of war that broods in France has hovered along that narrow strip of sea which divides the island of Jersey from the duchy of Normandy. Eight times has it descended, and eight times has it hurried back with broken pinion. Among these episodes of invasion two stand out boldly : the spirited and gallant attack by Bertrand du Guesclin, Constable of France, and the freebooting adventure of Rullecour and his motley following of gentlemen and criminals. Rullecour it was — soldier of fortune, gambler, ruffian and adventurer, embezzler and refugee — to whom the King of France had secretly given the mission to conquer the unconquerable little island.
From the Chaussey Isles the filibuster saw the signal-light which the traitor Olivier Delagarde had set upon the heights of Le Couperon, where, ages ago, Cæsar built fires to summon from Gaul his devouring legions.
All was propitious for the adventure. There was no moon, only a meagre starlight, when the French set forth from Chaussey. The journey was made in little more than an hour, and Rullecour himself was among the first to see the shores of Jersey loom darkly in front.
Beside him stood the murderous pilot (secured by Delagarde) who was leading in the expedition.
Presently the pilot gave an exclamation of surprise and anxiety: the tides and currents had borne them away from the intended landing-place ! It was now low water, and, instead of an immediate shore, there lay before them a vast field of scarred rocks, dimly seen. He gave the signal to lay to, and himself took the bearings. The tide was going out rapidly, disclosing reefs on either hand. He drew in carefully to the right of the rock known as L’Eechiquelez, up through a passage scarce wide enough for canoes, and to La Roque Platte, the southeastern projection of the island.
You may range the seas from the Yugon Strait to the Erebus volcano, and you will find no such landing-place for imps or men as that field of rocks on the southeast corner of Jersey, called, with a malicious irony, the Banc des Violettes. The great rocks La Conière, La Longy, Le Gros Etac, Le Têton, and Le Petit Sambière rise up like volcanic monuments from a floor of lava and trailing vraic, which at half-tide makes the sea a tender mauve and violet. The passages of safety between these ranges of reef are but narrow at high tide, and at halftide, when the currents are changing most, the violet field becomes the floor of a vast mortuary chapel for unknowing mariners.
A battery of four guns defended the post on the landward side of this bank of the heavenly name. Its guards were asleep or in their cups. They yielded without resistance to the foremost of the invaders. Here Rullecour and his pilot, looking back upon the way they had come, found the currents driving the transport boats hither and thither in confusion. Jersey was not to be conquered without opposition ; no army of defense was abroad, but the elements roused themselves and furiously attacked the fleet. Battalions unable to land drifted back with the tides to Granville, whence they had come. Boats containing the heavy ammunition and a regiment of conscripts were battered upon the rocks, and hundreds of the invaders found an unquiet grave upon the Banc des Violettes.
Night wore on, and at last the remaining legions were landed. Presently the traitor Delagarde arrived, and was welcomed warmly by Rullecour. A force was left behind to guard La Roque Platte, and then the journey across country to the sleeping town began.
With silent, drowsing batteries in front and on either side of them, the French troops advanced, the marshes of Samarès and the sea on their left, churches and manor-houses on their right, — all silent. Not yet had a blow been struck for the honor of the land and of the kingdom.
But a blind injustice was, in its own way, doing the work of justice too. On the march, Delagarde, suspecting treachery to himself, not without reason, required of Rullecour guarantee for the fulfillment of his promise to make him vicomte of the island when victory should be theirs. Rullecour had also promised it to a reckless young officer, the Comte de Tournay, of the house of Vaufontaine, who, under the assumed name of Yves Savary dit Détricand, marched with him. Rullecour answered Delagarde churlishly, and would say nothing till the town was taken; the écrivain must wait. Delagarde had been drinking; he was in a mood to be reckless; he would not wait; he demanded an immediate pledge.
“ By and by, my doubting Thomas,” said Rullecour.
“ No, now, by the blood of Peter ! ” answered Delagarde, laying a hand upon his sword.
