ROBERT HUGH BENSON
Author of "Come Rack! Come Rope!", "Lord of the World," "Initiation," etc.
NEW YORK DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY
1914 AUTHOR'S NOTE.
I wish to express my gratitude for great help received in the writing of this book to Miss MacDermot, Miss Stearne and others, as well as to three friends who submitted to hearing it read aloud in manuscript, and who assisted me by their criticisms and suggestions.
Further, I think it worth saying that in all historical episodes in this book I have taken pains to be as accurate as possible. The various plots, the political movements, and the closing scenes of Charles II's life are here described with as much fidelity to truth as is compatible with historical romance. In particular, I do not think that the King himself is represented as doing or saying anything—except of course to my fictitious personages—to which sound history does not testify. I have also taken considerable pains in the topographical descriptions of Whitehall.
The day from which I reckon the beginning of all those adventures which occupied me in the Courts of England and France and elsewhere, was the first day of May in the year sixteen hundred and seventy-eight—the day, that is, on which my Lord Abbot carried me from St. Paul's-without-the- Walls to the Vatican Palace, to see our Most Holy Lord Innocent the Eleventh.
It had been a very hot day in Rome, as was to be expected at that season; and I had stayed in the cloister in the cool, as my Lord Abbot had bidden me, not knowing whether it would be on that day or another, or, indeed, on any at all, that His Holiness would send for me. I knew that my Lord Abbot had been to the Vatican again and again on the business; and had spoken of me, as he said he would, not to the Holy Father only, but to the Cardinal Secretary of State and to others; but I did not know, and he did not tell me, as to whether that business had been prosperous; though I think he must have known long before how it would end. An hour before Ave Maria, then, he sent to me, as I walked in the cloisters, and when I came to him, told me, all short, to dress myself in my old secular clothes, as fine as I could, and to be ready to ride with him in half an hour, because our Most Holy Lord had consented to receive me one hour after Ave Maria. He said nothing more to me than that; he did not tell me how I was to bear myself, nor what I was to say, neither as I stood in his cell, nor as we rode as fast as we could, with the servants before and behind, into Rome and through the streets of it. I knew nothing more than this—that since neither I nor my novice-master were in the least satisfied as to my vocation, and since I had considerable estates of my own in France (though I was an Englishman altogether on my father's side), and could speak both French and English with equal ease, and Italian and Spanish tolerably—that since, in short, I was a very well-educated young gentleman, and looked more than my years, and bore myself—(so I was told)—with ease and discretion in any company, and could act a part if it were required of me—I might perhaps be of better service to the Church in some secular employment than in sacred. This was all that I knew. The rest my Lord Abbot left to my own wits to understand, and to our Holy Father, if he would, to discover to me: and that, indeed, was presently what he did.
* * * * *
I had been within the Vatican before three or four times, both when I had first come to Rome four years ago, and once as attendant upon my Lord Abbot; but never before had I felt of such importance within those walls; for this time it was myself to whom the Holy Father was to give audience, and not merely to one in whose company I was. I was in secular clothes too—the peruke, buckles, sword, and all the rest, which I had laid aside two years ago, though these were a little old and tarnished—and I bore myself as young men will (for I was only twenty-one years old at that time), with an air and a swing; though my heart beat a little faster as we passed through the great rooms, after leaving our cloaks in an antechamber and arranging our dress after the ride; and at last were bidden to sit down while the young Monsignore who had received us in the last saloon went in to know if the Holy Father were ready to see us.
It was a smaller room—this in which we sat—than the others through which we had passed, and in which the crimson liveried servants were; and its walls were all covered with hangings from cornice to floor. That which was opposite to me presented, I remember, Jacob receiving the blessing which his brother Esau should have had; and I wondered, as I sat there, whether I myself were come, as Jacob, to get a blessing to which I had no right. Idly Lord Abbot said nothing at all; for he was a stout man and a little out of breath; and almost before he had got it again, and before I was sure as to whether I were more like to the liar Jacob, who won a blessing when he should not, or to unspiritual Esau, who lost a blessing which he should have had, the young Monsignore in his purple came back again, and, bowing so low that we saw the little tonsure on the top of his head, beckoned to us to enter.
* * * * *
By the time that, behind my Lord Abbot, I had performed the three genuflections and, at the third, was kissing the ring of our Most Holy Lord, I had already taken into my mind something of the room I was in and of him who sat there, wheeled round in his chair to greet us. The room was far more plain than I had thought to find it, though pretty rich too. The walls had sacred hangings upon them; but it was so dark with the shuttered windows that I could not make out very well what their subjects were. A dozen damask and gilt chairs stood round the walls, and three or four tables; and, in the centre of all, where I was now arrived, stood the greatest table of all, carved of some black wood, and at the middle of one side the chair in which sat the Holy Father himself.
He had very kind but very piercing eyes: this was the first thing that I thought; his hair beneath his cap, as well as his beard, was all iron-grey; his complexion was a little sallow, and seemed all the more sallow because of his red velvet cap and white soutane; (for he wore no cloak because of the heat). As soon as I had kissed his ring he bade me stand up—(speaking in Italian, as he did all through the audience)—and then beckoned me to a chair opposite to his, and my Lord Abbot to another on one side. And then at once he went on to speak of the business on which we were come—as if he knew all about it, and had no time to spend on compliments.
Now our Holy Father Innocent the Eleventh was, I suppose, one of the greatest men that ever sat in Peter's Seat. I would not speak evil, if I could help it, of any of Christ's Vicars; but this at least I may say—that Pope Innocent reformed a number of things that sorely needed it. He would have no nepotism at the Papal Court; men stood or fell by their own merits: so I knew very well that my estates in France, even if they had been ten times as great, would serve me nothing at all. He was very humble too—(he asked pardon, it was said, even of his own servants if he troubled them)—so I knew that no swashbuckling air on my part would do me anything but harm—(and, indeed, that was all laid aside, willy nilly, so soon as I came in)—since, like all humble men he esteemed the pride, even of kings, at exactly its proper worth, which is nothing at all. He was, too, a man of great spirituality, so I knew that my having come to St. Paul's as a novice and now wishing to leave it again, would scarcely exalt me in his eyes. I felt then a very poor creature indeed as I sat there and listened to him.
"This, then, is Master Roger Mallock," he said to my Lord Abbot, "of whom your Lordship spoke to me."
"This is he, Holy Father," said my Lord.
"He has been a novice for two years then; and his superiors are not sure of his vocation?"
"Yes, Holy Father."
The Pope looked again at me then, and I dropped my eyes.
"And you yourself, my son?" he asked.
"Holy Father," I said, "I am sure that at present I have no vocation. What God may give me in the future I do not know. I only know what He has not given me in the present."
Innocent tightened his lips at that; but I think it was to prevent himself smiling.
"And he is an English gentleman," he went on presently, "and he has estates in France that bring him in above twenty thousand francs yearly; and he is twenty-one years of age; and he is accustomed to all kinds of society, and he is a devoted son of Holy Church, and he speaks French and English and Italian and Spanish and German—"
"No, Holy Father, not German—except a few words," I said.
"And he is discreet and courageous and virtuous—"
"Holy Father—" I began in distress, for I thought he was mocking me.
"And he desires nothing; better than to serve his spiritual superiors in any employment to which they may put him—Eh, my son?"
I looked into the Pope's face and down again; but I said nothing.
"Eh, my son?" he said again with a certain sharpness.
"Holy Father, I have been taught never to contradict my superiors; but indeed in this—"
"Bravo!" said Innocent.
Then he turned to my Lord Abbot, as if I were no longer in the room.
"The question," he said, "is not only whether this young gentleman is capable of hearing everything and saying nothing, of preserving his virtue, of handling locked caskets without even desiring to look inside unless it is his business, of living in the world yet not being of it—but whether he is willing to do all this without being paid for it—except perhaps his bare expenses."
My Lord Abbot said nothing.
"I can have a thousand paid servants," said Innocent, "who are worth exactly their wages; but, since money cannot buy virtue or discretion or courage, in such servants I cannot demand those things. And I can have a thousand foolish servants who could earn no wages anywhere because of their foolishness, and these never have discretion and not often either virtue or courage. But what I wish is to have servants who are as wise sons to me—who have all these things, and will use them for love's sake—for the love of Holy Church and of Christ and His Mother, and who will be content with the wages that These give."
