Monk, immediately after his arrival, had accepted the proposition made by Lambert the evening before, for an interview, and which Monk’s lieutenants had refused under the pretext that the general was indisposed. This interview was neither long nor interesting: Lambert demanded a profession of faith from his rival. The latter declared he had no other opinion than that of the majority. Lambert asked if it would not be more expedient to terminate the quarrel by an alliance than by a battle. Monk hereupon demanded a week for consideration. Now, Lambert could not refuse this: and Lambert, nevertheless, had come saying that he should devour Monk’s army. Therefore, at the end of the interview, which Lambert’s party watched with impatience, nothing was decided — neither treaty nor battle — the rebel army, as M. d’Artagnan had foreseen, began to prefer the good cause to the bad one, and the parliament, rumpish as it was, to the pompous nothings of Lambert’s designs.
They remembered, likewise, the good feasts of London — the profusion of ale and sherry with which the citizens of London paid their friends the soldiers; — they looked with terror at the black war bread, at the troubled waters of the Tweed, — too salt for the glass, not enough so for the pot; and they said to themselves, “Are not the roast meats kept warm for Monk in London?” From that time nothing was heard of but desertion in Lambert’s army. The soldiers allowed themselves to be drawn away by the force of principles, which are, like discipline, the obligatory tie in everybody constituted for any purpose. Monk defended the parliament — Lambert attacked it. Monk had no more inclination to support parliament than Lambert, but he had it inscribed on his standards, so that all those of the contrary party were reduced to write upon theirs, “Rebellion,” which sounded ill to puritan ears. They flocked, then, from Lambert to Monk, as sinners flock from Baal to God.
Monk made his calculations; at a thousand desertions a day Lambert had men enough to last twenty days; but there is in sinking things such a growth of weight and swiftness, which combine with each other, that a hundred left the first day, five hundred the second, a thousand the third. Monk thought he had obtained his rate. But from one thousand the deserters increased to two thousand, then to four thousand, and, a week after, Lambert, perceiving that he had no longer the possibility of accepting battle, if it were offered to him, took the wise resolution of decamping during the night, returning to London, and being beforehand with Monk in constructing a power with the wreck of the military party.
But Monk, free and without uneasiness, marched towards London as a conqueror, augmenting his army with all the floating parties on the way. He encamped at Barnet, that is to say, within four leagues of the capital, cherished by the parliament, which thought it beheld in him a protector, and awaited by the people, who were anxious to see him reveal himself, that they might judge him. D’Artagnan himself had not been able to fathom his tactics; he observed — he admired. Monk could not enter London with a settled determination without bringing about civil war. He temporized for a short time.