The French leader called a sergeant to arrest him. Delagarde instantly drew his sword and attacked Rullecour, but was cut down from behind by the scimiter of a swaggering Turk, who had joined the expedition as aide-de-camp to the filibustering general, tempted thereto by promises of a harem of the choicest Jersey ladies, well worthy of this cousin of the Emperor of Morocco.
The invaders left Delagarde lying where he fell. What followed this oblique retribution could satisfy no ordinary logic, nor did it meet the demands of poetic justice ; for as a company of soldiers from Grouville, alarmed out of sleep by a distracted youth, hurried towards St. Helier’s, they found Delagarde lying by the roadside, and they misunderstood what had happened. Stooping over him, an officer said compassionately, “ See, he got this wound fighting the French ! ”
With the soldiers was the youth who had warned them. He ran forward with a cry, and knelt beside the wounded man. He had no tears, he had no sorrow. He was only sick and dumb, and he trembled with misery as he lifted up his father’s head. The eyes of Olivier Delagarde opened.
“ Ranulph — they’ve killed — me,” gasped the stricken man feebly, and his head fell back.
An officer touched the youth’s arm. “ He is gone,” said he. “ Don’t fret, lad ; he died fighting for his country.”
The lad made no reply, and the soldiers hurried on towards the town.
“ He died fighting for his country.” So that was to be it, Ranulph thought: his father was to have a glorious memory, while he himself knew how vile the man was. One thing was sure, — he was glad that Olivier Delagarde was dead. How strangely had things happened ! He had come to stay a traitor in his crime, and he found a martyr. But was not he likewise a traitor? Ought not he to have alarmed the town before he tried to find his father ? Had Dormy Jamais warned the governor ? Clearly not, or the town bells would be ringing, and the islanders giving battle. What would the world think of him!
Well, what was the use of fretting here ? He would go on to the town, fight the French, and die, — that would be the best thing! He knelt, and unclasped his father’s fingers from the handle of his sword. The steel was cold ; it made him shiver. He had no farewell to make. He looked out to sea. The tide would come and carry his father’s body out, perhaps far out, and sink it in the deepest sea. If not, then the people would bury Olivier Delagarde as a patriot. He determined that he would not live to see such mockery.
As he sped along towards the town he asked himself why nobody suspected the traitor. One reason for it occurred to him : his father, as the whole island knew, had a fishing-hut at Grouville Bay. They would think he was on the way to it when he met the French, for he often spent the night there : that would be the explanation. The boy had told his tale to the soldiers : that he had heard the baker and the Frenchman talking at the shop in the Rue d’Egypte. Yes, but suppose the French were driven out, and the baker was taken prisoner and revealed his father’s complicity ? And suppose people asked why he did not go at once to the hospital barracks in the town and to the governor, and afterwards to Grouville Bay ?
These were direful imaginings. He felt that it was no use; that the lie could not go on concerning his father. The world would know ; the one thing left for him was to die. He was only a boy, but he could fight. Had not young Philip d’ Avranche, the midshipman,been in deadly action many times ? He was nearly as old as Philip d’Avranche. Yes, he would fight, and, fighting, he would die. To live as the son of such a father was too pitiless a shame.
He ran forward, but a weakness was on him ; he was very hungry and thirsty — and the sword was heavy ! Presently, as he passed, he saw a stone well in front of a cottage by the roadside. On a ledge of the well stood a bucket of water. He tilted the bucket and drank. He would have liked to ask for bread at the cottage door, but why should he eat, he said to himself, for was he not going to die ? Yet why should he not eat, even if he were going to die ? He turned his head wistfully, he was so faint with hunger. The force driving him on, however, was greater than hunger; he ran harder — but undoubtedly the sword was heavy!
In the Vier Marchi the French flag was flying; French troops occupied it, and French sentries guarded the five streets entering into it. Rullecour, the French adventurer, held the lieutenantgovernor of the isle captive in the Cohue Royale, and by threats of fire and pillage thought to force a capitulation. Taking the governor to the doorway, he showed him two hundred soldiers with lighted torches ready to fire the town.