He stopped suddenly and looked at me quickly again; and my heart burned in my breast; for this that he was saying was all that I most desired; and I saw by that that my talk must have been reported to him. I loved Holy Church then, and the cause of Jesus and Mary, as young men do love, and as I hope to love till I die. I asked nothing better than to serve such causes as these even to death. It was not for lack of ardour that I wished to leave the monastery; it was because, truthfully, I had a fever on me of greater activity; because, truthfully, I was not sure of my vocation; because, truthfully, I doubted whether such gifts and such wealth and such education as were mine could not be used better in the world than in the cloister. I knew that I could take a place to-morrow in either the French or the English Court, without disgracing myself or others; and it was precisely of this that I had spoken to my Lord Abbot; and here was our Holy Father himself putting into words those very ambitions that I had. I met his eyes, and knew that I was beginning to flush.
"Well, my son?" he said.
"Holy Father," I said, "my virtues and capacities, such as they are, I must leave to my superiors. But my desires are those of which your Holiness has spoken. I ask no wages: I ask only to be allowed to serve whatever cause my superiors may assign to me."
He continued to look at me, and for very shame I presently dropped my eyes again.
"Well, my Lord Abbot?" he said again. "Let us hear what you have to say."
Then my lord began to speak; and before he was half-done I wished myself anywhere else in the world. For, as great men alone are capable, he could be as lavish of praise as of blame. He said that I was all that of which His Holiness had spoken; that I had been obedient and exact as a novice; and he said other things too of which even under obedience I could not speak. Then too he added what he had never said to me before, that he was not sure that I had no vocation; but that since God spoke through exterior circumstances as well as through interior drawings, His Holy Will seemed to point, at least at present, to a life in the world for me; that he was sure I would be as obedient there as here; that I had learned not only to use my tongue but, what is much harder, to hold it. And he ended by begging the Holy Father to take me into his service and to use me in the ways in which perhaps I might be useful. All this, of course, I now understand to have been rehearsed before; but just at that time I had no more than a suspicion that this was so.
When he had finished, His Holiness once more turned and looked at me; and I upon the ground: and then at last he spoke.
"My son," he said, "you have heard what his Reverence has said of you; and I too have heard it, and not to-day for the first time. It seems that you are right in thinking that for the present at any rate you have no vocation to Holy Religion. Well, then, the question is as to what is your Vocation, for Our Lord never leaves any man without a Vocation of some kind. You are very young for such service as that on which we think to send you; for we shall send you to the Court of England first, and then perhaps now and again to France; but you look five years at least older than your age, and, I am told, have ten times its discretion. I need not tell you that you will have no very heavy mission given to you at first; you must mix freely with the world and use your wits and see what is best to be done, sending back reports to the Cardinal Secretary. You will live at your own charges, as you yourself have said that you wished to do; but you may draw upon us here for any journeys that you may undertake upon our business up to a certain amount. In a word you will be in the diplomatic service of the Holy See, though without direct office or commission beyond that which I now give you myself. You will have full liberty to make a career for yourself in the English or French Courts, so long as this comes always second to your service to ourselves. If you acquit yourself well—in the way which will be explained to you later—you may make a career with us too, and will have rewards if you want them: but for the present there must be no talk of that. As you must be in the world yet not of it; so you must be of the Court of Rome yet not in it. It is a delicate position that you will hold; and, to compensate for the informality of it, you will have the more liberty on your side, to make a career, as I have said, or to marry, if God calls you to that, or in any other way.... Does that content you, my son?"
I do not know what I said; for all that the Holy Father had told me was what I myself had said to my Lord Abbot. I knew that affairs in England were in a very strange condition, that the Duke of York who was next heir to the throne was a Catholic, and that Charles himself was favourably disposed to us; and I knew a number of other things too which will appear in the course of this tale; and I had said to my Lord that sometimes even a hair's weight will make a balance tip; and had asked again and again if I might not, with my advantages, such as they were, be of more service to Holy Church in a more worldly place than the cloister; and now here was our Most Holy Lord himself granting and confirming all that I had wished.
"There! there!" he said to me presently, when I had tried to say what was in my heart. "Go and serve God in this way as well as you can; and remember that you can be as well sanctified in the Court of a King as in a cloister—and better, if it is the Court that is your Vocation. Go and do your best, my son; and we shall see what you can make of it."
* * * * *
When we were outside again I saw that my Lord Abbot's face was all suffused, as was my own, for there was something strangely fiery and keen and holy about Innocent; but he said nothing, except that we must now go and see His Eminence the Cardinal Secretary of State, for I was to receive my more particular instructions from him.
I came to London on the fifteenth of June, having left it seven years before in company with my father, to go to Paris, two years before he died.
It was drawing on to sunset as we rode up through the Southwark fields and, at the top of a little eminence in the ground saw for the first time plainly all the City displayed before us.
We came along the Kent road, having caught sight again and again of such spires as had risen after the Great Fire, and of the smoke that rose from the chimneys; but I may say that I was astonished at the progress the builders had made from what I could remember of seven years before. Then there had still been left great open spaces where there should have been none; now it was a city once more; and even the Cathedral shewed its walls and a few roofs above the houses. The steeples too of Sir Christopher Wren's new churches pricked everywhere; though I saw later that there was yet much building to be done, both in these and in many of the greater houses. My man James rode with me; (for I had been careful not to form too great intimacies with the party with whom I had ridden from Dover); and I remarked to him upon the matter.
"And there, sir," he said to me, pointing to it, "is the monument no doubt that they have raised to it."
And so we found it to be a day or two later—a tall pillar, with an inscription upon it saying that the Fire had been caused by the Papists—a black lie, as every honest man knows.
By the time that we came to London Bridge the sun was yet lower, setting in a glory of crimson, so that it was hard to see against it much of Westminster, across the Southwark marshes and the river; but yet I could make out the roofs of the Abbey and of some of the great buildings of Whitehall, where my adventures, I thought, were to lie. But between that and the other end of London Bridge, just before we set foot on it, the rest of the City was plain enough; and, indeed, it was a splendid sight to see the river, all, as it seemed, of molten gold with the barges and the wherries plying upon it, and the great houses on the banks and their gardens coming down to the water-gates, and the forest of chimneys and roofs and steeples behind, and all of a translucent blue colour. The sounds of the City, too, came to us plainly across the water—the chiming of bells and the firing of some sunset gun, and even the noise of wheels and the barking of dogs and the crowing of cocks—all in a soft medley of human music that made my heart rejoice; for in spite of my long exile abroad and my French and Italianate manners, I counted myself always an Englishman.
Now the first design that I had in mind, and for which I had made my dispositions, was to go straight to my lodging that had been secured for me by my cousin Tom Jermyn, where he was to meet me, and where he too would lie that night. It was with him that I was to present my letters at Whitehall in a day or two, after I had bought my clothes and other necessaries; in short he was to be my cicerone for a while—for he was a Catholic too, like myself—but he was not to be told that I had come on any mission at all, until at anyrate I had well tested his discretion.
* * * * *
Now the mission on which I had been instructed by the Cardinal Secretary was in one sense a very light one, and in another a very difficult one; for its express duties were of the smallest.
Affairs in England at this time were in a very strange condition. First, the Duke of York, who was heir to the throne, was a declared Catholic; and then the King himself was next door to one, in heart at anyrate. Certainly he had never been reconciled to the Church, though the report among some was that he had been, during his life in Paris: but in heart, as I have said, he was one, and waited only for a favourable occasion to declare himself. For he had been so bold seventeen years before, as to send to Rome a scheme by which the Church of England was to be reunited to Rome under certain conditions, as that the mass, or parts of it, should be read in English, that the Protestant clergy who would submit to ordination should be allowed to keep their wives, and other matters of that kind. His answer from Rome, sent by word of mouth only, was that no scheme could be nearer to the heart of His Holiness; but that he must not be too precipitate. Let him first show that his subjects were with him in his laudable desires; and then perhaps the terms of the matter might be spoken of again. For the King himself, and indeed even the Duke too at this time (though later he amended his life), Catholic in spirit, were scarce Christian in life. The ladies of the Court then must not be overlooked, for they as much as any statesman, and some think, more, controlled the king and his brother very greatly at this time.
