It was a sheet of paper, written very closely in His Majesty’s own hand, and was headed in capital letters.
Then there followed a set of reasons, all numbered, shewing that the Holy Roman Church was none other than the very Church of Christ outside of which there is no salvation. (It was made public later, as all the world knows, so I need not set it out here in full.)
“There, sir,” he said when I had done reading it. “What do you think of that?”
I shall never forget how he looked, when I lifted my eyes and regarded him. He was standing by the window, with the light on his face, and there was an extraordinary earnestness and purpose in his features. It was near incredible that this could be the man whom I had seen so careless with his ladies—so light and indolent. But there are many sides to every man, as I have learned in a very long life.
“Sir,” I cried, “what am I to say? There is nothing that I can add. This is Your Majesty’s own conscience, written out in ink.” (I tapped the paper with my finger, still holding it.)
“Eh?” said he.
“And by conscience God judges us all,” I cried. Again I stared into his eyes, and he into mine.
“Your Majesty will have to answer to this,” said I, “on Judgment Day.”
I could say no more, so great was my emotion; and, as I hesitated a change went over his face. His brows came down as if he were angry, but his lips twitched a little as if in humour.
“There! there!” he said. “Give me the paper, Mr. Mallock.”
I gave it back to him; and he stood running his eyes down it.
“Why, this is damned good!” he murmured. “I should have made a theologian.”
And with that I knew that his mood was changed again, and that I could say no more.
I do not know which is the more strange that, when a great time of trial approaches a man, either he has some kind of a premonition that trouble is coming upon him, or that he has not. Certainly it is strange enough that some sense, of which we know nothing, should scent danger when there are no outward signs that any is near; but it appears even more strange to me that the storm should break all of a sudden without any cloud in the sky to shew its coming. It was the latter case with me; and the storm came upon me as I shall now relate.
* * * * *
It was now for the first time that I began to see something of the way the Court lived—I mean as one who was himself a part of it. I had looked on it before rather as a spectator at a show, observing the pageants pass before me, but myself, from the nature of my employment, taking no part in it from within.