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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Rumbald a very good fellow indeed


said my Lord, "if you are going to town, may I not ride with you? Some of these gentlemen are in a hurry; but I am sure I am not. Have you no servants, Mr. Mallock?"

"I have sent mine on before," I said, marvelling more than ever at the man's friendliness, "but I shall be very happy to ride with your Lordship, if you can wait till I have dined."

My Lord said a word to a man who sat near the door, who slipped out: and I heard his voice ordering dinner for me. Meantime I observed the company.

There were eight, as I have said; but I knew for certain two only--the maltster and my Lord Essex. The rest puzzled me not a little. They seemed well-bred fellows enough; but they were dressed very plainly, and appeared no more than country squires or lawyers or suchlike. They were talking of the most indifferent things in the world, with silences, as if they wondered what next to speak of; they hardly looked at me at all after a minute or two; and presently one by one began to stand up and take their leave, saluting my Lord by name, and bowing only to me. By the time that my dinner came there were left only my Lord, who was very attentive to me, and Mr. Rumbald; and before I was well set-to, even Mr. Rumbald stood up to say good-bye.

Again I was puzzled by the man; for again he appeared very friendly with me, and again shewed no sign of astonishment at

my acquaintance with my Lord and at my appearance as a gentleman.

"I am very glad, sir," he said, shaking my hand with great warmth, "that you will have so pleasant a ride to town with your friend. And you will remember my house too, will you not, over the river, if ever you are by that way."

I told him that I would: and thanked him for his courtesy; and he went out, after shaking hands too with my Lord, taking care to exchange no glances with him, though it would be evident, even to a child, that there was some secret between them.

When he was gone, my Lord turned to me.

"A very good fellow, Rumbald--a very good fellow indeed."

I assented, heartily.

"Honest as the day," said my Lord.

"There is no doubt of it," said I, with my mouth full.

"And a good patriot too. It is what we want, Mr. Mallock."

Again I assented; and my Lord presently changed the conversation.

* * * * *

During the rest of dinner he said nothing that was significant of any of the things I suspected. I knew now, beyond a doubt, both from what Mr. Chiffinch had said and from the strangely mixed company, and the circumstances under which I found them, that something was forward; but as to what it was all about I knew no more than the dead. Neither did I as yet see a single glimmer of light on the questions that had puzzled me just now. So I determined that when we were safe out on the lonely road I would throw a bait or two; though my resolution still held that I would do no dirty work, even for His Majesty himself.

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