“We trust not,” cried Carteret, bluffly. “If the French come here we shall give them a sour welcome; and as to my Lord the Governor, he will find,” and he slipped in his eagerness into his native tongue, “that he has made le marche de la peau de l’ours qui ne seroit pas encore tue.”
Presently the little Council broke up. The King, after glancing at the paper of association, consented that Lord Hopton—in whose diplomatic abilities he perhaps did not feel much confidence—should proceed at once to the Hague, and lay the case before the States General of Holland as the power most interested—after England—in sifting and, if need were, opposing the designs of France. Meanwhile the articles of the association were not to be divulged; the whole affair being kept a profound secret and mystery of State.
Somewhat relieved, the associates then retired from the presence of the yawning King, and passed down the little corridor. Here they found Elliot keeping watch, and pacing innocently to and fro. And the graceless page bowed their Honours down the stairs, without betraying by his manner anything to suggest—which was, nevertheless, the simple truth—that he had been attentively listening to as much of their recent conversation as could be gathered through the imperfect channel afforded by the key-hole of the door. Carteret cursed La Cloche’s officious meddling all the way to his own quarters, and on arriving there sent a sergeant to the unfortunate clergyman, who deported him to France by the next boat that sailed.
On returning to the room, Elliot found Charles walking up and down the narrow floor of his room in evident excitement.
“Tom,” said the King, as the page entered, “what is to do here? It seems that I am not to be master even in this little island of Hop o’ my Thumb. They lord it over me even as they did when I was here before, as Prince of Wales in partibus.”
“Why then,” answered the audacious youth, “I would even show them a clean pair of heels, and take refuge with the Scots.”
“The Scots who sold my father!”
“The Scots, Sir, of whom I am one,” cried the page, the hot blood of a race of Border-Barons rising to his forehead. “Am I and mine to be confounded with a crew of cuckoldy Presbyterians? I will not listen to any one who says so, King or no King.”
And the malapert youth flung out of the room, while his wearied master—not unaccustomed to such outbreaks—lounged into the dining room and called for his supper.