Chapter 3




For weeks De la Foret and Buonespoir had lain in hiding at St. Brieuc. At
last Buonespoir declared all was ready once again. He had secured for the
Camisard the passport and clothes of a priest who had but just died at
Granville. Once again they made the attempt to reach English soil.

Standing out from Carteret on the Belle Suzanne, they steered for the
light upon the Marmotier Rocks of the Ecrehos, which Angele had paid a
fisherman to keep going every night. This light had caused the French and
English frigates some uneasiness, and they had patrolled the Channel from
Cap de la Hague to the Bay of St. Brieuc with a vigilance worthy of a
larger cause. One fine day an English frigate anchored off the Ecrehos,
and the fisherman was seized. He, poor man, swore that he kept the light
burning to guide his brother fishermen to and fro between Boulay Bay and
the Ecrehos. The captain of the frigate tried severities; but the
fisherman stuck to his tale, and the light burned on as before--a lantern
stuck upon a pole. One day, with a telescope, Buonespoir had seen the
exact position of the staff supporting the light, and had mapped out his
course accordingly. He would head straight for the beacon and pass
between the Marmotier and the Maitre Ile, where is a narrow channel for a
boat drawing only a few feet of water. Unless he made this, he must run
south and skirt the Ecriviere Rock and bank, where the streams setting
over the sandy ridges make a confusing perilous sea to mariners in bad
weather. Else, he must sail north between the Ecrehos and the Dirouilles,
in the channel called Etoc, a tortuous and dangerous passage save in good
weather, and then safe only to the mariner who knows the floor of that
strait like his own hand. De la Foret was wholly in the hands of
Buonespoir, for he knew nothing of these waters and coasts; also he was a
soldier and no sailor.

They cleared Cape Carteret with a fair wind from the north-east, which
should carry them safely as the bird flies to the haven of Rozel. The
high, pinkish sands of Hatainville were behind them; the treacherous
Taillepied Rocks lay to the north, and a sweet sea before. Nothing could
have seemed fairer and more hopeful. But a few old fishermen on shore at
Carteret shook their heads dubiously, and at Port Bail, some miles below,
a disabled naval officer, watching through a glass, rasped out,
"Criminals or fools!" But he shrugged his shoulders, for if they were
criminals he was sure they would expiate their crimes this night, and if
they were fools--he had no pity for fools.

But Buonespoir knew his danger. Truth is, he had chosen this night
because they would be safest from pursuit, because no sensible seafaring
man, were he King's officer or another, would venture forth upon the
impish Channel, save to court disaster. Pirate, and soldier in priest's
garb, had frankly taken the chances.

With a fair wind they might, with all canvas set--mainsail, foresail,
jib, and fore-topsail--make Rozel Bay within two hours and a quarter. All
seemed well for a brief half-hour. Then, even as the passage between the
Marmotier and the Ecrehos opened out, the wind suddenly shifted from the
north-east to the southwest and a squall came hurrying on them--a few
moments too soon; for, had they been clear of the Ecrehos, clear of the
Taillepieds, Felee Bank, and the Ecriviere, they could have stood out
towards the north in a more open sea.

Yet there was one thing in their favour: the tide was now running hard
from the north-west, so fighting for them while the wind was against
them. Their only safety lay in getting beyond the Ecrehos. If they
attempted to run in to the Marmotier for safety, they would presently be
at the mercy of the French. To trust their doubtful fortunes and bear on
was the only way. The tide was running fast. They gave the mainsail to
the wind still more, and bore on towards the passage. At last, as they
were opening on it, the wind suddenly veered full north-east. The sails
flapped, the boat seemed to hover for a moment, and then a wave swept her
towards the rocks. Buonespoir put the helm hard over, she went about, and
they close-hauled her as she trembled towards the rocky opening.

This was the critical instant. A heavy sea was running, the gale was
blowing hard from the north-east, and under the close-hauled sail the
Belle Suzanne was lying over dangerously. But the tide, too, was running
hard from the south, fighting the wind; and, at the moment when all
seemed terribly uncertain, swept them past the opening and into the
swift-running channel, where the indraught sucked them through to the
more open water beyond.

Although the Belle Suzanne was in more open water now, the danger was not
over. Ahead lay a treacherous sea, around them roaring winds, and the
perilous coast of Jersey beyond all.

"Do you think we shall land?" quietly asked De la Foret, nodding towards
the Jersey coast.

"As many chances 'gainst it as for it, M'sieu'," said Buonespoir, turning
his face to the north, for the wind had veered again to north-east, and
he feared its passing to the north-west, giving them a head-wind and a
swooping sea.

Night came down, but with a clear sky and a bright moon; the wind,
however, not abating. The next three hours were spent in tacking, in
beating towards the Jersey coast under seas which almost swamped them.
They were standing off about a mile from the island, and could see
lighted fires and groups of people upon the shore, when suddenly a gale
came out from the southwest, the wind having again shifted. With an oath,
Buonespoir put the helm hard over, the Belle Suzanne came about quickly,
but as the gale struck her, the mast snapped like a pencil, she heeled
over, and the two adventurers were engulfed in the waves.

