He had managed to coax old Brus, the gardener, into letting him have the key to the little postern gate on the plea that he wished to indulge in a midnight escapade, hinting broadly of a fair lady who was to be the partner of his adventure, and, what was more to the point with Brus, at the same time slipping a couple of golden zecchins into the gardener's palm.
Whatever else of mischief De Vac might be up to, Brus was quite sure that in so far as the King was concerned, the key to the postern gate was as safe in De Vac's hands as though Henry himself had it.
Then, casting off, he rowed slowly up the Thames until, below the palace walls, he moored near to the little postern gate which let into the lower end of the garden.
Hiding the skiff as best he could in some tangled bushes which grew to the water's edge, set there by order of the King to add to the beauty of the aspect from the river side, De Vac crept warily to the postern and, unchallenged, entered and sought his apartments in the palace.
A great peacock strutted proudly across the walk before them, and, as Richard ran, childlike, after it, Lady Maud hastened on to the little postern gate which she quickly unlocked admitting her lover who had been waiting without.
De Vac turned their steps toward the little postern gate, but when he would have passed through with the tiny Prince the latter rebelled.
De Vac clapped his hand over the child's mouth to still his cries, but it was too late, the Lady Maud and her lover had heard, and in an instant they were rushing toward the postern gate, the officer drawing his sword as he ran.
It seemed that when the Lady Maud had not returned to the palace with Prince Richard at the proper time, the Queen had been notified and an immediate search had been instituted--a search which did not end for over twenty years; but the first fruits of it turned the hearts of the court to stone, for there beside the open postern gate lay the dead bodies of Lady Maud and a certain officer of the Guards, but nowhere was there a sign or trace of Prince Richard, second son of Henry III of England, and at that time the youngest prince of the realm.
I found our fortress in a bad state of defence, but we proceeded immediately to repair our flanks, strengthen our gates and posterns, and form double bastions, which we compleated in ten days.
We immediately proceeded to collect what we could of our horses, and other cattle, and bring them through the posterns into the fort: And in the evening of the ninth, I returned answer, that we were determined to defend our fort while a man was living--Now, said I to their commander, who stood attentively hearing my sentiments, We laugh at all your formidable preparations: But thank you for giving us notice and time to provide for our defence.