The wind made such a noise that we heard nothing of the approach to the house; and the first that we knew of anyone’s coming was a hammering at the door.
“Why, who is that;” said I, “that comes so late?”
I could see that my Cousin Tom did not like it, for his face shewed it—(I suppose it was the memory of that other time when the hammering came)—so I said nothing, but went myself to the outer door and unbolted it.
A fellow stood there in a great riding-cloak; but I could see he wore some kind of a livery beneath.
“Well,” I said, “what do you want?”
He saw that I was a gentleman by my dress; and he answered me very civilly.
“My master is benighted, sir,” said he; “and he bid me come and ask whether he might lie here to-night. There is no inn in the place.”
“Why, who is your master?” I asked.
He did not seem to hear my question, for he went on immediately.
“There are only five of the party, sir,” he said. “Two gentlemen and three servants.”
I saw that my Cousin Tom was behind me now; and that Dolly was looking from the door of the Great Chamber.
“You have not yet told us,” I said, “what your master’s name is.”
“I think, sir, he had best answer that,” said the fellow.
Now this might very well be a Catholic, and perhaps an important person who had heard of Mr. Jermyn, but did not wish to advertise who himself was. I looked at my Cousin Tom; and thought from his look that the same thought had come to him.
“Well, Cousin?” I said.
“They had best come in—” he said shortly. “Dolly, rouse some of the servants. They will want supper, I suppose.”
He nodded to the man, who went back immediately; and a minute later two gentlemen came up the flagged path, also in great cloaks that appeared soaked with the rain.
“By God, sir!” said the first of them, “we are grateful to you. This is a wild night.”
My Cousin, Tom said something civil, and when the door was shut, helped this man off with his cloak, while I helped the other. The former was explaining all the while how they were on their way to town from Newmarket; and how they had become bogged a little after Barkway, losing their road in the darkness. They had intended to push on to Waltham Cross, he said, or Ware at the least, and lie there. He spoke with a merry easy air that shewed him for a well-bred and pleasant fellow. My own man said nothing, but left it all to the other.
When I turned to see the one who spoke, I was more surprised than ever in all my life before; for it was no other than the Duke of Monmouth himself. He looked a shade older than when I had last seen him in the park above a year ago; but he was the very same and I could not mistake him. As for me, he would not know me from Adam, for he had never spoken with me in all his life. I did not know what to do, as to whether I should make to recognize him or not; but he saved me the trouble; for as I followed the others into the Great Chamber, he was already speaking.