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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Chiffinch will be honoured and admired


Since

then, not very much of public import had happened, until in the first week in November I received in Paris a very urgent letter from Mr. Chiffinch telling me to return at once; but no more in it than that.

* * * * *

It was a very stormy night, as I have said, when I rode in over London Bridge to where the lights of the City shone over the water.

I was very content at my coming; for in spite of all my resolutions, it was a terrible kind of happiness to me to be in the same country (and so near to her, too) as was my Cousin Dorothy. I had striven to put her out of my head, I had occupied myself with that which is the greatest of all sports--and that is the game that Kings play in secret--I had become something of a personage, and rode now with four servants, instead of one. Yet never could I forget her. But I was resolved to play no more with such nonsense; to live altogether in London, and to send my men in a day or two to get my things from Hare Street. It often appears to me very strange, when I see some great man go by whose name is in all men's mouths for some office he holds or for his great wealth or power, to reflect that he has his secret interests as much as any, and is moved by them far more deeply than by those public matters for which men think that he cares. I was not yet a great personage, though I meant to be so; and my name was

in no men's mouths, for it was of the very essence of what I did that it should not be; yet I was held in high consideration by two kings. But for all that, as I turned westwards from London Bridge, I looked northwards up Gracechurch Street, and longed to be riding to Hare Street, rather than to Whitehall.

* * * * *

It was strange, and yet very familiar too, to go up those stairs again, all alone--(for I had sent my men on to Covent Garden, where I had taken two sets of lodgings now, instead of one)--to tell the servant that Mr. Chiffinch looked for me, and to be conducted by him straight through to the private closet where he awaited me over his papers. I was in my boots, all splashed, and very weary indeed. Yet I had learned, ever since the day when His Majesty had found fault with me so long ago, never to delay even by five minutes, when kings call.

"Well?" I said; as I came in.

"Well!" said he; and took me by the hands.

Now it may seem surprising that I could tolerate such a man as was Mr. Chiffinch, still more that I should have become on such terms with him. The truth is, that I regarded him as two men, and not one. On the one side he was the spy, the servant, the panderer to the King's more disgraceful secrets; on the other he was a man of an extraordinary shrewdness, utterly devoted to His Majesty, and very competent indeed in very considerable affairs. If ever the secret memoirs of Charles II. see the light of day, Mr. Chiffinch will be honoured and admired, as well as contemned.


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