“I said nothing—” she murmured.
I stood regarding her; and I think my manner must have been good.
“I said nothing that should be repeated,” she added, a little louder.
I still kept silence.
“You will not repeat it, Mr. Mallock?”
“Madam,” I said, “I have only one desire: and that is to serve His Majesty and His Majesty’s lawful heir. My mouth can be sealed absolutely, if that end is served.”
I said that very slowly and deliberately.
I saw her breathe a little more freely. It was a piteous sight to see a woman so depending upon such things as a complexion, and whiffs of scandal, and servants’ gossip.
“Mr. Mallock,” she said, “I cannot veer round all in a moment, even though I must confess that what you have said to me, has touched me very closely.”
She looked at me miserably.
“Madam,” I said, for I dared not grasp at more than this, for fear of losing all, “that has wiped out your words as if they had never been spoken.”
I kissed her hand and went out.
* * * * *
I did not go to the Duke, for I hold that, when a man has to sift carefully between what he must say and what he must not, it is best to do it on paper; but I went back to my lodgings and wrote to him that it was merely for her own advantage that the Duchess had behaved so, and because she thought that the Protestant succession was certain—her own advantage, that is to say, mingled with a little woman’s vanity. I begged His Royal Highness therefore to go and see the Duchess, if he thought well, and, if possible, publicly, when she held her reception, before he went to Scotland—(for I was diplomat enough to know that the assuming he would go to Scotland would be the best persuasion to make him)—; and at the end I told him that I thought my arguments had prevailed a little with Her Grace, and that though she could not at once turn weathercock, he might take my word for it that she would not be so forward as she had been. But I did not tell him what argument I had chiefly used; for I hold that even to such a woman as that, a man should keep his word.
Everything I told the Duke in that letter fell true. The Duchess began to cool very much in the Protestant cause, though perhaps that was helped a little by Monmouth’s having fallen under the King’s displeasure: and the Duke of York went two or three times to the Duchess’ receptions; and to Scotland on the day before Parliament met.
It was on Mr. Chiffinch’s advice that I remained in London for the present, determining however to spend Christmas at Hare Street; and indeed I had plenty to do in making my reports to Rome on the situation.