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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Rumbald know that we knew one another


He

looked at me in a kind of hesitation.

"Yes, sir," he said; "but--but the parlour is full. A party is there, from London."

Then I knew that I had been right to come; because at the same moment I remembered where I had seen those liveries before. They were those worn by the men who had come with Monmouth to Hare Street.

I said nothing to the ostler; but slipped off my horse, as he took the bridle, and went indoors. The fellow called out after me; but I made as if I did not hear. (I have found, more than once, that a little deafness is a very good thing.) There were voices I heard talking beyond a door at the end of the passage; I went up to this, and without knocking, lifted the latch and went in.

The room, that looked out, with one window only, into a small enclosed garden, was full of men. There were eight of them, as I counted presently; all round a table on which stood a couple of tall jugs and tankards. I raised my hand to my hat.

"I beg pardon, gentlemen. Is there room--"

"Why--it is Mr.--" I heard a voice say, suddenly stifled.

Beyond that, for a moment, there was silence. Then a man stood up suddenly, with a kind of eagerness.

"Mr. Mallock," he said, "Mr. Mallock! Do you not remember me?"

justify;">"Your back is to the light, sir--" I began; and then: "Why it is Mr. Rumbald."

"The same, sir; the same. There is a friend of yours, here, sir--Come in and sit down, sir. There is plenty of room for another friend."

There was a very curious kind of eagerness in the maltster's voice, which puzzled me not a little; and there was a change of manner too in him, that puzzled me no less. He spoke as if he had almost expected me, or was peculiarly astonished to see me there; and there was none of that hail-fellow air about him any more. He spoke to me as to a gentleman--as indeed I shewed I was by my dress--but yet manifested no surprise at seeing me so. However, I had neither time nor thought to consider this at the moment, for the friend of mine of whom he spoke, and who was now standing up to greet me, was no other than my Lord Essex--he who had been riding with Monmouth from Newmarket; and he whose name Mr. Chiffinch had expressly spoken of to me. Yet how did Mr. Rumbald know that we knew one another?

I made haste to salute him; for he too, I thought, had an air of eagerness.

"Come in and sit down, Mr. Mallock," he said. "We have dined early; and are presently off to town again. Are you riding our way?"

"Why, yes," I said, "I am going up to my lodgings for a little."

(As I spoke a thousand questions beseiged me. Why was there this air of expectation in them at all? How did Mr. Chiffinch know that they would be here at this time? Why had he arranged that I should meet them? Why had he not spoken of their names to me; since he had told me so freely of them before? Well; I must wait, thought I, and meantime go very gingerly. I was not going to put my hand to this kind of work; but I did not wish to spoil Mr. Chiffinch's design if I could help it.)


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