What he had heard certainly did surprise Wilton a good deal; and he did not scruple to say, “You seem acquainted with every one, I think, and to have an acquaintance with many of whom I did not know you had the slightest knowledge.”
“It is so,” answered Green, in a grave and thoughtful tone, “and yet nothing wonderful. It is with a man like me as with nature,” he added with a smile, “we both work secretly. Things seem extraordinary, strange, almost miraculous, when beheld only in their results, but when looked at near, they are found to be brought about by the simplest of all possible means. You, having lived but little in the world, and not being one half my age, yet know thousands of people in the highest ranks of life that I do not know, though I have mingled with that rank ten times as much as you have done: and I know many whom you would think the last to hold acquaintance with me in these changed times. You could go into any thronged assembly, a theatre, a ball-room, a house of parliament, and point me out, by hundreds, people with whose persons I am utterly unacquainted, and these would be the greatest men of the day.
“But I could lay my finger upon this wily statesman, or that great warrior, or the other stern philosopher, and could tell you secrets of those men’s bosoms which would astonish you to hear, and make them shrink into the ground;—and yet there would be no magic in all this.”
Wilton did not answer him in the same moralizing strain, but strove to obtain some farther information in regard to his proceedings proposed for the following day. But neither upon that, nor upon the subject of the note to Lord Sherbrooke, would Green speak another word, till, on arriving at the gates of Beaufort House, he said—
“Remember High Halstow.”
It was night, and the large assembly of persons who had thronged the palace at Kensington during the day had taken their departure. Silence had returned after the noise and bustle of the sunshine had subsided; scarcely a sound was heard throughout the whole building, except the porter snoring in the hall. The King himself had taken his frugal supper, and was sitting alone in his cabinet with merely a page at the door; his courtiers were scattered in their different apartments; and his immediate attendants were waiting in the distant chambers where he slept, for the hour of his retiring to rest.
Such had been the state of things for some little time, when the great bell rang, and the porter started up to open the door. A gentleman on horseback appeared without, accompanied by two others, apparently servants; and the principal personage demanded, in a tone of authority, “Is the Earl of Portland in the palace?”
The porter, though not well pleased to be roused, replied, with every sort of deference to the air and manner of the visitor, saying that the Earl was in the palace, but he believed was unwell.