He had his features under command again, but I could see, as he looked at me, that his eyes were still full of emotion.
“Well, Mr. Mallock; I was in a great way at that; but yet I dared tell nobody. I wore my glove all day, so that no one should see my hand; and that evening when I went in to see Her Majesty, what should I see hanging up on the wall of the chamber but the pictures of the five men whose warrants I had signed!”
Once more he stopped.
Now I remembered that I had heard a little gossip as to the King’s hand about that time; but it had been so little that I had thought nothing of it. It was very strange to hear it all now from himself.
“Well, sir,” he said, “I am not ashamed to say what I did. I kissed their pictures one by one, and I begged them to intercede for me. The next morning, Mr. Mallock, the sores were healed up; and, the morning after, the stiffness was all gone.”
I said nothing; for what could I say? It is true enough that many might say that it had all fallen out so, by chance, that it was no more than a strain at tennis, or a humour in the blood, as the physician had thought. But I did not think so, nor, I think, would many Catholics.
“You say nothing, Mr. Mallock,” said the King.
“What is there to say, Sir?” asked I.
“What indeed?” he cried, again with the greatest emotion. “There is nothing at all to say. The facts are as I have said.”
Then there came upon me once more that passionate desire to see this strange and restless soul at peace. Of those who have never received the gift of faith I say nothing: God will be their Judge, and, I doubt not, their Saviour if they have but been faithful to what they know; but for those who have received the knowledge of the truth and have drawn back from it I have always feared very greatly. Now that His Majesty had received this light long before this time, I had never had any doubt; indeed it had been reported, though I knew falsely, that he had submitted to the Church and been taken into her Communion while he was yet a young man in France. Yet here he was still, holding back from what he knew to be true—and growing old too, as he had said. All this went through my mind; but before I could speak he was up again.
“An instant, Mr. Mallock,” he said, as I rose up with him; and he turned swiftly towards the door that was behind him, and was out through it, leaving it open behind him. From where I stood I could see what he did. There was a great press in the little chamber next door, and he flung the doors of this open so that I could see him pull forward his strong-box that lay within. This he opened with a key that he carried hung on a chain, and fumbled in it a minute or two, drawing out at last a paper; and so, bearing this, and leaving the strong-box open just as it was, he came back to me.
“Look at that, Mr. Mallock,” said he.