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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

You will not want to go to Hare Street this time


she will have told others what I am."

"It is not likely, Mr. Mallock. We must take our chance of it. Truly I see no one for it but yourself. I would not have sent for you, if I had, for you were very useful in France. But the difficulty is, you see, that we can take no observable precautions. We have doubled the guards inside the palace at night; but we dare not in the day; for if that were known, they would suspect that we knew all, and would be on their guard. As it is, they have no idea that we know anything."

"How do they mean to do it?"

"That again we do not know. If they can find a fanatic--and there are plenty of the old Covenanting blood left--they might shoot His Majesty as he sits at supper. Or they may drag him out of his coach one day, as they did with Archbishop Sharpe. Or they might poison him. I have the cook always to taste the dishes before they come into Hall; but who can guard against so many avenues?"

* * * * *

I sat considering; but I was so weary that I knew I could decide nothing rightly. On the one side the thing appealed to me; for there was danger in it, and what does a young man love like that? And there was a great compliment in it for me--that I should be the one man they had for the affair. Yet it did not sound to me very like work for a gentleman--to

feign to be a conspirator--to win confidence and then to betray it, in however a good cause.

What astonished me most however was the thought that the country-party had waxed as desperate as this. Certainly their tide was going down--as I had heard in France; but I did not know it was gone so low as this. And that they who had lied and perjured themselves over the Oates falsehoods, and had used them, and had kept the people's suspicions alive, and had professed such loyalty, and had been the cause of so much bloodshedding--that these men should now, upon their side, enter upon the very design that they had accused the Catholics of--this was very nearly enough to decide me.

"Well," said I, "you must give me twenty-four hours to determine in. I am drawn two ways. I do not know what to do."

"I can assure you," said the page eagerly, "that His Majesty would give you almost anything you asked for--if you did this, and were successful."

I pursed my lips up.

"Perhaps he would," I said. "But I do not know that I want very much."

"Then he would give you all the more."

I stood up to take my leave.

"Well, sir," I said, "I must go home again and to bed. I am tired out. I will be with you again to-morrow at the same time."

He rose to take me to the outer door.

"You will not want to go to Hare Street this time," he said, smiling.

"To Hare Street!" I said. "Why should I go there?"

"Well--the pretty cousin!" said he.

I set my teeth. I did not like Mr. Chiffinch's familiarities.

"Well, then, why should I not go?" I asked.

"Why: she is here! Did you not know?"

"Here!--in London."

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