CHAPTER VIII. THE KING'S ESCAPE TO FRANCE.
When the king and Carlis came into the house again, on the evening after their wearisome day's confinement in the tree, Dame Penderel had some chickens prepared for his majesty's supper, which he enjoyed as a great and unexpected luxury. They showed him, too, the hiding hole, built in the walls, where the Earl of Derby had been concealed, and where they proposed that he should be lodged for the night. There was room in it to lay down a small straw pallet for a bed. The king thought it would be very secure, and was confirmed in his determination not to go again to the oak. Before his majesty retired, Carlis asked him what he would like to have to eat on the morrow. He said that he should like some mutton. Carlis assented, and, bidding his master good night, he left him to his repose.
There was no mutton in the house, and Richard and William both agreed that it would be unsafe for either of them to procure any, since, as they were not accustomed to purchase such food, their doing so now would awaken suspicion that they had some unusual guest to provide for. The colonel, accordingly, undertook himself to obtain the supply.
Getting the necessary directions, therefore, from Richard and William, he went to the house of a farmer at some little distance - a tenant, he was, on the Boscobel estate - and groped his way to the sheep-cote. He selected an animal, such as he thought suitable for his purpose, and butchered it with his dagger. He then went back to the house, and sent William Penderel to bring the plunder home. William dressed a leg of the mutton, and sent it in the morning into the room which they had assigned to the king, near his hiding hole. The king was overjoyed at the prospect of this feast He called for a carving knife and a frying pan. He cut off some callops from the joint, and then, after frying the meat with Carlis's assistance, they ate it together.
The king, becoming now somewhat accustomed to his situation, began to grow a little more bold. He walked in a little gallery which opened from his room. There was a window in this gallery which commanded a view of the road. The king kept watch carefully at this window as he walked to and fro, that he might observe the first appearance of any enemy's approach. It was observed, too, that he apparently spent some time here in exercises of devotion, imploring, probably, the protection of Heaven, in this his hour of danger and distress. The vows and promises which he doubtless made were, however, all forgotten, as usual in such cases, when safety and prosperity came again.
There was a little garden, too, near the house, with an eminence at the further end of it, where there was an arbor, with a stone table, and seats about it. It was retired, and yet, being in an elevated position, it answered, like the window of the gallery in the house, the double purpose of a hiding place and a watch tower. It was far more comfortable, and probably much more safe, than the wretched nest in the tree of the day before; for, were the king discovered in the arbor, there would be some chances of escape from detection still remaining, but to have been found in the tree would have been certain destruction.
In the mean time, the Penderels had had messengers out during the Saturday and Sunday, communicating with certain known friends of the king in the neighboring towns, and endeavoring to concert some plan for his escape. They were successful in these consultations, and be fore Sunday night a plan was formed. It seems there was a certain Colonel Lane, whose wife had obtained a pass from the authorities of the Republican army to go to Bristol, on the occasion of the sickness of a relative, and to take with her a man servant. Bristol was a hundred miles to the southward, near the mouth of the Severn. It was thought that if the king should reach this place, he could, perhaps, succeed afterward in making his way to the southern coast of England, and embarking there, at some sea-port, for France. The plan was accordingly formed for Mrs. Lane to go, as she had designed, on this journey, and to take the king along with her in the guise of her servant. The arrangements were all made, and the king was to be met in a wood five or six miles from Boscobel, early on Monday morning, by some trusty friends, who were afterward to conceal him for a time in their houses, until all things should be ready for the journey.
The king found, however, when the morning approached, that his feet were in such a condition that he could not walk. They accordingly procured a horse belonging to one of the Penderels, and put him upon it. The brothers all accompanied him as he went away. They were armed with concealed weapons, intending, if they we're attacked by any small party, to defend the king with their lives. They, however, went on without any molestation. It was a dark and rainy night. Nights are seldom otherwise in England in September. The brothers Penderel, six of them in all, guided the king along through the darkness and rain, until they were within a mile or two of the appointed place of meeting, where the king dismounted, for the purpose of walking the rest of way, for greater safety, and three of the brothers, taking the horse with them, returned. The rest went on, and, after delivering the king safely into the hands of his friends, who were waiting at the appointed place to receive him, bade his majesty farewell, and, expressing their good wishes for the safe accomplishment of his escape, they returned to Boscobel.