Then my Lord looked this way and that for an instant; and then went forward to the black baize, and kneeled on it, with his man’s help, and then laid himself down flat, putting his chin over the block which was not above five or six inches high.
Yet no one moved—and the headsman stood waiting in a corner, with his axe. One of the sheriffs—Mr. Cornish, I think it was—said something to the headsman; but I could not hear what it was; and then I saw my Lord kneel upright again, and then stand up. I think he was a little deaf, and had not heard what was said.
“Why, what do you want?” he said.
“What sign will you give?” asked Mr. Cornish.
“No sign at all. Take your own time. God’s will be done,” said my Lord; and again applied himself to the block, his man helping him as before, and then standing back.
“I hope you forgive me,” said the headsman, before he was down.
“I do,” said my Lord; and that was the last word that he spoke; for the headsman immediately stepped up, so soon as he was down, and with one blow cut his head all off, except a bit of skin, which he cut through with his knife.
Then he lifted up the head, and carried it to the four sides of the scaffold by the hair, crying:
“Here is the head of a traitor,” as the custom was. My Lord’s face looked very peaceful.
* * * * *
I rode home again alone, thinking of what I had seen, and the innocent blood that was being shed, and wondering whether this might not be the last shed for that miserable falsehood. But even after that sight, the thought of my Cousin Dorothy was never very far away; and before I was home again I was once more thinking of her more than of that from which I was just come, or of that to which I was going, for I was to see His Majesty that evening and so to France next day.
It was on a very stormy evening, ten months later, that I rode again into London, on my way from Rome and Paris.
* * * * *
Now, here again, I must omit altogether, except on one or two very general points, all that had passed since I had gone away on the day after my Lord Stafford’s execution on Tower Hill. It is enough to say that I had done my business in Paris very much to His Majesty’s satisfaction, as well as to that of others; and that M. Barillon himself had urged me to stay there altogether, saying that I could make a career for myself there (as the Romans say), such as I could never make in England. But I would not, though I must confess that I was very much tempted to it; and I know now, though I did not know it altogether then, that there were just two things that prevented me—and these were that His Majesty and my Cousin Dorothy were in England and not France.