Upon the roof of the Cohue Royale sat Dormy Jamais. When he saw Rullecour and the governor appear, he chuckled, and said in Jersey patois, I vaut mux alouonyi l’bras que l’co,” which is to say, It is better to stretch the arm than the neck. The governor would have done better, he thought, to believe the poor béganne, and to rise earlier. Dormy Jamais had a poor opinion of a governor who slept. He himself was not a governor, yet was he not always awake ? He had gone before dawn to the governor’s house, had knocked, had given Ranulph Delagarde’s message, had been called a dirty buzzard, and had been driven off by the crusty, incredulous servant. Then he had gone to the hospital barracks, had there been iniquitously called a lousy toad, and had been driven away with his quartern loaf, muttering the island proverb, “ While the mariner dawdles and drinks the tide rises.”
When the French soldiers first entered the Vier Marchi there was Dormy Jamais on the roof of the Cohue Royale, calmly munching his bread ; and there he stayed, grinning and mumbling, when the flagstones of the square ran red with French and British blood, the one philosopher and stoic in the land.
Had the governor remained as cool as the poor vagrant, he would not have yielded to threats and signed the capitulation of the island. When that capitulation was signed, and notice of it was sent to the British troops, with orders to surrender and bring their arms to the Cohue Royale, it was not cordially received by the officers in command.
“Je ne comprends pas le français,” said Captain Mulcaster, at Elizabeth Castle, and put the letter in his pocket unread.
“ The English governor will be hanged, and the French will burn the town,” responded the envoy.
“ Let them begin to hang and burn and be damned, for I 'll not surrender the castle or the British flag so long as I’ve a man to defend it, to please anybody,” answered Mulcaster.
“ We shall return in numbers,” said the Frenchman threateningly.
“ I shall be delighted ; we shall have the more to kill,” Mulcaster replied.
Then the captive lieutenant-governor was sent to Major Pierson at the Mont ès Pendus, with counsel to surrender.
“ Sir,” said he, “ this has been a very sudden surprise, for I was made prisoner before I was out of my bed this morning.”
“ Sir,” replied Pierson, the young hero of twenty-four, who achieved death and glory between a sunrise and a noontide, “ give me leave to tell you that the 78th Regiment has not yet been the least surprised.”
From Elizabeth Castle came defiance and cannonade, driving back Rullecour and his filibusters to the Cohue Royale: from Mont Orgueil, from the hospital, from St. Peter’s, came the English regiments ; from the other parishes came the militia, all eager to recover their beloved Vier Marchi. Two companies of light infantry, leaving the Mont ès Pendus, stole round the town and placed themselves behind the invaders on the Town Hill; the rest marched direct upon the enemy. Part went by the Grande Rue, and part by the Rue d’Drière, converging to the points of attack ; and as the light infantry came down from the hill by the Rue des Très Pigeons, Pierson entered the Vier Marchi by the Route ès Couochons. On one side of the square — that is, where the Cohue Royale made a wall to fight before — were the French. Radiating from this were five streets and passages, like the spokes of a wheel, and from these now emptied the defenders of the isle.
A volley came from the Cohue Royale, then another, and another. The place was small ; friend and foe were crowded upon one another. The fighting was at once a hand-to-hand encounter. Cannon became useless, gun-carriages were overturned. Here a drummer fell wounded, but continued beating his drum to the last; there a Glasgow soldier struggled with a French officer for the flag of the invaders ; a handful of Malouins doggedly held the foot of La Pyramide, until every one was cut down by overpowering numbers of British and Jersiais. The British leader was conspicuous upon his horse. Shot after shot was fired at him. Suddenly he gave a cry, reeled in his saddle, and sank, mortally wounded, into the arms of a brother officer. For a moment his men fell back.
