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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Morton is the Duke of Monmouth


looked at me in astonishment, and my Cousin Dolly too.

"Mr. Morton is the Duke of Monmouth," I said, "and Mr. Atkins, my Lord Essex."


It was a long time before my Cousin Tom recovered from his astonishment and his pleasure at having entertained such personages in his house. He told me, of course, presently, when he had had time to think of it, that he had guessed it all along, but had understood that His Grace wished to be _incognito_; and I suppose at last he came to believe it. He would fall suddenly musing in the evenings; and I would know what he was thinking of; and it was piteously amusing to see, how one night again, not long after, he rose and ran to the door when a drunken man knocked upon it, and what ill words he gave him when he saw who it was. His was a slow-moving mind; and I think he could not have formed the project, which he afterwards carried out, while I was with him, or he must have let it out to me.

* * * * *

It was a little piteous, too, to see with what avidity he seized upon any news of the Duke, and how his natural inclinations and those consonant with his religion strove with his new-found loyalty to a bastard. A week or two later we had news of the attempt made by my Lord Shaftesbury to injure the Duke

of York's cause by presenting his name as that of a recusant, to the Middlesex grand jury. It was a mighty bold thing to do, and though the attempt failed so far as that the judges dismissed the jury while they were still deliberating, it shewed how little my Lord feared the Duke or His Majesty and how much resolved he was to establish, if he could, the Protestant succession and the Duke of Monmouth's pretended claim to it. A deal of nonsense, too, was talked at this time of how the Duke was truly legitimate, and how Mistress Lucy Walters had been secretly married to the King, before ever poor Queen Catherine had been heard of; and the proofs of all this, it was reported, were in a certain Black Box that no one had ever set eyes on; and the matter became so much a thing of ridicule that once at the play, I think, when one of the actors carried on a black box, there was a roar of laughter and jeering from the pit.

It was wonderful to hear my Cousin Tom hold forth upon the situation.

One evening in September, two months after our adventure of the Duke's coming, after a long silence, he made a little discourse upon it all.

"I should not be surprised," said he, "if there was more in the tale than most men think. It is not likely that the proofs of the marriage would be easy to come by, in such a case; for Mistress Walters, whom I think I once saw at Tunbridge Wells, was not at all of the King's position even by blood; and it is less likely that His Majesty, who was but a very young man at that time, would have stood out against her when she wished marriage. Besides there is no doubt that he knew her long before there was any prospect of his coming to the throne. Then too there has always appeared, to my mind at least, something in the Duke's bearing and carriage that it would be very hard for a bastard to have. He has a very princely air."

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