A cry of dismay went up from the watchers on the shore. They turned with
a half-conscious sympathy towards Angele, for her story was known by all,
and in her face they read her mortal fear, though she made no cry, but
only clasped her hands in agony. Her heart told her that yonder Michel de
la Foret was fighting for his life. For an instant only she stood, the
terror of death in her eyes, then she turned to the excited fishermen
near.

"Men, oh men," she cried, "will you not save them? Will no one come with
me?"

Some shook their heads sullenly, others appeared uncertain, but their
wives and children clung to them, and none stirred. Looking round
helplessly, Angele saw the tall figure of the Seigneur of Rozel. He had
been watching the scene for some time. Now he came quickly to her.

"Is it the very man?" he asked her, jerking a finger towards the
struggling figures in the sea.

"Yes, oh yes," she replied, nodding her head piteously. "God tells my
heart it is."

Her father drew near and interposed.

"Let us kneel and pray for two dying men," said he, and straightway knelt
upon the sand.

"By St. Martin, we've better medicine than that, apothecary!" said
Lempriere of Rozel loudly, and, turning round, summoned two serving-men.
"Launch my strong boat," he added. "We will pick these gentlemen from the
brine, or know the end of it all."

The men hurried gloomily to the long-boat, ran her down to the shore and
into the surf.

"You are going--you are going to save him, dear Seigneur?" asked the girl
tremulously.

"To save him--that's to be seen, mistress," answered Lempriere, and
advanced to the fishermen. By dint of hard words, and as hearty
encouragement and promises, he got a half-dozen strong sailors to man the
boat.

A moment after, they were all in. At a motion from the Seigneur, the boat
was shot out into the surf, and a cheer from the shore gave heart to De
la Foret and Buonespoir, who were being driven upon the rocks.

The Jerseymen rowed gallantly; and the Seigneur, to give them heart,
promised a shilling, a capon, and a gallon of beer to each, if the rescue
was made. Again and again the two men seemed to sink beneath the sea, and
again and again they came to the surface and battled further, torn,
battered, and bloody, but not beaten. Cries of "We're coming, gentles,
we're coming!" from the Seigneur of Rozel, came ringing through the surf
to the dulled ears of the drowning men, and they struggled on.

There never was a more gallant rescue. Almost at their last gasp the two
were rescued.

"Mistress Aubert sends you welcome, sir, if you be Michel de la Foret,"
said Lempriere of Rozel, and offered the fugitive his horn of liquor as
he lay blown and beaten in the boat.

"I am he," De la Foret answered. "I owe you my life, Monsieur," he added.

Lempriere laughed. "You owe it to the lady; and I doubt you can properly
pay the debt," he answered, with a toss of the head; for had not the lady
refused him, the Seigneur of Rozel, six feet six in height, and all else
in proportion, while this gentleman was scarce six feet.

"We can have no quarrel upon the point," answered De la Foret, reaching
out his hand; "you have at least done tough work for her, and if I cannot
pay in gold, I can in kind. It was a generous deed, and it has made a
friend for ever of Michel de la Foret."

"Raoul Lempriere of Rozel they call me, Michel de la Foret, and by Rollo
the Duke, but I'll take your word in the way of friendship, as the lady
yonder takes it for riper fruit! Though, faith, 'tis fruit of a short
summer, to my thinking."

All this while Buonespoir the pirate, his face covered with blood, had
been swearing by the little finger of St. Peter that each Jerseyman there
should have the half of a keg of rum. He went so far in gratitude as to
offer the price of ten sheep which he had once secretly raided from the
Seigneur of Rozel and sold in France; for which he had been seized on his
later return to the island, and had escaped without punishment.

Hearing, Lempriere of Rozel roared at him in anger: "Durst speak to me!
For every fleece you thieved I'll have you flayed with bow-strings if
ever I sight your face within my boundaries."

"Then I'll fetch and carry no more for M'sieu' of Rozel," said
Buonespoir, in an offended tone, but grinning under his reddish beard.

"When didst fetch and carry for me, varlet?" Lempriere roared again.

"When the Seigneur of Rozel fell from his horse, overslung with sack, the
night of the royal Duke's visit, and the footpads were on him, I carried
him on my back to the lodge of Rozel Manor. The footpads had scores to
settle with the great Rozel."

For a moment the Seigneur stared, then roared again, but this time with
laughter.

"By the devil and Rollo, I have sworn to this hour that there was no man
in the isle could have carried me on his shoulders. And I was right, for
Jersiais you're none, neither by adoption nor grace, but a citizen of the
sea."

He laughed again as a wave swept over them, drenching them, and a sudden
squall of wind came out of the north. "There's no better head in the isle
than mine for measurement and thinking, and I swore no man under eighteen
stone could carry me, and I am twenty-five--I take you to be nineteen
stone, eh?"

"Nineteen, less two ounces," grinned Buonespoir.

