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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Mallock on that understanding


all these things, however, I assented civilly, arguing a little, for form's sake; but not too much.

* * * * *

When at last we broke up, my Lord Essex again came with me to the door, and carried me first, for an instant into the little parlour.

"Mr. Mallock," he said, "we have had a pleasant evening, have we not? But I need not tell you that our talk had best not be repeated. We have said not a word that is disloyal to His Majesty: but even a little fault-finding is apt to be misrepresented in these days."

I said that I understood him perfectly (which indeed I did); and nodded very sagely.

"Let us meet again, then, Mr. Mallock--on that understanding. I have some more friends I would wish you to meet; and whom I am sure you could do good to. There is a quantity of discontent about."

I went to see Mr. Chiffinch the next day, and reported all that had passed, as they had intended me to do. We drew up a little report which was carried into effect: first, that no troops should be sent out of London; but that they should be dispersed as much as possible within the confines of the City; next that the guards at the gates of Whitehall should be diminished by one half--(this, to give colour to the malcontents' hope; and provoke them to action)--but the

guards within increased by the same amount, yet kept out of sight so much as was possible; thirdly, that a rumour should be set about that the King would call a Parliament within the year at latest; and this Mr. Chiffinch promised to undertake (for a very great effect indeed can be produced on popular opinion by those who know the value of false rumours); but that His Majesty should be dissuaded from doing anything of the kind. Such then was the result of that first meeting to which I was admitted; and such more or less was our course of procedure all through the spring and summer. This I have related in full, to serve as an example of our method, because, since it was the first, I remember it very distinctly. In this manner I used the information I gained for the King's benefit; and, at the same time the conspirators were led to believe that I was their tool, and no more.

* * * * *

The next important incident fell in the beginning of the summer.

Now, in the meantime I had learned, from Mr. Chiffinch for the most part, though there were some matters I was able rather to inform him about, that there were two separate and distinct parties amongst the conspirators. There were those who intended nothing but some kind of a rising--scarcely more than an armed demonstration--and to this party would belong such a man as my Lord Russell--if he were of them at all; and there were those who meant a great deal more than this--who were hoping, in fact so to excite their followers as to bring about the King's death. But of these I found it very hard to get any names--and quite impossible, so far, to obtain any positive proof at all. The Duke of Monmouth, I knew, was of the moderate party; so, I thought then, was my Lord Grey--but Mr. Algernon Sidney whom I met once or twice was of the extreme side. But as to my Lord Shaftesbury, I knew nothing: he was pretty silent always; and it was with regard to him most of all that we desired evidence. It was this division of parties, no doubt, that hindered any action; the moderates were for ever trying to drag back the fanatics; and the fanatics to urge on the moderates; so that nothing was done.

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