“Why, certainly, Mr. Mallock,” he said, “it is what I wish. I trust you utterly, as you see. You shall see him where you will.”
He turned to his old man who came in at that instant, and bade him fetch Mr. Mallock’s servant from Hoddesdon. I described him to Alick, and scribbled a note that would bring him. Then we fell to the same kind of talking again.
* * * * *
It was eight o’clock, pretty well, by the time that James came to the Rye. I had determined to see him out of doors where none could hear us; and before eight I was walking up and down in the dark between the gate and the house, talking to my host. When the two men came through the gate, Rumbald was very particular to leave me immediately, that I might, as he thought, send my man to Newmarket to put off the King’s coming; and have no interruption.
“I will leave you,” said he. “You shall see how much I trust you.”
I waited till he was gone in and the door shut. Then I took James apart into a little walled garden that I had noticed as I came in, where we could not by any chance be overheard. Even then too I spoke in a very small whisper.
“James,” said I, “go back to Hoddesdon; and get a fresh horse. Leave all luggage behind and ride as light as you can, for you must go straight to Newmarket; and be there before six o’clock, at any cost. Go straight to the King’s lodgings, and ask for any of Mr. Chiffinch’s men that are there, whom you know. Do you know of any who are there?”
“Yes, sir,” whispered James; and he named one.
“Very good. With him you must go straight to His Majesty; and have him awakened if need be. Tell him that you come from me—Mr. Chiffinch’s men will support you in that. Tell His Majesty that if he values his life he must return to town to-morrow—and not sleep anywhere on the way: and that the Duke of York must come with him. Tell him that there is no fear whatever if he comes at once; but that there is every fear if he delays. He had best come, too, by this road and not by Royston. You understand?”
“I shall remain here until to-morrow night at the earliest. If I am not at home by Sunday night, go to Mr. Chiffinch, as I told you this morning. Is all clear?”
“Then go at once. Spare no horses or expense. Good-night, James.”
I watched him out of the gate. Then I turned and went back to the house.
It was a strange night and day that followed. On the one side my host found it hard, I think, to maintain the story he had told me, in action; for, in accordance with his tale, he had to bear himself as though he expected before nightfall the assassination of the King and His Royal Highness half a mile away, and the rush of the murderers to his house for shelter. On my side, it was scarcely less hard, for I knew nothing of how my man James had fared, or whether or no His Majesty would act upon my message. I guessed, however, that he would, if only my man got there; for Chiffinch’s men (who now followed him everywhere) would be as eager as I that no danger should come to him.