* * * * *
That was a very strange vigil that we held for very near, I should think, twenty minutes or half an hour. We both sat there together without speaking. For the most of the time Mr. Huddleston was reading in his Ritual, and I could see his brow furrowed and his lips moving, as be conned over all that he would have to do and say to His Majesty. He was a man, as he had said, completely unaccustomed to such ministrations, though he was a very good man and a good priest too, in other matters. After a while he laid aside his book, and prayed, I think, for he covered his face with his hands.
* * * * *
A minute or two later I could bear the delay no longer. I rose and went up the three or four steps that led to the King’s Bedchamber, and listened. There was a low murmur of voices within; so that it seemed to me that the room was not yet cleared. I put my hand upon the door and pushed it a little; and to my satisfaction it was not latched, but opened an inch or two. But someone was standing immediately on the other side of it. I stepped back, and the door opened again just enough for me to see the face of Mr. Chiffinch. He looked past me quickly to see that the priest was there, I suppose, and then nodded at me two or three times. Then he pushed the door almost to, again. A moment after I heard the Duke’s voice within, a little unsteady, but very clear and distinct. He was standing up, I think, on the far side of the bed.
“Gentlemen,” he said, “the King wishes all to retire excepting the Earls of Bath and Feversham.”
(Bath and Feversham! thought I. Why those two, in God’s name, that were such a pair of Protestants? But, indeed, it was the one good stroke that the Duke made, for the names reassured, as I heard afterwards, all that had any suspicions, and even the Bishops themselves.)
There was a rustle of footsteps, very plain, that followed the Duke’s words. I turned to the room behind me, again, and saw that Mr. Huddleston too had heard what had passed. He was standing up, very pale and agitated, with the book clasped in his hands. I moved down the steps again so as not to block the way; and again there followed a silence, in the midst of which I heard a door latched somewhere in the Bedchamber.
Then, suddenly, the door opened at the head of the stairs; and the Duke stood there, he too as pale as death. He nodded once, very emphatically, and disappeared again. Then the priest went by me without a word, up the steps and so through. The door, as before, remained a crack open. I went up to it, and put my eye to the crack.