The fierce overpowering personality flared out as he spoke, and Chris felt his heart beat sick at the force of it.
“And you two gentlemen,” went on the King, still smouldering, “you two had best hold your tongues. We will not hear such talk in our presence or out of it. But we will excuse it now. There, sir, have I said enough?”
Sir James dropped abruptly on his knees.
“Oh! God bless your Grace!” he began, with the tears running down.
Henry made an abrupt gesture.
“You shall go to your son,” he said, “and see how he fares, and tell him this. And she shall have the order of release presently, from me or another.”
Again the little mouth creased and twitched with amusement.
“And I hope he will be happy with his mother. You may tell him that from me.”
The Archbishop looked up.
“Mistress Torridon is dead, your Grace,” he said softly and questioningly.
“Oh, well,” said the King; and thrust out his hand to be kissed.
* * * * *
Chris did not know how they got out of the room. They kissed hands again; the old man muttered out his thanks; but he seemed bewildered by the rush of events, and the supreme surprise. Chris, as he backed away from the presence, saw for the last time those narrow royal eyes fixed on him, still bright with amusement and expectancy, and the great red-fringed cheeks creased about the tiny mouth with an effort to keep back laughter. Why was the King laughing, he wondered?
They waited a few minutes in the ante-room for the order that the Archbishop had whispered to them should be sent out immediately. They said nothing to one another—but the three sat close, looking into one another’s eyes now and again in astonishment and joy, while Mr. Herries stood a little apart solemn and happy at the importance of the role he had played in the whole affair, and disdaining even to look at the rest of the company who sat on chairs and watched the party.
The secretary came to them in a few minutes, and handed them the order.
“My Lord of Canterbury is detained,” he said; “he bade me tell you gentlemen that he could not see you again.”
Sir James was standing up and examining the order.
“For four?” he said.
“Why, yes,” said the secretary, and glanced at the four men.
Chris put his hand on his father’s arm.
“It is all well,” he whispered, “say
nothing more. It will do for
THE TIDINGS AT THE TOWER