The company looked at each other, and remained silent for a moment. At length Sir Richard proceeded. 'I need not repeat to you, Mr. Redgauntlet, what is the well-grounded opinion of his Majesty's friends concerning that most unhappy connexion there is but one sense and feeling amongst us upon the subject. I must conclude that our humble remonstrances were communicated by you, sir, to the king?'
'In the same strong terms in which they were couched,' replied Redgauntlet. 'I love his Majesty's cause more than I fear his displeasure.'
'But, apparently, our humble expostulation has produced no effect. This lady, who has crept into his bosom, has a sister in the Elector of Hanover's court, and yet we are well assured that our most private communication is placed in her keeping.'
'VARIUM ET MUTABILE SEMPER FEMINA,' said Dr. Grumball.
'She puts his secrets into her work-bag,' said Maxwell; 'and out they fly whenever she opens it. If I must hang, I would wish it to be in somewhat a better rope than the string of a lady's hussey.'
'Are you, too, turning dastard, Maxwell?' said Redgauntlet, in a whisper.
'Not I,' said Maxwell; 'let us fight for it, and let them win and wear us; but to be betrayed by a brimstone like that'--
'Be temperate, gentlemen,' said Redgauntlet; 'the foible of which you complain so heavily has always been that of kings and heroes; which I feel strongly confident the king will surmount, upon the humble entreaty of his best servants, and when he sees them ready to peril their all in his cause, upon the slight condition of his resigning the society of a female favourite, of whom I have seen reason to think he hath been himself for some time wearied. But let us not press upon him rashly with our well-meant zeal. He has a princely will as becomes his princely birth, and we, gentlemen, who are royalists, should be the last to take advantage of circumstances to limit its exercise. I am as much surprised and hurt as you can be, to find that he has made her the companion of this journey, increasing every chance of treachery and detection. But do not let us insist upon a sacrifice so humiliating, while he has scarce placed a foot upon the beach of his kingdom. Let us act generously by our sovereign; and when we have shown what we will do for him, we shall be able, with better face, to state what it is we expect him to concede.'