A meeting of the Assistants was accordingly held at the house of the Governor the same evening, and the subject of the letters received from England, and the course to be pursued in view of their contents, considered in all their aspects. No great diversity of opinion prevailed in respect to the necessity of caution, in reposing any further confidence in Sir Christopher; but as for the proceedings to be adopted on his return, there was a considerable difference of sentiment. The more moderate, and least prejudiced against the Knight, at the head of whom was Winthrop, advised that he should be received with all honor, and the charges laid privately before him, in the first instance, and an opportunity afforded him to refute them. This they urged was the more just and honorable mode, inasmuch as the accusations came not before them invested with any judicial authority. But an opposite party, headed by Spikeman, strenuously insisted on another course. They contended, that in a matter of the kind, severity, and even what might look like precipitation, was better than a slackness, which might defeat their object. They pressed the point, that such was the number of letters received (some of them by private persons) reflecting on the character of Sir Christopher, it was impossible the information they contained should be concealed from the public, and that, consequently, even before the return of the Knight, news of it would reach his house. This, they said, would put the false Lady Geraldine on her guard, and afford opportunity to destroy papers, or whatever else might be in existence to inculpate the Knight. It was, therefore, their opinion, that the lady, with whatever might be found in the house to assist their judgment, should be instantly seized, and such other measures taken as to insure the arrest of Sir Christopher. There was, however, too much nobleness of feeling in a majority of the Council to relish invading the privacy of a female, on mere suspicion, while her protector was absent, engaged in business of the State. Winthrop looked displeased at the suggestion, and even the brow of the rough Dudley was corrugated into a haughty frown. As usually happens between differing opinions, a half measure was resolved upon, which satisfied neither party. It was to keep so strict a watch, that the moment of Sir Christopher’s return should be known, and a file of armed men despatched by night, who should serve partly as a guard of honor, and partly as a restraint upon the person, to escort him to Boston. At the same time, with apologies for its necessity, his books and papers were to be secured, and the lady brought in all honor with him. This was the plan, should the Knight visit his house before coming to Boston; but if he arrived at the settlement first, he was to be detained and examined, after an account of his mission had been received.
“The flying rumors gathered as they
Scarce any tale was sooner heard than told;
And all who told it added something new,
And all who heard it made enlargement too;—
In every ear it spread—on every tongue it grew.”