* * * * *
I came up the stairs to Mr. Chiffinch’s lodgings, just as himself came out; and he fell back a step when he saw me.
“Why, where do you come from?” he asked.
“They are after me,” I said briefly. “But that is not all.”
“Why, what else?” said he, staring at me.
“I am come from seeing the martyrdoms,” I said.
“For God’s sake!—” he cried; and caught me by the arm and drew me in.
“Now have you dined?” he said, when he had me in a chair.
He looked at me, fingering his lip.
“I suppose you have come to see His Majesty?” he said.
I told him, Yes: no more.
“And what if His Majesty will not see you?” he asked, trying me.
“His Majesty will see me,” I said. “I have something for him.”
Again he hesitated. I think for a minute or two he thought it might be a pistol or a knife that I had for the King.
“If I bring you to him,” he said, “will you give me your word to remain here till I come for you?”
“Yes; I will do that,” I said. “But I must see him immediately.”
“Well—” said Mr. Chiffinch. And then without a word he wheeled and went out of the room.
I do not know how long I sat there; but it may have been half an hour. I sat like a dazed man; for I had had no sleep, and what I had seen drove away all desire for it. I sat there, staring, and pondering round and round in circles, like a wheel turning. Now it was of Dorothy; now of the Jesuits; now of His Majesty and Mr. Chiffinch; now again, of the road to Dover, and of what I should do in France.
There came at last a step on the stairs, and Mr. Chiffinch came in. At the door he turned, and took from a man in the passage, as I suppose, a covered dish, with a spoon in it. Then he shut the door with his heel, and came forward and set the dish down.
“Dinner first—” he said.
“I must see His Majesty,” I repeated.
“Why you are an obstinate fellow, Mr. Mallock,” he said, smiling. “Have I not given you my word you shall see him?”
He leaned his hands on the table and looked at me.
“Mr. Mallock; His Majesty will be here in ten minutes’ time. I told him you must eat something first; and he said he would wait till then.”
* * * * *
The stew he had brought me was very savoury: and I ate it all up; for I had had nothing to eat since supper last night; and, by the time I had done, and had told him very briefly what had passed at Hare Street, I felt some of my bewilderment was gone. It is marvellous how food can change the moods of the immortal soul herself; but I was none the less determined, I thought, to leave the King’s service; for I could not serve any man, I thought, whose hands were as red as his in the blood of innocents.