“Aye, aye, Sir,” answered the other. “For the King of England, if possible. But for the Gaul we are not. We are of the old blood of the Franks and Normans. We have served our Dukes ever since the battle of Hastings; but when they became English, why, we became English too. We beat the French under Du Guesclin, we beat them under Maulevrier. From England we have had none but good and honest handling. We are English above all.”
“Well said!” cried the Secretary. “I am no boaster, neither do I claim the gift of prophecy, like some of our saints yonder. But I am persuaded that a day will come when your words will be put to the proof. You will have to choose not between King and Commons, but between England and France you yourself said so but now.”
“Mon Dieu! the choice will be soon made,” cried Carteret. “And now let us to table. For albeit Dame Carteret is lying-in, it will be hard but I can furnish a friend some junk and biscuit.”
Tom Elliot was a very bad sample of the cavalier party. Trained in camps, he had learned betimes to seek his happiness in wine, dice, loose speech, and morals to match. As in France, the successors of the Sullys and Du Plessis Mornays had become the coxcombs of the Fronde, and the grandson of Bras-de-Fer was known as Bras-de-Laine, so the character and conduct of men like Hyde, Ormonde, and Falkland furnished no example to such as Villiers and Wilmot, whose only ideal of imitation was scurrilous mimicry. Where the elder cavaliers had been proud to serve their king, the rising generation was content if it could amuse him; and with that Charles was satisfied.
Thus Elliot had learned that for such an escapade as his last he might easily obtain forgiveness. It was not that Charles was, even in youth, a sincere or warm friend. His easy good nature had its root in self-indulgence. Clarendon, who knew him and his family intus et in cute, has pointed this out in one of his best character sentences. “They were too much inclined to love men at first sight,” so writes the faithful servant of the Stuarts. “They did not love the conversation of men of more years than themselves. They did not love to deny, ... not out of bounty or generosity, which was a flower that did never grow naturally in the heart of either family—that of Stuart or the other of Bourbon—and when they prevailed with themselves to make some pause rather than to deny, importunity removed all resolution.” [Continuation of Life, p. 339, fol. ed.]