CHAPTER VIII. THE KING'S ESCAPE TO FRANCE.

Colonel Wyndham was a personal acquaintance of the king. He had been an officer under Charles I., in the civil wars preceding that monarch's captivity and death, and Charles, who, as Prince of Wales, had made a campaign as will be recollected, in the west of England before he went to France, had had frequent intercourse with Wyndham, and bad great confidence in his fidelity. The colonel had been at last shut up in a castle, and had finally surrendered on such conditions as secured his own liberty and safety. He had, consequently, since been allowed to live quietly at his own estate in Trent, though he was watched and suspected by the government as a known friend of the king's. Charles had, of course, great confidence in him. He was very cordially received into his house, and very securely secreted there.

It would be dangerous for Wyndham himself to do any thing openly in respect to finding a vessel to convey the king to France. He accordingly engaged a trusty friend to go down to the sea-port on the coast which was nearest to his residence, and see what he could do. This sea-port was Lyme, or Lyme-Regis, as it is sometimes called. It was about twenty-five miles from Trent, where Wyndham resided, toward the southwest, and about the same distance to the eastward of Exeter, where Charles's mother had some years before sought refuge from her husband's enemies.

Colonel Wyndham's messenger went to Lyme. He found there, pretty soon, the master of a small vessel, which was accustomed to ply back and forth to one of the ports on the coast of France, to carry merchandise. The messenger, after making inquiries, and finding that the captain, if captain he may be called, was the right sort of man for such an enterprise, obtained an interview with him and introduced conversation by asking when he expected to go back to France. The captain replied that it would probably be some time before he should be able to make up another cargo. "How should you like to take some passengers?" said the messenger. "Passengers?" inquired the captain. "Yes," rejoined the other; "there are two gentlemen here who wish to cross the Channel privately, and they are willing to pay fifty pounds to be landed at any port on the other side. Will you take them?"

The captain perceived that it was a serious business. There was a proclamation out, offering a reward for the apprehension of the king, or Charles Stuart as they called him, and also for other of the leaders at the battle of Worcester. All persons, too, were strictly prohibited from taking any one across the Channel; and to conceal the king, or to connive in any way at his escape, was death. The captain, however, at length agreed to the proposal, influenced as the colonel's messenger supposed, partly by the amount of his pay, and partly by his interest in the Royal cause. He agreed to make his little vessel ready without delay.

They did not think it prudent for the king to attempt to embark at Lyme, but there was, a few miles to the eastward of it, along the shore, a small village named Charmouth, where there was a creek jutting up from the sea, and a little pier, sufficient for the landing of so small a vessel as the one they had engaged. It was agreed that, on an appointed day, the king and Lord Wilmot were to come down to Charmouth, and take up their lodgings at the inn; that in the night the captain was to sail out of the port of Lyme, in the most private manner possible, and come to Charmouth; and that the king and Wilmot, who would, in the mean time, be watching from the inn, when they saw the light of the approaching vessel, should come down to the pier and embark, and the captain then immediately sail away.

The messenger accordingly went back to Colonel Wyndham's with intelligence of the plan that he had formed, while the captain of the vessel went to work as privately as possible to lay in his stores and make his other preparations for sea. He did this with the utmost precaution and secrecy, and succeeded in deceiving every body but his wife. Wives have the opportunity to perceive indications of the concealed existence of matters of moment and weight which others do not enjoy, in studying the countenances of their husbands. A man can easily, through the day, when surrounded by the world, assume an unconcerned and careless air, though oppressed with a very considerable mental burden; but when he comes home at night, he instinctively throws off half his disguise, and conjugal watchfulness and solicitude easily penetrate the remainder. At least it was so in this case. The captain's dame perceived that her husband was thoughtful and absent minded. She watched him. She observed some indications that he was making preparations for sea. She asked him what it meant. He said he did not know how soon he might have a cargo, and he wanted to be all ready in season. His wife, however, was not satisfied. She watched him more closely still, and when the appointed night came on which he had agreed to sail, finding that it was impossible for him to elude her vigilance, he told her plainly, that he was going across the Channel on private business, but that he should immediately return.

She declared positively that he should not go. She knew, she said, that the business was something which would end in ruining him and his family, and she was determined that he should not risk her safety and his own life in any such desperate and treasonable plans. She locked the door upon him, and when he insisted on being released, she declared that if he did attempt to go, she would immediately give warning to the authorities, and have him arrested and confined. So the discomfited captain was compelled to give up his design, and break his appointment at the Charmouth pier.