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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

That disaffection will be kept alive


Jesuits as are left," he said, "and the Duke's confessor among them, seem all of opinion that the Duke had best remain in London and fight it out. We hear, without a doubt, that my Lord Shaftesbury, who seems most desperate, will bring in the Exclusion Bill again this Session; and the priests say that it is best for His Royal Highness to be here; and to plead again for himself as he did so well two years ago. His Majesty on the other hand is honestly of opinion--and I would sooner trust to his foresight than to all the Jesuits in the world--that he himself can fight better for his brother if that brother be in Scotland; for out of sight, out of mind. And he desires you, as a Catholic, yet not a priest, to go and talk to the Duke on that side. He hath sent half a dozen to him already; and, since he knows that the Duke is aware of what you have done in France, he thinks that your word may tip the balance. For the Duke, I think, is in two minds, beneath all his protestations."

For myself, I was of His Majesty's opinion; for the sight of the Duke irritated folk who had not yet forgotten the Oates Plot; and I consented very willingly to go and see him.

* * * * *

I was astonished to find that by now I had really become something of a personage myself, amongst those few who had heard what I had done in France; and I was received by His Royal Highness

in his lodgings after supper that evening with a very different air from that which he had when I had last spoken with him.

The Duke was pacing up and down his closet when I came in, and turned to me with a very friendly manner.

"Mr. Mallock," he said, when I had saluted him and was sat down, "I am very glad to see you. His Majesty has told me all that you have done, and has urged me to see you, as you are devoted as I know, to the Catholic cause, and know the world too; and men's minds. Do you think I should go or stay?"

"Sir," I said, "my opinion is that you should go. There is a quantity of disaffection in town. I have met with a good deal of it myself. If Your Royal Highness is to be seen continually going about, that disaffection will be kept alive. Men are astonishingly stupid. They act, largely, upon that which they see, not on that which they know: and by going to Scotland you will meet them both ways. They will not see Your Highness at all; and all that they will know of you is that you are doing the King's work and helping the whole kingdom in Edinburgh."

"But they say I torture folks there!" said the Duke.

"They say so, Sir. They will say anything. But not a reasonable man believes it."

(It was true, indeed, that such gossip went about; but the substance of it was ridiculous. Good fighters do not torture; and no one denied to the Duke the highest pitch of personal courage. He had fought with the greatest gallantry against the Dutch.)

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