But this was not all. Next, the King was embroiled in a great number of ways. The more extreme of his Protestant subjects feared and hated the Catholic Church as much as good Catholics hate and fear the Devil; and although for the present our people had great liberty both at Court and elsewhere, no man could tell when that liberty might be curtailed. And, indeed, it had been to a great part already curtailed five years before by the Test Act, forbidding the Catholics to hold any high place at the Court or elsewhere, though this was largely evaded. There was even a movement among some of them, and among the most important of them too, in the House of Lords and elsewhere, to exclude the Duke of York from the succession; and they advanced amongst themselves in support of this the fear that a French army might be brought in to subdue England to the Church. And, worst of all, as I had learned privately in Rome, there was some substance in their fear, though few else knew it; since the King was in private treaty with Louis for this very purpose. Again, a further embroilment lay in the propositions that had been made privately to the King that he should rid himself of his Queen—Catherine—on the pretext that she had borne no child to him, and could not, and marry instead some Protestant princess. Lastly, and most important of all, so greatly was Charles turned towards the Church, that he had begged more than once, and again lately, that a priest might be sent to him to be always at hand, in the event of his sudden sickness, whom none else knew to be a priest; and it was this last matter, I think, that had determined the Holy Father to let me go, as I had wished, though I was no priest, to see how the King would bear himself to me; and then, perhaps afterwards, a priest might be sent as he desired.
This then was the mission on which I was come to London.
I was to present myself at Court and place myself at His Majesty's disposal. The letters that I carried were no more than such as any gentleman might bring with him; but the King had been told beforehand who I was, and that I was come to be a messenger or a go-between if he so wished, with him and Rome. So much the King was told, and the Duke. But on my side I was told a little more—that I was to do my utmost, if the King were pleased with me, to further his conversion and his declaration of himself as a Catholic; that I was to mix with all kinds of folks, and observe what men really thought of all such matters as these, and send my reports regularly to Rome; that I was to place myself at the King's service in any way that I could—in short that I was to follow my discretion and do, as a layman may sometimes even more than a priest, all that was in my power for the furtherance of the Catholic cause.
Now it may be wondered perhaps how it was that I, who was so young, should be entrusted with such matters as these. Here then, I am bound to say, however immodest it may appear, that I have had always the art of making friends easily and of commending myself quickly. I had lived too in the societies of both Paris and Rome; and I had the accomplishments of a gentleman as well as his blood. I was thought a pleasant fellow, that is to say, who could make himself agreeable; and I certainly had too—and I am not ashamed to say this—but one single ambition in the world, and that was to serve God's cause: and these things do not always go together in this world. Last of all, it must be observed, that no very weighty secrets were entrusted to me: I bore no letters; and I had been told no more of affairs in general than such as any quick and intelligent man might pick up for himself. Even should I prove untrustworthy or indiscreet, or even turn traitor, no very great harm would be done. If, upon the other hand, I proved ready and capable, all that I could learn in England and, later perhaps, in France, would serve me well in the carrying out of weightier designs that might then be given into my charge.
Such then I was; and such was my mission, on this fifteenth day of June, as I rode up with James my man—a servant found for me in Rome, who had once been in the service of my Lord Stafford—to the door of the lodgings engaged for me in Covent Garden Piazza above a jeweller's shop.
* * * * *
It was after sunset that we came there; and all the way along the Strand, until we nearly reached the York Stairs, I had said nothing to my man, but had used my eyes instead, striving to remember what I could of seven years before. The houses of great folk were for the most part on my left—Italianate in design, with the river seen between them, and lesser houses, of the architecture that is called "magpie," on the right. The way was very foul, for there had been rain that morning, and there seemed nothing to carry the filth away: in places faggots had been thrown down to enable carts to pass over. The Strand was very full of folk of all kinds going back to their houses for supper.
Covent Garden Piazza was a fairer place altogether. It was enclosed in railings, and a sun-dial stood in the centre; and on the south was the space for the market, with a cobbled pavement. To the east of St. Paul's Church stood the greater houses, built on arcades, where many fashionable people of the Court lived or had their lodgings, and it was in one of these that I too was to lodge: for I had bidden my Cousin Jermyn to do the best he could for me, and his letter had reached me at Dover, telling me to what place I was to come.
As I sat on my horse, waiting while my man went in to one of the doorways to inquire, a gentleman ran suddenly out of another, with no hat on his head.
"Why, you are my Cousin Roger, are you not?" he cried from the steps.
"Then you are my Cousin Tom Jermyn," I said.
"The very man!" he cried back; and ran down to hold my stirrup.
All the way up the stairs he was talking and I was observing him. He seemed a hearty kind of fellow enough, with a sunburnt face from living in the country; and he wore his own hair. He was still in riding-dress; and he told me, before we had reached the first landing, that he was come but an hour ago from his house at Hare Street, in Hertfordshire.
"And I have brought little Dorothy with me," he cried. "You remember little Dorothy? She is a lady of quality now, aged no less than sixteen; and is come up to renew her fal-lals for her cousin's arrival; for you must come down with us to Hare Street when your business is done."
I cannot say that even after all this heartiness, I thought very much of my Cousin Tom. He spoke too loud, I thought, on the common stair: but I forgot all that when I came into the room that was already lighted with a pair of wax candles and set eyes on my Cousin Dorothy, who stood up as we came in, still in her riding-dress, with her whip and gloves on the table. Now let me once and for all describe my Cousin Dorothy; and then I need say no more. She was sixteen years old at this time—as her father had just told me. She was of a pale skin, with blue eyes and black lashes and black hair; but she too was greatly sunburnt, with the haymaking (as her father presently told me again; for she spoke very little after we had saluted one another). She was in a green skirt and a skirted doublet of the same colour, and wore a green hat with a white feather; but those things I did not remember till I was gone to bed and was thinking of her. It is a hard business for a lover to speak as he should of the maid who first taught him his lessons in that art; but I think it was her silence, and the look in her eyes, that embodied for me at first what I found so dear afterwards. She was neither tall nor short; she was very slender; and she moved without noise. All these things I write down now from my remembrance of the observations that I made afterwards. It would be foolish to say that I loved her so soon as I saw her; for no man does that in reality, whatever he may say of it later; I was aware only that here was a maid whose presence made the little room very pleasant to me, and with whom taking supper would be something more than the swallowing of food and drink.
The rooms of my lodging were good enough, as I saw when my Cousin Tom flung open the doors to show me them all. They were three in number: this room into which we had first come from the stairs was hung in green damask, with candles in sconces between the panels of the stuff; the door on the left opened into the room where my Cousin Dorothy would lie, with her maid; and that on the right my Cousin Tom and I would share between us. The windows of all three looked out upon the piazza.
He said a great number of times that he was sorry that he had brought up his daughter without giving me warning; but that the maid had set her heart on it and would take no denial. (This I presently discovered to be wholly false.) For a week, he said, and no more, I should be discommoded; and after that, when I had come back from Hare Street, I should be able to entertain my friends in peace.
I answered him, of course, with the proper compliments; but I liked his manner less than ever. He was too boisterous, I thought, on a first meeting; and too hearty in his expressions of goodwill. When we were set down to supper, he began again, with what I thought a good deal of indiscretion.
"So you are come from Rome!" he said loudly, "and from a monastery too, as I hear. Well, no man loves a monk more than I do—in their monasteries; but I am glad you are not to be one. We will teach him better here—eh, Dolly, my dear?"
It was only my man James who was in the room when he spoke; yet as soon as he was gone out to fetch another dish I thought I had best say a word.
"Cousin," I said, "with your leave; I think it best not to speak of monasteries—"
He interrupted me.
"Why, you need fear nothing," he cried. "We Catholics are all in the fashion these days. Why, there is Mr. Huddleston that goes about in his priest's habit: and the Capuchins at St. James', and the very Jesuits too—"
"I think it would be better not—" I began.
"Oho!" cried Cousin Tom. "That is in the wind, is it? Why, I'll be as mum as a mouse!"
