Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. V. Nineteenth Century
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Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. V. Nineteenth Century
 
The Renunciation of Allegiance
By William Makepeace Thackeray (1811–1863)
 
From Esmond

“LET us first go see whether the two stories agree,” says Esmond; and went in at the passage and opened the door into what had been his own chamber now for well nigh five-and-twenty years. A candle was still burning, and the Prince asleep dressed on the bed—Esmond did not care for making a noise. The Prince started up in his bed, seeing two men in his chamber: “Qui est là?” says he, and took a pistol from under his pillow.
  1
  “It is the Marquis of Esmond,” says the Colonel, “come to welcome his Majesty to his house of Castlewood, and to report of what hath happened in London. Pursuant to the King’s orders, I passed the night before last, after leaving his Majesty, in waiting upon the friends of the King. It is a pity that his Majesty’s desire to see the country and to visit our poor house should have caused the King to quit London without notice yesterday when the opportunity happened which in all human probability may not occur again; and had the King not chosen to ride to Castlewood, the Prince of Wales might have slept at St. James’s.”  2
  “’S death! gentlemen,” says the Prince, starting off his bed whereon he was lying in his clothes, “the doctor was with me yesterday morning, and after watching by my sister all night, told me I might not hope to see the Queen.”  3
  “It would have been otherwise,” says Esmond with another bow; “as, by this time, the Queen may be dead in spite of the doctor. The Council was met; a new Treasurer was appointed; the troops were devoted to the King’s cause; and fifty loyal gentlemen of the greatest names of this kingdom were assembled to accompany the Prince of Wales, who might have been the acknowledged heir of the throne, or the possessor of it by this time, had your Majesty not chosen to take the air. We were ready; there was only one person that failed us, your Majesty’s gracious——”  4
  “Morbleu, Monsieur, you give me too much Majesty,” said the Prince, who had now risen up and seemed to be looking to one of us to help him to his coat. But neither stirred.  5
  “We shall take care,” says Esmond, “not much oftener to offend in that particular.”  6
  “What mean you, my lord?” says the Prince, and muttered something about a guet-à-pens, which Esmond caught up.  7
  “The snare, Sir,” says he, “was not of our laying; it is not we that invited you. We came to avenge, and not to compass the dishonour of our family.”  8
  “Dishonour! Morbleu, there has been no dishonour,” says the Prince, turning scarlet, “only a little harmless playing.”  9
  “That was meant to end seriously.”  10
  “I swear,” the Prince broke out impetuously, “upon the honour of a gentleman, my lords——”  11
  “That we arrived in time. No wrong hath been done, Frank,” says Colonel Esmond, turning round to young Castlewood, who stood at the door as the talk was going on. “See! here is a paper whereon his Majesty hath deigned to commence some verses in honour, or dishonour, of Beatrix. Here is ‘Madame’ and ‘Flamme,’ ‘Cruelle’ and ‘Rebelle,’ and ‘Amour’ and ‘Jour,’ in the Royal writing and spelling. Had the Gracious lover been happy, he had not passed his time in sighing.” In fact, and actually as he was speaking, Esmond cast his eyes down towards the table, and saw a paper on which my young prince had been scrawling a madrigal, that was to finish his charmer on the morrow.  12
  “Sir,” says the Prince, burning with rage (he had assumed his Royal coat unassisted by this time), “did I come here to receive insults?”  13
  “To confer them, may it please your Majesty,” says the Colonel with a very low bow; “and the gentlemen of our family are come to thank you.”  14
  “Malédiction!” says the young man, tears starting into his eyes with helpless rage and mortification. “What will you with me, gentlemen?”  15
  “If your Majesty will please to enter the next apartment,” says Esmond, preserving his grave tone, “I have some papers there which I would gladly submit to you, and by your permission I will lead the way;” and, taking the paper up, and backing before the Prince with very great ceremony, Mr. Esmond passed into the little Chaplain’s room, through which we had just entered into the house:—“Please to set a chair for his Majesty, Frank,” says the Colonel to his companion, who wondered almost as much at this scene, and was as much puzzled by it, as the other actor in it. Then going to the crypt over the mantelpiece, the Colonel opened it, and drew thence the papers which so long had lain there.  16
  “Here, may it please your Majesty,” says he, “is the Patent of Marquis sent over by your Royal Father at St. Germains to Viscount Castlewood, my father: here is the witnessed certificate of my father’s marriage to my mother, and of my birth and christening; I was christened of that religion of which your sainted sire gave all through life so shining an example. These are my titles, dear Frank, and this what I do with them: here go Baptism and Marriage, and here the Marquisate and the August Sign-Manual, with which your predecessor was pleased to honour our race.” And as Esmond spoke he set the papers burning in the brazier. “You will please, Sir, to remember,” he continued, “that our family hath ruined itself by fidelity to yours: that my grandfather spent his estate, and gave his blood and his son to die for your service; that my dear lord’s grandfather (for lord you are now, Frank, by right and title too) died for the same cause; that my poor kinswoman, my father’s second wife, after giving away her honour to your wicked perjured race, sent all her wealth to the King; and got in return that precious title that lies in ashes, and this inestimable yard of blue ribbon. I lay this at your feet and stamp upon it: I draw this sword, and break it and deny you; and had you completed the wrong you designed us, by heaven I would have driven it through your heart, and no more pardoned you than your father pardoned Monmouth.”  17
 
 
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