“Now that I have put it into words,” I said, “I see that it cannot be done. Certainly it would advance me very much with His Majesty; (and that is one reason why I spoke to you of it)—but such advance would be too dearly bought. Do you not think so too, my dear?”
She nodded slowly and very emphatically three or four times, without speaking, as her manner was.
“Then that is decided,” said I, “and in a day or two I will go to town and tell them so.”
So we put the matter away then; and spoke of matters far more dear to both of us, until Tom came in and exclaimed at our sitting in the dark as he called it.
* * * * *
The interruption came that very night.
We were at supper, and speaking of Christmas, and of how we would have again the dancing as last year, when we heard a man ride past the house, pulling up his horse as he came. Such interruptions came pretty often;—it was so that I had been first sent for by Mr. Chiffinch: and it was so again that the Duke of Monmouth had come, and others—but we had plenty too of others who came, seeing the house at the end of the village, to ask their way, or what not; so we paid no attention to it. Presently, however, we heard a man’s steps come along the paved walk, and then a knocking at the door. James went out to see who was there; and came back immediately saying that it was a courier with a letter for me. My conscience smote me a little, for I had delayed more than a week now from answering Mr. Chiffinch: and, sure enough, when I went out, the man was come from him. I took the letter he gave me into the Great Chamber to read it, and was astonished at its contents. There were but four lines in it.
“Mr. Mallock,” it ran, “come immediately—that is to-morrow. The Lord hath delivered them into our hands. Ride by Amwell; and go through the place slowly between eleven and twelve with no servant near.” And it was signed with his initials only.
I went back again into the dining-room immediately, and shut the door behind me.
“I must go to town, to-morrow,” I said, all short.
Dolly looked up at me, gone a little white. I shook my head and smiled at her, but secretly; so that Tom did not see.
I do not think that I have yet related how great was the work that Mr. Chiffinch had done in the matter of the spies that he had everywhere during those later years of His Majesty Charles the Second. That which he had done during Monmouth’s progress in the north—his receiving of reports day by day, and even hour by hour—this was only one instance of his activity. The secret-looking men, or even the bold-looking gentlemen, whom I had met on his stairs so continually, or for whose sake I was kept waiting sometimes when I went to see him—these were his tools and messengers. This company of spies was of all grades; and it was to serve in that company that he had sent for me from France, and that I was determined to decline.