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CHAPTER XXIV. :CAPTAIN ALYWARD'S REPLY
FOR a reason best known to himself, Major Corbet despatched orders to all the troops on the island to bring in their arms and " lay them down " at the Court House, and at the same time sent word of the capitulation to Captain Alyward, who commanded the forces at Elizabeth Castle. The French thereupon left the town itself to take possession, as they evidently thought, of that stronghold, Baron de Rullecourt, advancing at the head of the column, holding Major Corbet by the arm, as though either to induce or enforce his presence. But they were no sooner on the beach, than those at the castle gave them notice that they were likely to meet with a warm reception, a shot being fired immediately on their appearance. And there is no doubt about the bravery of Captain Alyward's conduct on the occasion. He not only refused to listen to any such idea as capitulation, but also sent word to Rullecourt that if the French advanced they must take the consequences.
The Baron, nevertheless, in defiance of Alyward's message, continued to advance, and immediately met with a well-directed shot that wounded one of his officers and killed a good many privates.
After this Rullecourt sounded a halt and sent his aide-de-camp with another message, which was received by Captain Mulcaster, chief engineer, who, finding that expostulation was of no avail, simply blindfolded the aide-de-camp, conducted him to the top of the castle, and removing the bandage from his eyes, showed him the strength of that fortress, then dismissed him with words to the effect that the greater the force brought in opposition the greater would be the slaughter of the French.
On receipt of this Baron Rullecourt appears to have been thrown into a towering rage, and retired immediately into the town, from whence he caused Major Corbet to send an absolute order to Captain Alyward to open the Castle gates and receive the conquerors.
A Mr. C. D'Auvergne was chosen as the unwilling messenger on this occasion, he receiving from the Captain the following characteristic reply:" The English flag flying over our heads reminds us how gallantly this fortress has withstood the attacks of its besiegers, and I am resolved that the honour of its majesty shall never be sullied whilst I command here. (Signed) PETER ALYWARD."
Meanwhile other events were happening. Major Peirson of the 95th, who, young though he was, appears to have been next in command to Corbet, took charge of affairs. He refused entirely to acknowledge the capitulation, and showed himself one of the bravest of the brave, remarking, so it is said, that if he lost his commission for seeming disobedience ha would soon gain for himself another.
Rullecourt had seized the Parochial Artillery, and planted troops at all conceivable points of vantage, and when he heard that the Island Militia were advancing on him from Gallows Hill, with the " Regulars " in front, he sent an officer to meet them with the command that they were to conform to the capitulation if they desired to save the town from the destruction he had threatened to bring upon it.
Major Peirson's message in reply to this was that if the French did not lay down their arms and surrender he would immediately attack them.
The French officer thereupon requested time to return and report upon the matter. Peirson allowed him thirty minutes, at the same time sending an officer of the 95th with him to demand the liberation of Major Corbet.
On their arrival at the Court House these two found both Baron de Rullecourt and Major Corbet, and in answer to the question whether the latter was a prisoner, a negative reply is said to have been given, though not in such a manner as to satisfy Major Peirson's messenger.
The Baron then finding that negotiations were not likely to end in his favour, merely added that he should immediately dispose his men and enforce submission. He had not yet, however, had his last reckoning with the gallant Major.