I do not mean to set down in this volume all that befell me during the years that I was in the King’s service, partly because that would make too large a book, but chiefly because there were committed to me affairs of which this French one was the first, of which I took my oath never to speak without leave. Up to the present in England nothing had been said to me which would be private twenty years afterwards; I take no shame at all at revealing what little I was able to do for the King personally in England—(except perhaps in one or two points which must not be spoken of)—nor of my adventures and my endeavours to be of service to those who were one with me in religion; but of the rest, the least said the soonest mended. So the best plan which I can think of is to leave out on every occasion all that passed, or very nearly all, when I was out of my country, both in France and Rome, for I went away—on what I may call secret service—three times altogether between my first coming and the King’s death. It is enough to say that this time I was in Paris about three months, and in Normandy one; and that I had acquitted myself, so far, to His Majesty’s satisfaction.[A]
[Footnote A: Plainly this business of Mr. Mallock had some connection with Charles’ perpetual intrigues with France, for Louis’ support of him. At this time Charles’ intrigues were a little unsuccessful; so it may be supposed that without Mr. Mallock they would have been even worse.]
I returned to London then on the night of the sixteenth of November, of the same year; and I brought with me a letter to the King from a certain personage in France.
Now to one living in a Catholic country the rumours that come from others not so happy, are either greatly swollen and exaggerated in his mind, or thought nothing of. It was the latter case with me. I was in high favour on both sides of the Channel; and this, I suppose made me think little of the troubles in my own country: so when I and James reached London late in the evening, after riding up from Kent, I went straight to Whitehall, as bold as brass to demand to see Mr. Chiffinch. We had ridden fast, and had talked with but very few folks, and these ignorant; so that I knew nothing of what impended, and was astonished that the sentinels at the gate eyed me so suspiciously.
“Yes, sir,” said the younger, to whom I had addressed myself, “and what might your business with Mr. Chiffinch be?”
I had learned by now not to quack gossip or to parley with underlings; so I answered him very shortly.
“Then fetch the lieutenant,” I said; and sat back on my horse like a great person.
When the lieutenant came he was one I had never seen before, nor he me; and he too asked me what I wanted with Mr. Chiffinch.
“Lord, man!” I cried, for I was weary with my journey, and a little impatient. “Do you think I shall blurt out private business for all the world to hear? Send me under guard if you will—a man on each side—so you send me.”