I did not know what he meant; and I supposed that he did not know himself, unless indeed by sheer blundering he had pitched upon the truth that I was come on a mission. But so soon as James was in the room again, he began upon the other tack, and talked of Prince this and the Duke of that, with whom I might be supposed to be on terms of intimacy, winking on me all the while, so that my man saw it. However, I answered him civilly. I could do no less; for he was my cousin, and in a manner my host; and, most of all, I must depend upon him for a few days at least, to tell me how I must set about my audiences and my personal affairs.
My Cousin Dorothy said little or nothing all this time; but sat with downcast eyes, giving a look now and again at the table to see if we had all that we needed; for she was housekeeper at Hare Street, her mother having died ten years before, and she herself being the only child. She did not look at me at all, or shew any displeasure; and yet it seemed to me that she was not best pleased with her father's manners. Once, towards the end of supper, when James came behind him with the wine-jug, I saw her shake her head at him; and, indeed, Cousin Tom was already pretty red in the face with all that he had drunk.
When the meal was finished at last, and the table cleared, and the servants gone downstairs to their own supper, he began again with his talk, stretching his legs in the window-seat where he sat; while I sat still in my chair wheeled away from the table, and my Cousin Dorothy went in and out of the rooms, bestowing the luggage that she and her maid had unpacked. I watched her as she went to and fro, telling myself (as some lads will, who pride themselves on being come to manhood) that she was only a little maid.
"As to your affairs, Cousin Roger," he said, "they will soon be determined. I take it that when you have kissed His Majesty's hand and paid your duty to the Duke, you will have done all that you should for the present."
I did not contradict him; but he was not to be restrained.
"You are come to seek your fortune, no doubt:" (he winked on me again as he said this, to draw attention to his discretion); "and there is nothing else in the world but that, no doubt, that brings you to England." (He said this with an evident irony that even a child would have understood.) "Not that you have not a very pretty fortune already: I understand that it is near upon a thousand pounds a year; and great estates in Normandy too, when you shall be twenty-eight years old. I am right, am I not?"
Now he was right; but I wondered that he should take such pains to know it all.
"There or thereabouts," I said.
"That condition of twenty-eight years is a strange one," he went on. "Now what made your poor father fix upon that, I wonder?"
I told him that my father held that a man's life went by sevens, and that every man was a boy till he was twenty-one, a fool till he was twenty-eight, and a man, by God's grace, after that.
"Ah, that was it, was it?" he said, stretching his legs yet further. "I have often wondered as to how that was."
And that shewed me that his mind must have run a good deal upon my fortunes; but as yet I did not understand the reason.
When, presently, my Cousin Dorothy had shut the door of her room, and my man was gone down again to the horses, he began again on his old tack.
"You and I, Cousin Roger," he said, "will soon understand one another. I knew that as soon as I clapped eyes on you. Come, tell me what your business is here. I'm as close as the grave over a friend's secrets."
"My dear cousin," I said, "I do not know what business you mean. Was not my letter explicit enough? I am come to live here as an English gentleman. What other business should I have?"
He winked again at me.
"Yes, yes," he said. "And now having done your duty to your discretion, do it to your friendship for me too. I know very well that a man who comes from a Roman monastery, with letters from the French ambassador, does not come for nothing. Is there some new scheme on hand?—for the honour of Holy Church, no doubt?"
I thanked God then that I had said not one word in my letter that Shaftesbury himself might not have read. I had been in two minds about it; but had determined to wait until I saw my cousin and learned for myself what kind of man he was.
"My dear cousin," I said again, "even if I had come on some such mission, I should assure you, as I do now, that it was nothing of the kind. How else could such missions be kept secret at all? It would be a secretum commissum in any case; as the theologians would say. I can but repeat what I said in my letter to you; and, if you will think of it, you will see that it is not likely that any matter of importance would be entrusted to a young man of my age."
That seemed to quiet him. I have often noticed that to appeal to the experience and wisdom of a fool is the surest way to content him.
He began then to talk of the Court; and it would not be decent of me to record even a tenth part of the gossip he told me regarding the corruption that prevailed in Whitehall. Much of it was no doubt true; and a great deal more than he told me in some matters; but it came pouring out from him, and with such evident pleasure to himself, that it was all I could do to preserve a pleasant face towards him. He told me of the little orange-girl, Nell Gwyn, who was now just twenty-eight years old; and how she lived here and there as the King gave her houses—in Pall Mall, and in Sandford House in Chelsea, and at first at the "Cock and Pie" in Drury Lane; and how her hair was of a reddish brown, and how, when she laughed her eyes disappeared in her head; and of the Duchess of Cleveland, that was once Mrs. Palmer and then my Lady Castlemaine, now in France; and of the Duchess of Portsmouth, and her son created Duke of Richmond three years ago; and of the mock marriage that was celebrated, in my Lord Arlington's house at Euston, seven years ago between her and the King. And these things were only the more decent matters of which he spoke; and of all he spoke with that kind of chuckling pleasure that a heavy country squire usually shews in such things, so that I nearly hated him as he sat there. For to myself such things seem infinitely sorrowful; and all the more so in such a man as the King was; and they seemed the more sorrowful the more that I knew of him later; for he had so much of the supernatural in him after all, and knew what he did.
Then presently my Cousin Jermyn began upon the Duke; and at that I nearly loosed my tongue at him altogether. For I knew very well that the guilt of the Duke was heavier even than the guilt of the King, since James had the grace of the Sacraments to help him and the light of the Faith to guide him. But I judged it better not to shew my anger, since I was, as the Holy Father had told me, to be "in the world," though interiorly not of it: and so I feigned sleep instead, and presently had to snore aloud before my cousin could see it: and, as he stopped speaking, my Cousin Dorothy came in to bid us good-night.
"Why, I have been half asleep," I said. "I am tired with my journey. What were you saying, cousin?"
He leered again at that, as if to draw attention to his daughter's presence.
"Why, we were talking of high matters of state," he said, "when you fell asleep—matters too high for little maids to hear of. Give me a kiss, my dear."
When she came to me, I kissed her on the forehead, and not upon the cheek which she offered me.
"Is that the Italian custom?" cried my Cousin Tom. "Why, we can teach you better than that—eh, Dolly?"
She said nothing to that; but looked at me a little anxiously and then at the table where the wine stood; and I thought that I understood her.
"Well, cousin," I said, "I, too, had best be off to bed. We had best both go. I do not want to lie awake half the night; and if you wake me when you come to bed, I shall not sleep again."
He tried to persuade me to stay and drink a little more; but I would not: and for very courtesy he had to come with me.
In spite of my drowsiness, however, when I was once in bed and the light was out I could not at once sleep. I heard the watchman go by and cry that it was a fine night; and I heard the carriages go by, and the chairs; and saw the light of the links on the ceiling at the end of my bed; and I heard a brawl once and the clash of swords and the scream of a woman; as well as the snoring of my Cousin Tom, who fell asleep at once, so full he was of French wine. But it was not these things that kept me awake, except so far as they were signs to me of where I was.
For here I was in London at last, which, whatever men may say, is the heart of the world, as Rome is the heart of the Church; and there, within a gunshot, was the gate of Whitehall where the King lived, and where my fortunes lay. Neither was I here as a mere Englishman come home again after seven years, but as a messenger from the Holy See, with work both to find and to do. To-morrow I must set out, to buy, as I may say, the munitions of war—my clothes and my new periwigs and my swords and my horses; and then after that my holy war was to begin. I had my letters not only to the Court, but to the Jesuits as well—though of these I had been careful to say nothing to my cousin; for I could present these very well without his assistance. And this holy war I was to carry on by my own wits, though a soldier in that great army of Christ that fights continually with spiritual weapons against the deceits of Satan.
I wondered, then, as I lay there in the dark, as to whether this war would be as bloodless as seemed likely; whether indeed it were true (and if true, whether it were good or bad) that Catholics should again almost be in the fashion, as my cousin had said. There were still those old bloody laws against us; was it so sure that they would never be revived again? And if they were revived, how should I bear myself; and how would my Cousin Jermyn, and all those other Catholics of whom London was so full?
Of all these things, then, I thought; but my last thoughts, before I commended myself finally to God and Our Lady, were of my Cousin Dorothy—that little maid, as I feigned to myself to think of her. Yes; I would go down to Hare Street in Hertfordshire so soon as I conveniently could, without neglecting my business. It would be pleasant to see what place it was that my Cousin Dorothy called her home.
