“Oh, Michael, Michael!” he sobbed, “here is a fine tale.”
A dark-dressed man stepped forward from behind, and stood expectant.
“God! What a happy family!” said the King. “And this fellow here?”
He motioned towards Nicholas, with a feeble gesture. He was still weak with laughter.
The young squire moved forward a step, rigid and indignant.
“I am against your Grace,” he said sharply.
Henry grew suddenly grave.
“Eh! that is no way to speak,” he said.
“It is the only way I can speak,” said Nicholas, “if your Grace desires the truth.”
The King looked at him a moment; but the humour still shone in his eyes.
“Well, well. It is the truth I want. Michael, I sent for you to know about the priest here; but I know now. And is it true that his brother in the Tower—Ralph Torridon—was one of the Visitors?”
The man pursed his lips a moment. He was standing close to Chris, a little in front of him.
“Yes, your Majesty.”
“Oh! well. We must let him out, I suppose—if there is nothing more against him. You shall tell me presently, Michael.”
The Archbishop looked swiftly across at the party.
“Then your Grace extends—”
“Well, Michael, what is it?” interrupted the King.
“It is a matter your Majesty might wish to hear in private,” said the stranger.
“Oh, step aside, my Lord. And you, gentlemen.”
The King motioned down to the further end of the room, as Michael came forward.
The Archbishop stepped off the low platform, and led the way down the floor; and the others followed.
* * * * *
Chris was in a whirl of bewilderment. He could see the King’s great face interested and attentive as the secretary said something in his ear, and then suddenly light up with amusement again.
“Not a word, not a word,” whispered Henry harshly. “Very good, Michael.”
The secretary then whispered once more. Chris could hear the sharp sibilants, but no word. The King nodded once more, and the man stepped down off the dais.
“Prepare the admission, then,” said the King after him.
The secretary bowed as he turned and went out of the room once more.
He watched them with a solemn joviality as they came up, the Archbishop in front, the father and son together, and the two others behind.
“You are a sad crew,” began the King, eyeing them pleasantly, and sitting forward with a hand on either knee, “and I am astonished, my Lord of Canterbury, at your companying with them. But we will have mercy, and remember your son’s services, Master Torridon, in the past. That alone will excuse him. Remember that. That alone. He is the stronger man, if he turned out the priest there. And I remember your son very well, too; and will forgive him. But I shall not employ him again. And his forgiveness shall cover yours, Master Priest; but you must be off—you must be off, sir,” he barked suddenly, “out of these realms in a week. We will have no more treason from you.”