"I'll laugh De Carteret of St. Ouen's out of his stockings over this,"
answered Lempriere. "Trust me for knowing weights and measures! Look you,
varlet, thy sins be forgiven thee. I care not about the fleeces, if there
be no more stealing. St. Ouen's has no head--I said no one man in Jersey
could have done it--I'm heavier by three stone than any man in the
island." Thereafter there was little speaking among them, for the danger
was greater as they neared the shore. The wind and the sea were against
them; the tide, however, was in their favour. Others besides M. Aubert
offered up prayers for the safe-landing of the rescued and rescuers.
Presently an ancient fisherman broke out into a rude sailor's chanty, and
every voice, even those of the two Huguenots, took it up:


"When the Four Winds, the Wrestlers, strive with the Sun,
When the Sun is slain in the dark;
When the stars burn out, and the night cries
To the blind sea-reapers, and they rise,
And the water-ways are stark--
God save us when the reapers reap!
When the ships sweep in with the tide to the shore,
And the little white boats return no more;
When the reapers reap, Lord give Thy sailors sleep,
If Thou cast us not upon the shore,
To bless Thee evermore:
To walk in Thy sight as heretofore
Though the way of the Lord be steep!
By Thy grace,
Show Thy face,
Lord of the land and the deep!"

The song stilled at last. It died away in the roar of the surf, in the
happy cries of foolish women, and the laughter of men back from a
dangerous adventure. As the Seigneur's boat was drawn up the shore,
Angele threw herself into the arms of Michel de la Foret, the soldier
dressed as a priest.

Lempriere of Rozel stood abashed before this rich display of feeling. In
his hottest youth he could not have made such passionate motions of
affection. His feelings ran neither high nor broad, but neither did they
run low and muddy. His nature was a straight level of sensibility--a
rough stream between high banks of prejudice, topped with the foam of
vanity, now brawling in season, and now going steady and strong to the
sea. Angele had come to feel what he was beneath the surface. She felt
how unimaginative he was, and how his humour, which was but the
horse-play of vanity, helped him little to understand the world or
himself. His vanity was ridiculous, his self-importance was against
knowledge or wisdom; and Heaven had given him a small brain, a big and
noble heart, a pedigree back to Rollo, and the absurd pride of a little
lord in a little land. Angele knew all this; but realised also that he
had offered her all he was able to offer to any woman.

She went now and put out both hands to him. "I shall ever pray God's
blessing on the lord of Rozel," she said, in a low voice.

"'Twould fit me no better than St. Ouen's sword fits his fingers. I'll
take thine own benison, lady--but on my cheek, not on my hand as this day
before at four of the clock." His big voice lowered. "Come, come, the
hand thou kissed, it hath been the hand of a friend to thee, as Raoul
Lempriere of Rozel said he'd be. Thy lips upon his cheek, though it be
but a rough fellow's fancy, and I warrant, come good, come ill, Rozel's
face will never be turned from thee. Pooh, pooh! let yon soldier-priest
shut his eyes a minute; this is 'tween me and thee; and what's done
before the world's without shame."

He stopped short, his black eyes blazing with honest mirth and kindness,
his breath short, having spoken in such haste.

Her eyes could scarce see him, so full of tears were they; and, standing
on tiptoe, she kissed him upon each cheek.

"'Tis much to get for so little given," she said, with a quiver in her
voice; "yet this price for friendship would be too high to pay to any
save the Seigneur of Rozel."

She hastily turned to the men who had rescued Michel and Buonespoir. "If
I had riches, riches ye should have, brave men of Jersey," she said; "but
I have naught save love and thanks, and my prayers too, if ye will have
them."

"'Tis a man's duty to save his fellow an' he can," cried a gaunt
fisherman, whose daughter was holding to his lips a bowl of conger-eel
soup.

"'Twas a good deed to send us forth to save a priest of Holy Church,"
cried a weazened boat-builder with a giant's arm, as he buried his face
in a cup of sack, and plunged his hand into a fishwife's basket of
limpets.

"Aye, but what means she by kissing and arm-getting with a priest?" cried
a snarling vraic-gatherer. "'Tis some jest upon Holy Church, or yon
priest is no better than common men but an idle shame."

By this time Michel was among them. "Priest I am none, but a soldier," he
said in a loud voice, and told them bluntly the reasons for his disguise;
then, taking a purse from his pocket, thrust into the hands of his
rescuers and their families pieces of silver and gave them brave words of
thanks.

But the Seigneur was not to be outdone in generosity. His vanity ran
high; he was fain to show Angele what a gorgeous gentleman she had failed
to make her own; and he was in ripe good-humour all round.

"Come, ye shall come, all of ye, to the Manor of Rozel, every man and
woman here. Ye shall be fed, and fuddled too ye shall be an' ye will; for
honest drink which sends to honest sleep hurts no man. To my kitchen with
ye all; and you, messieurs"--turning to M. Aubert and De la Fore-"and
you, Mademoiselle, come, know how open is the door and full the table at
my Manor of Rozel--St. Ouen's keeps a beggarly board."



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