It was again a fair evening, five days later, when, in one of my new suits, with my new silver-handled sword, I set out on foot to Whitehall to see the King first and the Duke afterwards, as word had been brought me from the Chamberlain's office; for I had presented my letters on the morning after I had come to London.
Those four days had passed busily and merrily enough in company with my cousins. The first two days I had spent in the shops, and had expended above forty pounds, with both my cousins to advise me. It would not be to the purpose to describe all that I bought; but there was a blue suit I had, that was made very quickly, and that was the one I wore when I went to see the King, that was very fine. All was of blue; the coat was square-cut, with deep skirts, and had great laced cuffs that turned up as high as the elbow, showing the ruffled wristbands of the shirt beneath; the waistcoat below—in the new fashion—was so hung as to come down to my knees; and both coat and waistcoat had buttons all the way down the front, with silver trimming. My stockings—for the brodequins were out of fashion again now—were of a darker blue, and my shoes of strong leather, with a great rosette upon each, for buckles were not usual at this time. Then my cravat was of Flanders lace; and my Cousin Dorothy showed me how to fasten it so that the ends lay down square in front; and my hat was round with a blue favour in it upon the left side; and I wore it with what was called the "Monmouth cock." I carried a long cane in my hand, with a silver head, and a pair of soft leather gloves, without cuffs to them. Then, as my own hair was still short, I bought a couple of dark periwigs of my own colour, and put on, the better to go to Whitehall in. Besides these things I had three other suits, one very plain, of grey, and two less plain; a case of pistols, and a second sword, very plain and strong, in a leather scabbard, with its belt; two pair of riding-boots, besides other shoes; and two dozen of shirts and cravats, of which half were plain, without lace.
While we went to and fro on all those businesses, we saw something both of the town and of the folks. On our way back from Cheapside one day, we turned aside to see the Monument, with the lying inscription upon it; and then to see the Cathedral, which was already of a considerable height. Of the persons of importance we saw one day the Duke of Buckingham in his coach, drawn by two white horses, with riders before and behind, pass along towards Whitehall; and a chair went by us one evening in which, it was said, was the Duchess of Portsmouth (once Madame de la Querouaille, or Mrs. Carwell); but it was so closely guarded that I could not see within. Also, we saw my Lord Shaftesbury, a sly yet proud looking fellow, I thought him, walking with Mr. Pepys, who fell later under suspicion of being a Catholic, because his servant was one.
On the Saturday evening we went to take the air in St. James' Park, and walked by Rosamund's pond; and here we but just missed seeing the King and Queen; for as we came into it from Charing Cross (where I had seen for the first time in the public street the Punch-show, which I think must take its origin from Pontius Pilate) their Majesties rode out—hand in hand, I heard later—through the Park Gate into the Horse-Guards, and so to Whitehall, with guards in buff and steel following. There was a great company of gentlemen and ladies who rode behind, of whom we caught a sight; but they were too far away for us to recognize any of them. (I saw, too, the cress-carts come in from Tothill fields.)
On the Sunday morning we went all three together to hear mass sung in St. James'; and here for the first time I saw Mr. Huddleston, who was of the congregation, who was in his priest's habit—as my cousin had told me—for this was allowed to him by Act of Parliament, because he had saved the King's life after the battle of Worcester. He was a man that looked like a scholar, but was very brown with the sun, too. We could not see the Duke, for he was in his closet, with the curtains half drawn—a tribune, as we should call it in Rome. It was very sweet to me to hear mass again after my journey; and it was not less sweet to me that my Cousin Dorothy was beside me; but the crush was so great, of Protestants who had come to see the ceremonies, as well as of Catholics, that there was scarcely room even to kneel down at the elevation. On our way back we saw Prince Rupert, a fat pasty-faced man, driving out in his coach. He spent all his time in chymical experiments, I was told. As Sedley said, he had exchanged Naseby for Noseby.
I had been bidden, on the Monday, to present myself first at Mr. Chiffinch's lodgings that were near the chapel, between the Privy Stairs and the Palace Stairs; and, as I was before my time, when I came into the Court, behind the Banqueting Hall, I turned aside to see the Privy Garden. A fellow in livery, of whom there were half a dozen in sight, asked me my business very civilly; and when I told him, let me go through by the Treasury and the King's laboratory, so that I might see the garden: and indeed it was very well worth seeing. There were sixteen great beds, set in the rectangle, with paved walks between; there was a stone vase on a pedestal, or a statue, in the centre of each bed, and a great sundial in the midst of them all. There were some ladies walking at the further end, beneath the two rows of trees; and the sight was a very pretty one, for the sunlight was still on part of the garden and on the Bowling-Green beyond the trees; and the flowers and the ladies' dresses, and the high windows that flashed back the light, all conspired to make what I looked upon very beautiful. The lodgings that looked on to the Privy Garden and the Bowling-Green were much coveted, I heard later; and only such personages as Prince Rupert, my Lord Peterborough, Sir Philip Killigrew, and such like, could get them there.
Mr. Chiffinch's lodgings, when I came to them, were not so fine; for they looked out upon little courts on both sides, and my Lady Arlington's lodgings blocked his view to the river. I went up the stairs, and beat upon the door with my cane: and a voice cried to me to enter.
Now I had heard enough of Mr. Chiffinch to make me prejudge him; for his main business, it seemed, was to pander to the King's pleasures; and he had his rooms so near the river, it was said, that he might more easily meet those who came by water and take them up to His Majesty's rooms unobserved: yet when I saw him, I understood that any prejudgement was unnecessary. For if ever man bore his character in his face it was Mr. Chiffinch.
He had risen at my knock, and was standing in the light of the window. He was dressed in a dark suit, very plain, yet of very rich stuff, and had laid his periwig aside, so that I could see his features. He was a dark secret-looking man with his eyes set near together, and with a lip so short that it seemed as if he sneered; he stooped a little too. Yet I am bound to say that his manner was perfection itself.
"Mr. Chiffinch," I said. And at that he bowed.
"I am Mr. Roger Mallock," I said; "and I was bidden to come here at this hour."
"I am honoured to meet you, Mr. Mallock," he said. "I have had His Majesty's instructions very particular in your regard. I am ashamed that you should find me so unready; but I will not keep you above five minutes, if you will sit down for a little."
He made haste to set me a chair near the window; and with another apology or two he went out of a second door. The room in which he left me was like the suit that he wore—in that it was both plain and rich. There were three or four chairs with arms; a table, with twisted legs, on which lay a great heap of papers and a pair of candlesticks: and there was a tall lightly-carved press, with locks, between the windows. The walls were plain, with a few good engravings hung upon them. I went up to examine one, and found it to be a new one, by Faithorne.
Now that I was drawing so near to the King, I found my apprehensions returning upon me, for half my success, I knew, if not all, turned upon the manner I first shewed to him. I knew very well that I could bear myself with sufficient address; but sufficient address was not all that was needed: I must so act that His Majesty would remember me afterwards, and with pleasure. Yet how was I to ensure this?
As I was so thinking to myself, Mr. Chiffinch came in again, having, with marvellous speed, changed his suit into one of brown velvet, with a great black periwig, from which his sharp face looked out like a ferret from a hole.
"I must ask your pardon, Mr. Mallock," he said, as I stood up to meet him, "again and again; but I have scarcely an hour to myself day or night. Duty treads on the heels of duty all day long. But we have still time: His Majesty does not expect us till half-past five."
I made the usual compliments and answers, to which he bowed again; and then, as I thought he would, he began upon what was not his business—at least I thought not then.
"You are come from Rome, I hear. I trust that His Holiness was in good health?"
"The reports were excellent," I said, determined not to be taken in this way.
"You have seen His Holiness lately, no doubt?"
"It was the French and Spanish ambassadors," I said, "who gave me my letters. A poor gentleman like myself does not see the Holy Father once in a twelvemonth."
He seemed contented with that; and I think he put me down as something of a well-bred simpleton, which was precisely what I wished him to think; for his manner changed a little.
"You have seen His Majesty before, no doubt?"
"I have not been in England for seven years," I said, smiling. "I saw His Majesty once when I was a lad, as he went to dinner; and I have seen him once, on Saturday last; at least, I saw the top of his hat from a hundred yards off."
"And the Duke of York?" he asked.
"I have never seen the Duke of York in my life, to my knowledge," I said.
