Sixth, it appeared to me exceedingly probable that my Lord Shaftesbury was still in town, though not in his own house: and, all things considered, it was very nearly certain that he was hidden in Wapping. He was, probably also, a little ill, or he would have been at our meeting to-night.
One conclusion then, immediate and pressing, came out of all this; that an assault on Whitehall and an attack on the King’s person was in urgent contemplation.
* * * * *
Then, as we went up under the stars, my waterman and I, one of those moods came upon me which come on all men in such stress as I was; and I appeared to myself, for the time, to be worlds away from all this sedition and passion and fever. The little affairs of men which they thought so great seemed to me in that hour very little and wicked—like the scheming of naughty children, or the quarrels and spites of efts in a muddy pond. In that hour my whole heart grew sick at this miserable murderous pother in the midst of which my duty seemed to lie; and yearned instead to those things that are great indeed—the love of the maid who had promised herself to me, and the Love of God that should make us one. My religion—though I am a little ashamed to confess it—had been very little to me lately: I had heard mass, indeed, usually, on Sundays, in one of the privileged chapels, and had confessed myself at Easter and once since, to one of the Capuchins, and received Communion; yet, for the rest it had largely been blotted out by these hot absorbing affairs in which I found myself. But, in that hour (for the tide was beginning to set against us)—it came back on me like a breeze in a stifling room. I thought of that cleanly passionless life I had led as a novice, and of that no less cleanly, though perhaps less supernatural life, that should one day be mine and Dolly’s—and these politics and these plottings and this listening at doors, and this elaborate lying—all blew off from me like a cloud.
When we were yet twenty yards from the Privy Stairs a wherry shot past us, with no light burning. There was but one passenger in it, whom I knew well enough, though I feigned to see nothing; and once more my sickness came on me, that it was for a King like this, slipping out on some shameful pleasure, that I so toiled and endangered myself.
* * * * *
When I had reported all to Mr. Chiffinch, sitting back weary in my chair, yet knowing that I must go through with the work to which I had set my hand, he remained silent.
“Well?” I said. “Am I wrong in any point?”
“Why no,” he said. “Your information tallies perfectly with all I know, and has increased the sum very much. For example, I had no idea where my Lord Shaftesbury was. I have no doubt whatever, from what you say, that he is in Wapping.”
“Will you send and take him there?” I asked.
“No,” he said shortly. “Leave him alone. We failed last time we took him. And he can do no great harm there. Plainly too, he is at the waterside that he may escape if there is need. I shall set spies there; and no more.”