“Sir,” said I, “for God’s sake let me go first to Her Majesty’s apartments. I’ll be bound there’s one at least there that knows English. Let this gentleman come with me.”
The Duke stared at me as if bewildered. I think he saw that he had done little but hinder the business, so far.
“Go,” he said suddenly. “Go both of you together—Stay. Bring a priest with you, if you can find one, to the little room behind the King’s bed; but bring him up the stairs the other way. Bid him stay till I send Chiffinch to him.”
Then we were gone at full speed.
It was eight o’clock at night; and the priest and I were still waiting in the little room; and no word was come through from the Bedchamber, beyond that Mr. Chiffinch had come through once to bid us be ready.
* * * * *
Once again God had favoured us in spite of all our blunders. The Count and I had run together through to Her Majesty’s lodging and there we had found, as I knew we should, a priest that knew English. But I had not thought that God’s Hand should be so visible in the matter as that we should find none other but Mr. Huddleston himself, the Scotsman, that had saved the King’s life after the battle of Worcester. There was a very particular seemliness in this—though I had not much time to think of it then. But our difficulties were not all over.
First, Mr. Huddleston declared that he had never reconciled a convert in his life; and did not know how to set about it. Next he said that he was the worst man in the world to do it, as his face was very well known, and that he would surely be suspected if he were seen: and third that the Most Holy Sacrament was not in Whitehall at all, and that therefore he could not give Viaticum. He looked very agitated, in spite of his ruddy face.
I was amazed at the man; but I forced myself to treat him with patience, for he was the only priest we could get.
First I told him that nothing was needed but to hear the King’s confession, give him absolution and anoint him: next, that we would disguise him in a great periwig and a gown, such as the Protestant Divines wore—(for, as I spoke, I actually spied such a gown hanging on the wall of the chamber in which I was speaking with him). Third, that another priest could go to St. James’ and bring the Most Holy Sacrament to him from there.
At that point Father Bento de Lemoz, who was listening to our talk, came forward and interposed. He would get a little Ritual directly, he said (in very poor English)—that had in it all that was necessary: and he would go himself, not to St. James’, for that was too far off, but to Somerset House, and get the Holy Sacrament from the royal chapel there. Mr. Huddleston had nothing to say to that; and in five minutes we had him in his periwig and gown, with the book in his pocket, with the holy oils, and away downstairs, and along the passage beneath, and up again by the little winding stair into the chamber beyond the King’s bed. I gave him no time to think of any more objections.