Now I saw well enough what he was after. Without a doubt he had a suspicion that I was an emissary in some way from the Holy Father, or at least that I was more than I appeared to be; and being one of those men who desire to know everything, that they may understand, as the saying is, which way the cat will jump, and how to jump with her, he was determined to find out all that he could. On my side, therefore, I assumed the air of a rather stupid gentleman, to bear out better the character that I had—that I was a mere gentleman from Rome, recommended by the Catholic ambassadors; and I think that, for the time at anyrate, he took me so to be; for his manner became less inquisitive.
"We must be going to His Majesty, sir," he said presently, rising; and then he added as if by chance: "You are a Catholic, Mr. Mallock?"
"Why, yes," I said: for there was no need of any concealment on the point of my religion.
* * * * *
As we went downstairs and along the passage that led by Sir Francis Clinton's lodgings, he began to speak of how I was to behave myself to the King, and how kiss his hand and the rest. I knew very well all these things, but I listened to him as if I did not, and even put a question or two; and he answered me very graciously.
"You should be very modest with His Majesty," he said, "if you would please him. He likes not originals over-much; or, rather, I would say—(but it must not be repeated)—that he likes to be the only original of the company."
And when Mr. Chiffinch said that I knew that he was lying to me; for the very opposite was the truth; and I understood that he still had his suspicions of me and wished me to fail with the King. But I nodded wisely, and thanked him.
A couple of Yeomen of the Guard—of which body no man was less than six feet tall—stood at the foot of the little stairs that led up to the King's lodgings: and these made no motion to hinder the King's page and his companion. So English were they that they did not even turn their eyes as we went through, Mr. Chiffinch preceding me with an apology.
At the door on the landing of the first floor he turned to me again before he knocked.
"His Majesty will be within the second room," he said. "Will you wait, Mr. Mallock, please, in this first anteroom, and I will go through. This is a private reception by His Majesty. There will be no formalities."
He tapped upon both the doors that were one inside the other; and then led me through. The first chamber was very richly furnished, though barely. There was a long table with chairs about it; and he led me to one of these. Then with a nod or two he passed on to a second door, tapped upon it softly and went through, closing it behind him. I heard a woman's laugh as he went through, suddenly broken off.
There was, I supposed (and as I learned afterwards to be the case) one other way at least out of the King's lodgings, through his private library, where he kept all his clocks and wheels and such-like; for when, after a minute or two, the door opened again and Mr. Chiffinch beckoned me in, there was no woman with the King.
It was a great room—His Majesty's closet as it was called—which he used for such solitary life as he led; and while I was with him, and afterwards upon other occasions, I saw little by little how it was furnished. The table in the midst, at which His Majesty wrote, was all in disorder; it was piled high with papers and books, for he would do what writing or reading he cared to do by fits and starts. The walls were hung with panels of tapestry, and tall curtains of brocade hung at the windows. Between the panels were pictures hung upon the walls—three or four flower-pictures by Varelst; three pictures of horses and dogs by Hondius, and a couple of Dutch pictures by Hoogstraaten. Over the fireplace was a chimney-breast by Gibbons; and the ceiling was all a-sprawl with gods and goddesses, I suppose by Verrio. In the windows, which looked out on two sides, over the river and into a little court, were little tables covered with curious things, for His Majesty delighted in such ingenuities—Dutch figures in silver, clockwork, and the like, and a basket of spaniels lay beneath one of the tables. A second great table stood against the wall on the further side from that on which I entered, covered with retorts and instruments, and behind it a press, and near it sat the King. The floor was carpeted with rush matting, loosely woven, with rugs upon it. But of all these things I saw little or nothing at the first, for Mr. Chiffinch was gone out behind me, and I was alone with His Majesty. One of the spaniels had given a little yelp as I came in; but disposed himself to sleep again.
Now I am not one of those who think that those who are noble by birth must always be noble by character, though I know that it should be so. I knew, too, very well that Charles was less than noble in a great number of ways. His women did what they liked with him; he would spend fortunes on those who pleased him and did him nothing but injury, and would let his faithful lovers and servants go starve. He lived always, you would say, only for the flesh and the pride of the eyes; he was careless and selfish and ungrateful; in short, he was as dissolute as a man could be, or, rather, as dissolute as a king could be, and that is much more. Yet for all this, he was a man of an extraordinary power, if he had cared to use it. It was said of him that "he could, if he would, but that he would not"; and of his brother that "he would if he could, but that he could not"; and I know no better epigram on the two than that. James was all intention without success; and Charles all success without intention. And so James at the end lived and died as a saint, though he was far from being one at this time; and Charles lived and died a sinner, though, thank God, a penitent one.
Now although I knew all this well enough, and how Charles' private life stank in the nostrils of God and man, I cannot describe how he affected me with loyalty and compassion and even a kind of love, in this little while that I had with him in private, nor how these emotions grew upon me the more that I knew him.
He was sitting in his great chair, not yet dressed for supper, for his wristbands were tumbled and turned back, and his huge dark brown periwig was ever so little awry. He was in a dark suit, with a lace cravat; and his rosetted shoes were crossed one over the other as he sat. The light of the window fell full upon him from one side, shewing his swarthy face, his thin close moustaches, and his heavy eyes under his arched brows—shewing above all that air of strange and lovable melancholy that was so marked a trait in those of the Stuart blood. He smiled a little at me, but did not move, except to put out his hand. I came across the floor, kneeled and kissed his hand, then, at a motion from him, stood up again.
"So you are Mr. Roger Mallock," he said. "Welcome to England, Mr. Roger Mallock. You bring good news of His Holiness, I hope."
"His Holiness does very well, Sir," I said.
"We should all do as well if we were as holy," said the King. "And you come to look after my soul, I am informed."
(He said this with a kind of gravity that can scarcely be believed.)
"I am no priest, Sir," I said, "if you mean that. I am only a forerunner, at the best."
"Vox clamantis in deserto," said the King. "I hope I shall be no Herod to cut off your head. But it is very kind of you to come to this wilderness. And have you seen my brother yet?"
"I am to see his Royal Highness immediately," I said. "I waited upon Your Majesty first."
"Poor James!" said the King. "He wants looking after, I think. And what have you come to do in England, Mr. Mallock?"
Now I felt that I was cutting a poor figure at present; and that I must say something presently, if I could, to make the King remember me afterwards. It appeared to me that he was trying me, as he tried all newcomers, to see whether they would be witty or amusing; but, for the life of me, I could think of nothing to say.
"I am come to put myself wholly at Your Majesty's disposal," I said.
"Come! come! That's better," said Charles. "It is usually the other way about. Servus servorum Dei, you know. And in what manner do you propose that I should use you?"
"I will clean Your Majesty's shoes, if you will. Or I will run errands in my own. Or I will sing psalms, or ditties; or I will row in a boat; or I will play tennis, or fence. I am what is called an accomplished young gentleman, Sir."
Now I think I put in a shade too many clauses, for I was a little agitated. But the King's face lightened up very pleasantly.
"But I have plenty of folks who can do all that," he said. "In what are you distinguished from the rest?"
Then I determined on a bold stroke; for I knew that the King liked such things, if they were not too bold.
"I am a Jesuit at heart, Sir;" I said. "I desire to do these things, if Your Majesty wills it so, simply that I may serve His Holiness in serving Your Majesty."
"Oho!" said Charles; and he gathered his feet under him and looked at me more closely. I met his eyes fairly and then dropped my own.
"Oho! That is frank enough, Mr. Mallock. You know all about me, I suppose. You seem very young for such work. How old are you? Twenty-five?"
"I pass as twenty-five, Sir. But I am only twenty-one!"
"I would that I were!" said Charles earnestly. "And so you are a Jesuit in disguise—a wolf in sheep's clothing."
"No, Sir. I am a Jesuit at heart only, in that I would do anything in God's cause. But I am rather a sheep in wolf's clothing. I was a Benedictine novice till lately."
He seemed not to hear me. He had dropped his chin on his hand, and was looking at me as if he were thinking of something else.
"So you are come to serve me," he said presently, "in any way that I will; and you will serve me only that you may serve your master better. And what wages do you want?"
"None that Your Majesty can give," I said.
"Better and better," said Charles. "Nor place, nor position?"
