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teau of Le Conquet. 'Tis not, I'm told, above five leagues off. The gentle damoyselle, of whom the Countess spake to us, is sore beset by Louis; haply we may get there in time to help her in a strait."
A proposal of this sort, having the relief of females for its object, was sure of being acceded to by such chivalrous warriors; besides which, the very danger of the undertaking pleased every one, at a time when an exhibition of personal valour, rather than a proper military discipline, was ambitioned by all combatants. So, instantly, on hearing de Mauny's words, and without more ado, they wheeled round to the left, and galloping away in the direction of Le Conquet, staid not until arrived at a small village called Belz, situated at about a league short of it.
Here, pulling up to inform themselves of the disposition of the enemy's forces around the castle of Le Conquet, they received a very different account from what they wished, or had indeed anticipated.
Louis d'Espagne had not only come to assist
the King with land forces, but had also brought with him a naval armament, which, joined to that of the Genoese, kept coasting round the shores of Britany for the purpose of intercepting the English ; and it was with them that the British fleet had fallen in, as described in a former chapter.
The two powers were on the point of coming to an engagement: when--fortunately for the latter, whose vessels were inferior in size to those of their opponents -a sudden tempest arose, and separating them, drove the Spaniards and Genoese to the South, towards the Bay of Biscay, whilst the English were lucky enough to run their vessels into a small harbour in the Isle d'Ouessant, off Brest; where they remained in safety, till the storm abating, allowed them to pursue their voyage.
The only serious mischief experienced in this adventure was the delay it had occasioned. The reader has already seen how the garrison was on the point of surrender, when Robert and de Mauny arrived to its relief.—A few hours more and it would have been too late,-the Countess would have been delivered to her foes, and, most probably, confined in the tower of the Louvre with her aunt.
With her freedom, the war would have terminated, and the English would never, perhaps, have sate foot in that part of France, nor its monarchs held its sceptre.—On what a nothing rests the fate of empires !-Yet we are proud, forsooth! and take airs, and call ourselves the lords of the creation; round a small speck of which we strut, as though we really were something more than despicable things.- La pauvre Nature humaine !
The delay, therefore, was but of small moment as far as Hennebon was concerned; but it had proved fatal to Le Conquet, for Louis d'Espagne had but on the day previous to d'Artois' arrival obliged it to surrender. This news had not reached Hennebon, that town being so blockaded on every side towards the land, as to admit of neither ingress nor egress but by water.
Such were the sad tidings which greeted them on entering Belz. It was said, also, that the
King of France, eager to terminate the contest, had resolved to lend his personal assistance towards doing so: and, that having marched from Paris with the design of sitting down before Hennebon, he had, when within a short distance of it, heard of the advances which Louis was making towards the final reduction of Le Conquet, and, therefore, turning aside from the route, gone on to this latter place, thinking that its capture would facilitate that of the former.
On his arrival, he found that that which he intended to have furthered, was already accomplished. De Cadoudal, seeing it was utterly impossible, on account of the dilapidated state of the ramparts, to hold out longer: had sent word that he was ready to capitulate; and had actually retired into the Keep, with the design of making the best terms he could with the enemy. These were far from advantageous :-he and all the soldiery were to remain prisoners of war,to be released only by a ransom, which, usually, at least, was rated at a year's income of the captive's estate. VOL. III.
The castle of Le Conquet being isolated, that is, there being no, or few, houses around it, and but barely affording accommodation for the troops which captured it; the King contented himself with pitching his tents in a plain conveniently situated at a small distance thence, where he enjoyed the advantage of being defended in the rear by the marshy and salt water lake, known by the name of Landevan.
There were none present who, hearing this account, were not struck with consternation, both at the loss of Le Conquet, and at the unexpected arrival of the King's troops; or who did not look on these occurrences as a sad prognostic of the final event of the contest. The Count of Artois was the only one amid them who shewed no sign of sorrow at the relation. On the contrary, forgetting the general good of the cause he had come to uphold, in the unspeakable raptures he had so often anticipated, and now found himself on the very eve of tasting,—those of dying his sword in the blood of a detested foe, he exclaimed,