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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Hear what the Duke of Monmouth hath been saying


such talk as this I would make no answer; but I would watch my Cousin Dorothy's face; and think that I read there something that I did not like--an interest that she should not feel: and, after a pause my Cousin Tom would proceed in his conjectures.

It was on the day following this particular discourse, which I remember very well, for my jealousy had so much worked up that I was very near breaking my resolution and telling my Cousin Dolly all that was in my heart, that a letter came for me from Mr. Chiffinch, so significant that I will write down some sentences of it.

"His Majesty bids me to write to you to come up to town again for a few days. He thinks that you may perhaps be of some use with His Royal Highness to urge him to go back to Scotland again, which at present he vows that he will not do. His Majesty is aware that the Duke scarcely knows you at all; yet he tells me to say this, and that I will explain to you when you come how you can be of service. There will be a deal of trouble this autumn; the Parliament is to meet in October, and will be in a very ill-humour, it is thought."

There was a little more of this sort; and then came a sentence or two that roused my anger.

"I have heard much here of your entertainment of the Duke of Monmouth, and of what a pretty girl your cousin is. His Majesty laughed very much when he heard of it;

and swears that he suspects you of going over to the Protestant side after all. The Duke knows nothing of what you are, or of anything you have done; but he has talked freely of his entertainment at Hare Street, thinking it, I suppose, to be a Protestant house. In public the King has had nothing to say to him; but he loves him as much as ever, and would not, I think be very sorry, in his heart, though he never says so, if he were to be declared legitimate."

This made me angry then, for what the letter said as to the Duke of Monmouth's talk; and it disconcerted me too, for, if the King himself were to join the popular party, there would be little hope of the Catholic succession. The Duchess of Portsmouth, also, I had heard, had lately become of that side; and I dared say it was she who had talked His Majesty round.

Now my Cousin Tom knew that I had had this letter, for he had seen the courier bring it; but he did not know from whom it came; and, as already he was a little suspicious, I thought, of what I did in town, I thought it best to tell him that it was from a friend at Court; and what it said as to the Duke of Monmouth's talk, hoping that this perhaps might offend him against the Duke. But it had the very opposite effect, much to my discomfiture.

"His Grace says that, does he?" he said, smiling. "I am sure it is very courteous of him to remember his poor entertainment"; and (Dolly coming in at this instant) he told her too what the Duke had said.

"Hear what the Duke of Monmouth hath been saying, my dear! He says you are a mighty pretty girl."

And Dolly, greatly to my astonishment, did not seem displeased, as soon as she had heard the tale; for she laughed and said nothing.

* * * * *

As I rode up to London next day in answer to my summons, I was wondering how in the world I could be of service to the Duke of York. As Mr. Chiffinch had said, I knew next to nothing of him, nor he of me; but when I was gone round to the page's rooms the morning after I came, he told me something of the reasons for which I had been summoned.

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