In the midst of the deadly turmoil a youth ran forward from a group of combatants, caught the bridle of the horse from which Pierson had fallen, mounted, and, brandishing a short sword, called upon the dismayed and wavering followers to advance ; which they instantly did with fury and courage. It was Midshipman Philip d’Avranche. Twenty muskets were discharged at him. One bullet cut his coat at the shoulder, another grazed the back of his hand, another scarred the pommel of the saddle, and still another wounded his horse. Again and again the English called upon him to dismount, for he was made a target, but he refused, until at last the horse was shot under him. Then he joined once more in the hand-to-hand encounter.
Windows near the ground, if they were not shattered, were broken by bullets. Cannon - balls imbedded themselves in the masonry and the heavy doorways. The upper windows were safe ; the shots did not range so high. At one of these, which was over a watchmaker’s shop, a little girl was to be seen, looking down with eager interest. Presently an old man came to the window and led her away. A few minutes of fierce struggle passed, and then at another window on the floor below the child appeared again. She saw a youth with a sword hurrying towards the Cohue Royale from a tangled mass of combatants at the Route ès Vacques. As he ran, a British soldier fell near him. He dropped the sword, and grasped the dead man’s musket.
The child clapped her hands on the window.
“ It’s Ro ! it, ’s Ro ! ” she cried, and disappeared again.
“ Ro,” with white face, hatless, coatless, pushed on through the mêlée. Rullecour, now thoroughly disheartened, stood on the steps of the Cohue Royale. With a vulgar cruelty and cowardice he was holding the governor by the arm, hoping thereby to protect his own person from the British fire.
Here was what the lad had been trying for, — the sight of this man. There was one small clear space between the English and the French, where stood a gun-carriage. He ran to it, leaned the musket on the gun, and, regardless of the shots fired at him, took aim steadily at Rullecour. A French bullet struck the wooden wheel of the carriage, and a splinter gashed his cheek. He did not move, but took sight again and fired. Rullecour fell, shot through the jaw. A cry of fury and dismay went up from the French at the loss of their leader, a shout of delight from the British. The end of the battle was at hand.
The Frenchmen had had enough ; they broke and ran. Some rushed for doorways and threw themselves within, many scurried into the Rue des Très Pigeons, others madly fought their way into Morier Lane.
At this moment the door of the watchmaker’s shop opened, and the little girl who had been seen at the window ran into the square, calling out, “ Ro ! Ro ! ” It was Guida Landresse.
Among the French who made for refuge was the garish Turk, Rullecour’s ally. Suddenly the now frightened, crying child got into his path and tripped him up. Wild with rage he made a stroke at her, but at that instant his scimiter was struck aside by a youth covered with the smoke and grime of battle. It was Philip d’Avranche, who caught up the child in his arms, and hurried with her through the mêlée to the watchmaker’s doorway, where stood a terror-stricken woman, Madame Landresse, who had just made her way into the square. He placed the child in her arms, and then staggered inside the house, faint and bleeding from a wound in the shoulder.
The battle of Jersey was over.
“ All, bah ! ” said Dormy Jamais from the roof of the Cohue Royale ; “ now I 'll toll the bell for that achocre of a Frenchman. Then I ’ll finish my supper.”
Poising a half-loaf of bread on the ledge of the roof, he began to toll the cracked bell for Rullecour the filibuster.
The bell tolled out: “ Chicane — chicane ! Chicane — chicane ! ”
Another bell answered from the church in the square, a deep, mournful note. It was tolling for Pierson and his dead comrades.
Against the statue in the Vier Marchi leaned Ranulph Delagarde. An officer came up and held out a hand to him. “ Your shot ended the business,” said he. “ You ’re a brave fellow. What is your name ? ”
“ Ranulph Delagarde, sir.”
“ Delagarde, eh ? Then, well done, Delagardes ! They say your father was the first man killed out on the Grouville road. We won’t forget that, my lad.”
Sinking down upon the base of the statue, Ranulph did not stir or reply, and the officer, thinking he was grieving for his father, left him alone.
(To be continued.)