“You can go,” he said; “this gentleman is no longer under arrest.”
Still, all the way as we went, he said nothing; neither did I. He said nothing at all till we were back again in his closet, and the door shut. Then he faced me, smiling.
“Well, Mr. Mallock,” he said, “His Majesty has determined to do nothing. You may even keep your lodgings for the present; but you will be watched, I need not tell you, very closely indeed: and you must expect no more employment for a while.”
“Wait,” said he. “That black mood is on His Majesty; and you are very fortunate indeed to have come out of it so well. It was a very clever little design—”
“Design!” cried I.
“Why, of course,” he said. “Did you not see that? I should have thought anyone—”
“Design,” I said again. “Of whom? And why?”
“You are a very innocent young gentleman,” he said, “in spite of your dexterity. Of course it was a design; and it nearly deceived even me—”
“My Cousin Tom—” I began.
“Your Cousin Tom is an ass,” he said, “a malicious one, no doubt; but a mere tool. I have no doubt he intended to injure you; but he could have done nothing if he had not met with the right man. I have no doubt that he came up with the papers, and gossiped in the coffee-houses till he met other of your enemies: and they have done the rest. But it was Colonel Hoskyns no doubt who manipulated the affair.”
“Colonel Hoskyns!” I said. “Why, I have never set eyes on the man before.”
“I daresay not,” said the page, still smiling. “But I have had his name in my books for a great while.”
“Who is he?” I cried. “And what reason had he—”
Mr. Chiffinch shook his head at me lamentably.
“Why he is one of the party,” he said, “though I can get no evidence that would hang a cat. I have no doubt whatever that he has been in the whole Shaftesbury affair from the beginning, and knows that they made shipwreck principally upon yourself. It is sheer revenge now, no doubt; for they cannot hope to make any further attempts upon His Majesty.”
“But he is in the Guards!” I said, all in amazement.
The page shrugged his shoulders.
“What would you have?” he said. “I can get no evidence, even to warn His Majesty, though I have told him what I think. And, to tell the truth, I believe His Majesty to be safe enough. But that does not hinder them from wishing to have their revenge. Mr. Mallock—”
“Yes,” I said, still all bewildered.
“I wonder what he will attempt next,” said Mr. Chiffinch.