“What if His Majesty is dead before that?” said he, regarding me closely.
“Then we will go without,” said I.
He nodded; and said no more.
* * * * *
It was strange to lie down that night in a great room, with four posts and all their hangings about me, with my Lord Peterborough’s arms emblazoned on the ceiling; and to know that it was indeed I, Roger Mallock, who lay there, with a man within call; and a coronet, if I would have it, within reach. It was not till then, I think, that I understood how swift had been my rise; for here was I, but just twenty-seven years old, and in England but the better part of six years. Yet, even then, more than half my thoughts were of Dolly, and of how she would look in a peeress’ robes. I even determined what my title should be—taken from my French estates in the village of Malmaison, in Normandy, so foolish and trifling are a man’s thoughts at such a time. One thing, however, I resolved; and that was to say nothing at all of all this either to Dolly or her father. It should be a wedding gift to the one, and a consolation to the other; for dearly would my Cousin Tom love to speak of his son-in-law the Viscount, or even the plain Lord Malmaison. As for His Majesty’s death before another year, I thought nothing of that; for what young man of twenty-seven years of age thinks ever that anyone will die? Even should he die too—which I prayed God might not be yet!—there was His Royal Highness to follow; and I had served him, all things considered, pretty near as well as his brother.
So, then, I lay in thought, hearing a fountain play somewhere without my windows, and the rustle of the wind in the limes that stood along the Privy Garden. I heard midnight strike from the Clock-Tower at the further end of the palace, before I slept; and presently after the cry of the watchman that “all was well, and a fair night.”
It was not until the third day after my coming to town that I had audience of the Duke—in the evening after supper, having bidden good-bye that morning, with a very heavy heart, to my cousins, at Aldgate, whither I had escorted them. I had promised Dolly I would come when I could; but God knew when that would be!
Even by then, I think, I had become accustomed to my new surroundings. I had made no friends indeed, for that was expressly contrary to my desires, since a man on secret service must be very slow to do so; but I had made a number of acquaintances even in that short time, and had renewed some others. I had had a word or two with Sir George Jeffreys, now a long time Lord Chief Justice, in Scroggs’ old place; and found him a very brilliant kind of man, of an extraordinary handsomeness, and no less extraordinary power—not at all brutal in manner, as I had thought, but liker to a very bright sword, at once sharp and heavy: and sharp and heavy indeed