CHAPTER VIII. THE KING'S ESCAPE TO FRANCE.

In the mean time, the king and Lord Wilmot came down, as had been agreed upon, to Charmouth, and put up, with many other travelers, at the inn. There was great excitement all over that part of the country, every one talking about the battle of Worcester, the escape of the king, and especially about an expedition which Cromwell had been organizing, which was then assembling on the southern coast. Its destination was the island of Jersey, which had thus far adhered to the Royalist cause, and which Cromwell was now intending to reduce to subjection to him. The bustle and movement which all these causes combined to create, made the king and Lord Wilmot very anxious and uneasy. There were assemblies convened in the villages which they passed through, and men were haranguing the populace on the victories which had been gained, and on the future measures to be pursued. In one place the bells were ringing, and bonfires were burning in celebration of the death of the king, it being rumored and believed that he had been shot.

Our two fugitives, however, arrived safely at the inn, put up their horses, and began to watch anxiously for the light of the approaching vessel. They watched, of course, in vain. Midnight came, but no vessel. They waited hour after hour, till at last morning dawned, and they found that all hope of accomplishing their enterprise must be abandoned. They could not remain where they were, however, another day, without suspicion; so they prepared to move on and seek temporary refuge in some other neighboring town, while they could send one of the attendants who came with them back to Colonel Wyndham's, to see if he could ascertain the cause of the failure. One or two days were spent in inquiries, negotiations, and delays. The result was, that all hope of embarking at Lyme had to be abandoned, and it was concluded that the fugitives should proceed on to the eastward, along the coast, to the care of another Royalist, a certain Colonel Gunter, who might perhaps find means to send them away from some port in that part of the country. At any rate, they would, by this plan, escape the excitements and dangers which seemed to environ them in the neighborhood of Lyme.

It was fortunate that they went away from Charmouth when they did; by doing so they narrowly escaped apprehension; for that night, while the king's horse was in the stable, a smith was sent for to set a shoe upon the horse of one of the other travelers. After finishing his work, he began to examine the feet of the other horses in the stalls, and when he came to the one which the king had rode, his attention was particularly attracted to the condition and appearance of the shoes, and he remarked to those who were with him that that horse had come a long journey, and that of the four shoes, he would warrant that no two had been made in the same county. This remark was quoted the next day, and the mysterious circumstance, trifling as it was, was sufficient, in the highly excitable state of the public mind, to awaken attention. People came to see the horse, and to inquire for the owner, but they found that both had disappeared. They immediately determined that the stranger must have been the king, or at least some distinguished personage in disguise, and they sent in search of the party in every direction; but the travelers had taken such effectual precautions to blind all pursuit that their track could not be followed.

In the mean time, the king journeyed secretly on from the residence of one faithful adherent to another, encountering many perplexities, and escaping narrowly many dangers, until he came at last to the neighborhood of Shoreham, a town upon the coast of Sussex. Colonel Gunter had provided a vessel here. It was a small vessel, bound, with a load of coal, along the coast, to the westward, to a port called Pool, beyond the Isle of Wight. Colonel Gunter had arranged it with the master to deviate from his voyage, by crossing over to the coast of France, and leaving his passengers there. He was then to return, and proceed to his original destination. Both the owner of the vessel and the master who commanded it were Royalists, but they had not been told that it was the king whom they were going to convey. In the bargain which had been made with them, the passengers had been designated simply as two gentlemen of rank who had escaped from the battle of Worcester. When, however, the master of the vessel saw the king, he immediately recognized him, having seen him before in his campaigns under his father. This, however, seemed to make no difference in his readiness to convey the passengers away. He said that hews perfectly willing to risk his life to save that of his sovereign, and the arrangements for the embarkation proceeded.

The little vessel - its burden was about sixty tons - was brought into a small cove at Brighthelmstone, a few miles to the eastward from Shoreham, and run upon the beach, where it was left stranded when the tide went down. The king and Lord Wilmot went to it by night, ascended its side by a ladder, went down immediately into the cabin, and concealed themselves there. When the rising tide had lifted the vessel, with its precious burden, gently from the sand, the master made easy sail, and coasted along the English shore toward the Isle of Wight, which was the direction of the voyage which he had originally intended to make. He did not wish the people at Shoreham to observe any alteration of his course, since that might have awakened suspicion, and possibly invited pursuit; so they went on for a time to the westward, which was a course that rather increased than diminished their distance from their place of destination.