"Only at Your Majesty's feet."
"And what if I kick you?"
"I will look for the halfpence elsewhere, Sir."
Then the King laughed outright, in the short harsh way he had; and I knew that I had pleased him. Then he stood up, and I saw that he was taller than I had thought. He was close upon six feet high.
"Well, Mr. Mallock," he said, "this seems all very pleasant and satisfactory. You said you would run errands. I suppose you mean to Rome?"
"To Rome and back, Sir," I said. "Or to anywhere else, except Hell."
"Oh! you draw the line there, do you?"
"No, Sir. It is God Almighty who has drawn it. I am not responsible."
"But you observe God His line?"
"Yes, Sir. At least, I try to."
"We all do that, I suppose. The pity is that we do not succeed more consistently ... Well, Mr. Mallock, I have nothing for you at present. I am a great deal too busy. These ladies, you know, demand so much. I suppose you heard one of them laugh just now?"
"I hear nothing but Your Majesty's commands," I said very meekly.
Charles laughed again and began to walk up and down.
"Well—and there are all these clockwork businesses, and chymical and the like. And there is so much to eat and drink and see: and there are the affairs of the kingdom—I had forgot that. Well; I have no time at present, Mr. Mallock, as you can see for yourself. But I will not forget you, if I want you. Where do you lodge?"
I named my lodgings in Covent Garden.
"And I have a cousin, Sir," I said, "who has bidden me to his house in Hare Street. I shall be here or there."
"Thomas Jermyn, Sir."
The King nodded.
"I will remember that," he said. "Well, it may be a long time before I have anything more to say to His Holiness. 'He that will not when he may—' You know all about that, I suppose, Mr. Mallock?"
"I know that Your Majesty has the reunion of Christendom at heart," I said discreetly.
"Yes, yes; I understand," said Charles. "I have received very favourable accounts of you, sir. And your letters, which are for the public eye, are perfectly in order. Well; I will remember, Mr. Mallock. Meanwhile you had best not shew yourself at Court in public too much." (And this he said very earnestly.)
He put out his hand to be kissed.
"And you will give my compliments to my brother James," he said.
* * * * *
One of the spaniels snored in his sleep as I went out again.
My interview with the Duke was a very different matter. I was informed at his lodgings that he was not yet come from tennis; and upon asking how long he would be, or if I might go to the tennis-court, was told that he might be half an hour yet, and that I might go there if I wished; so I went up from the river again, with a fellow they sent to guide me, down through the Stone Gallery, across the Privy Garden, and so across the street, midway between the gates, and so by the Duke of Monmouth's lodgings to the tennis-court. Here, as I went across the street, I caught sight of the sentries changing guard. These were the Coldstream Guards, in their red coats; for it was these foot-guards who did duty for the most part in the Palace and round about at the gates. The other troops about His Majesty were, first the King's Guards proper, who attended him when he rode out: these were in buff coats and cuirasses, very well mounted, and very gay with ribbons and velvet and gold lace and what not: and to each troop of these were attached a company of grenadiers with their grenades. Besides these were the Blues, also cavalry; and the dragoons, who were infantry on horseback, and carried bayonets. Of the foot-soldiers, such as the Buffs, most were mousquetaires; but some trailed pikes, and every one of them had a sword. These troops I saw constantly in town; besides the Yeomen who were closely attached to the person of his Sacred Majesty.
It was by the Duke of Monmouth's lodgings that I had my first sight of the Duke of Monmouth himself; for as I came towards the archway, by which were the lodgings of my Lady Suffolk, he himself came out from his own. I did not know who he was, until the fellow by me saluted him and doffed his cap, whereupon I did the same. I think I have never seen a more handsome lad in all my life (for he looked no more, though he was near thirty years old). His face was as smooth as a girl's, though not at all effeminate; he had a high and merry look with him, and bore himself, with his two friends, like a prince; he had violet eyes and arched brows over them. It is piteous to me now to think of his end, and that it was against his uncle by blood (whom I was to see presently) that he rebelled later, and by his uncle that he was condemned; and it is yet more piteous to think how he met that end, crying and cringing for fear of his life, both in the ditch in which he was discovered, and afterward in prison. He looked very kindly on me as he passed, lifting his hand to his hat; but I think he would not have so looked if he had known all about me; for he was as venomous against the Catholics as a man could be, or at least feigned himself so, for I think he had not a great deal of religion at any time. But he was to know me better afterwards.
When I came up into the gallery of the tennis-court I found it pretty full; yet not so full but that I could get a sight of the players. The Duke was in the court of the dedans when I first came in, so I could see no more of him than his back and his cropped head; but when, after two chaces he crossed over, I had a good view of him.
He was more heavily built than Charles; but his features were not unlike the King's, though he was fairer in complexion, I suppose; and his lip was shorter, and he wore no hair on his face. He had somewhat of a heavier look too in his face, without the fire that burned like embers in his brother's eyes. All this I noticed somewhat of, even from the gallery, though he was all a-sweat with his exercise.
I had left word with one of the men below as to my name and my business; and when the game was ended and the Duke went out, I remained still upstairs for a little, thinking that perhaps another would be played, and then perhaps he would send for me. But a servant came up presently and told me I was to follow to the Stone Gallery, where the Duke would walk for a while before changing his clothes, as his custom was. This Stone Gallery, as I had seen, was roofed, with skylights in it, and had presses of books all along the walls, together with collections of all kinds.
When I came to the Gallery he was at the further end, walking with Sir Robert Murray, as I learned afterwards, who was a very earnest Protestant, but always at Court; but when he saw me he sent Sir Robert away and beckoned to me to come. So I went up to him and kissed his hand, and he bade me walk with him for a little. (He had put on a cloak and hat to prevent his taking cold.)
Now his manner was wholly different from His Majesty's. There was a courtesy always in Charles that was not in James; for the Duke said nothing as to his receiving me here in his deshabille, but began immediately to talk in a low voice.
"I am pleased that you are come to England, Mr. Mallock. I have had news of you from Rome."
Then he asked very properly of the Holy Father, and of a Cardinal or two that he knew; and I answered him as well as I could. But I very soon saw that His Royal Highness wanted nothing like wit from me: he was somewhat of a solemn man, and had great ideas of his rights, and that all men who were below his own station should keep their own. He desired deference and attention above all things.
He spoke presently of Catholics in England.
"God hath blest us very highly," he said, "both in numbers and influence. But we can well do with more of both; for I never heard of any cause that could not. There is a feeling against us in many quarters, but it is less considerable every year. You are to attach yourself to His Majesty, I understand?"
"But I am to have no place or office, sir," I said. "I am rather to be at His Majesty's disposal—to fetch and carry, I may say, if he should need my services."
His Highness looked at me sidelong and swiftly; and I understood that he did not wish any originality even in speech.
"We must all be discreet, however," he said—(though I suppose there was never any man less discreet than himself, especially when he most needed to be so). "It is useless to say that we are altogether loved; for we are not. But you will soon acquaint yourself with all our politics."
I did not say that I had already done so; but assured him that I would do my best.
"As a general guide, I may say," he went on; "where there is Whiggery, there is disloyalty, however much the Whigs may protest. They say they desire a king as much as any; but it is not a king that they want, but his shadow only."
He talked on in this manner for a little, for we had the Gallery to ourselves, telling me, what I knew very well already, that the Catholics and the High Churchmen were, as a whole, staunch Royalists; but that the rest, especially those of the old Covenanting blood, still were capable of mischief. He did not tell me outright that it was largely against his own succession that the disaffection was directed; nor that the Duke of Monmouth was his rival; but he told me enough to show that my own information was correct enough, and that in the political matters my weight, such as it was, must be thrown on to the side of the Tories—as the other party was nicknamed. I understood, even in that first conversation with him, why he was so little loved; and I remembered, with inward mirth, how His Majesty once, upon being remonstrated with by his brother for walking out so freely without a guard, answered that he need have no fears; for "they will never kill me," said he, "to set you upon the throne."
"You have seen Father Whitbread, no doubt," said the Duke suddenly.
"No, sir. I waited to pay my homage first to His Majesty and to yourself."
He nodded once or twice at that.
"Yes, yes; but you will see him presently, I take it. You could not have a better guide. Why—"
He broke off on a sudden.
"Why here is the man himself," he said.
A man in a sober suit was indeed approaching, as His Highness spoke. He was of about the middle-size, clean-shaven, of grave and kindly face, and resembled such a man as a lawyer or physician might be. He was dressed in all points like a layman, though I suppose it was tolerably well known what he was, if not his name.
He saluted as he came near, and made as if he would have passed us.
"Mr. Whitbread! Mr. Whitbread!" cried the Duke.
The priest turned and bowed again, uncovering as he did so. Then he came up to the Duke and kissed his hand.
"I was on my way to see your Royal Highness," he said, "but when I saw you were in company—"
"Why, this is Mr. Mallock, come from Rome, who has letters to you. This will save you a journey, Mallock."
The priest and I saluted one another; and I found his face and manner very pleasant.
"I have heard of you, Mr. Mallock," he said, "but I hope His Highness is misinformed, and that this will not save you a journey, after all."
"I was just telling this gentleman," broke in the Duke, as we continued our walking, "that he must take you for his mentor, Dr. Whitbread, in these difficult times. Mr. Mallock seems very young for his business, but I suppose that the Holy Father knows what he is about."
"The Holy Father, sir," I said, "has committed himself in no sort of way to me. I am scarcely more than a free-lance who has had his blessing."
"Well, well; it is all the same thing," said James a little impatiently. "Free-lance or drilled soldier—they fight for the same cause."
He continued to talk in the same manner for a little, as if for my instruction; and I listened with all the meekness I had. He did not tell me one word which I did not already know; but I had perceived by now what kind of man he was—well intentioned, no doubt, as courageous as a lion, and as impatient of opposition, and not a little stupid: at least he had not a tenth of his brother's wits, as all the world knew. He solemnly informed me therefore of what all the world knew, and I listened to him.
When he dismissed me at last, however, he remembered to ask where I lodged, and I told him.
"A very good place too," he said. "I am glad your cousin had the sense to put you there. Then I will remember you, if I need you for anything."
"I will go with Mr. Mallock," said the priest, "if Your Royal Highness will permit. I came but to pay my respects; and it is a little late."
The Duke nodded; and gave us his hand to kiss.
As we went out through the Courtyard, Father Whitbread pointed out a few things to me which be thought might be of interest; and I liked the man more at every step. He was a complete man of the world, with a certain gentle irony, yet none the less kindly for it. He did not say one disparaging word of anyone, nor any hint of criticism at His Royal Highness; yet he knew, and I knew that he knew, and he knew that again, that our Catholic champion was a shade disappointing; and that, not in his vices only—of which my Lady Southesk could have given an account—but in that which I am forced to call his stupidity. But, after all, our Saviour uttered a judgment generally as to the children of light and the children of this world, that must always be our consolation when our friends are dull or perverse. Father Whitbread only observed emphatically that the Duke was a man of excellent heart.
He showed me the windows of a number of lodgings on the way, and the direction of a great many more: for indeed this Palace of Whitehall was liker a little town than a house. Father Patricks, he said, had a lodging near the Pantry, which he shewed me.
"There be some of us priests who have an affinity, do you not think, Mr. Mallock? with pantries and butteries and such like—good sound men too, many of them. I have not a word to say against Mr. Patricks."
He shewed me too how the Palace was in four quarters, of which two were divided from two by Whitehall itself and the street between the gatehouses. That half of it that was nearer to the Park held the tennis-court and the cock-pit and the lodgings of the Duke of Monmouth and others nearer Westminster, and the other half the Horse Guards and the barracks: and that nearer the river held, to the south the Stone Gallery, the Privy Garden, the Bowling Green and a great number of lodgings amongst which were those of the King and of his brother and Prince Rupert, and of the Queen too, as well as of their more immediate attendants—and this part contained what was left of the old York House; to the north was another court surrounded by lodgings, the Wood-Yard, the two courts called Scotland Yard, and the clock-house at the extremity, nearest Charing Cross. In the very midst of the whole Palace, looking upon Whitehall itself, was the Banqueting House where His Majesty dined in state, and from a window of which King Charles the First, of blessed memory, went out to lose his head. Indeed as we went by the end of the Banqueting House the trumpets blew for supper; and we saw a great number of cooks and scullions run past with dishes on their heads.
* * * * *
As we went up Whitehall, Mr. Whitbread began to speak of more intimate things.
"You are a stranger in England, Mr. Mallock, I think."
I told him I had not been in the country for seven years.
"You will find a great many changes," he said; "and I think we are on the eve of some more. Certainly His Majesty has wonderfully established his position; and yet, if you understand me, there is a great and growing disaffection. It is the Catholic Faith that they fear; and I cannot help thinking that some victims may be required again presently, though I do not know what they can allege against us. There is a deal of feeling, too, against the Queen; she has borne no children—that is true; but the main part of it arises from her religion: and so with the Duke of York also. Certainly we are in the fashion in one way: but those who are on the top of the wave must always look to come down suddenly."
Here again, Father Whitbread did not tell me anything that I did not know; yet he put matters together as I had not heard them put before; and he seemed to me altogether a shrewd kind of man whose judgment I might very well rely upon; and as we went up the Strand he spoke again of the Queen.
"His Majesty hath been urged again and again to divorce her; but he will not. He said to the Duke himself in my hearing one day that an innocent woman should never suffer through him—which is good hearing. But Her Majesty is not very happy, I am afraid."
When we came to the Maypole, which I had already seen, in the midst of the Strand, he spoke to me of how it had been carried there and set up with great rejoicing, after the Restoration. It was a great structure, hung about by a crown and a vane; and he said that it stood as a kind of symbol against Puritanism.
"There are many," he told me, "who would pull it down to-morrow if they could, as if it were some kind of idol."
He saw me as far as the door of my lodgings; but he would not come in. He said that he had no great desire to be known more widely than be was at present known.
"But if you have time to come in to-morrow morning about ten o'clock to Mr. Fenwick's lodgings in Drury Lane—over the baker's shop—I shall be there, and Mr. Ireland also—all Fathers of our Society; and I will very gladly make you known to them. My own lodgings are in Weld Street—at the Ambassador's."
I thanked him for his kindness, and said I would be there; and so I bade him good-night.
* * * * *
Although I had learned very few things that day which I had not known already, I felt that evening as I sat at supper, and afterwards, in the coffee house at 17, Fleet Street (which he recommended to me) that I knew them in a different manner. For I had spoken with some of the principal actors, and, above all, with the King himself. My cousin questioned me delightedly upon my experiences when we were alone with our pipes at one end of the great room that had been a council-chamber; and related to me all his own experiences with the King at great length; and how Charles had made to him some witty remarks which I think must have lost in the telling, for they were not witty at all when I heard them. It appeared that my cousin had spoken with the King three or four times, at City-banquets and such like; and he would know all that His Majesty had said to me. But much I would not tell him, and some I could not: I could not that is, even if I would, have conveyed to him the strange compassion that I felt, and the yet more strange affection, for this King who might have done so much, and who did so little—except what he should not; and I would not on any account tell him of what the King had said as to Rome and his desires and procrastinations. But I told him how I had met Father Whitbread, and how I was to go and see him on the morrow.
"Why, I will come with you myself," he said. "I know Mr. Fenwick's lodgings very well: and we will ride afterwards as far as Waltham Cross, and lie there; and so to Hare Street for dinner next day."
All the way home again, and when my Cousin Dorothy was gone to bed, and we sat over a couple of tankards of College Ale, he would talk of nothing but the Jesuits.
"They are too zealous," he said. "I am as good a Catholic as any man in England or Rome; but I like not this over-zeal. They are everywhere, these good fathers; and it will bring trouble on them. They hold their consults even in London, which I think over-rash; and no man knows what passes at them. Now I myself—" and so his tongue wagged on, telling of his own excellence and prudence, and even his own spirituality, while his eyes watered with the ale that he drank, and his face grew ever more red. And yet there was no true simplicity in the man; he had that kind of cunning that is eked out with winks and becks and nods that all the world could see. He talked of my Cousin Dorothy, too, and her virtues, and what a great lady she would be some day when these virtues were known; and he, declared that in spite of this he would never let her go to Court; and then once more he went back again to his earlier talk of the corruptions there, and of what my Lady this and Her Grace of that had said and done and thought.