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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Sheppard whom I had met at Mr


From

my diaries I find that I spoke with my Lord Essex no less than eight times between Christmas and July; I saw my Lord Russell only once as I shall relate presently, but did not speak with him: the rest I met now and again, but never all of them together. It was necessary, no doubt, that they should be well drilled before they could be trusted with me. Mr. Rumbald I met about four times, and my Lord Howard but once. I think all this time they were wholly satisfied that I passed on to Mr. Chiffinch what they told me, and nothing else; for he and I usually contrived to carry out part at least of their recommendations.

I first began to learn something of my Lord Russell's position in the matter in a meeting in July, in the house of the Mr. Sheppard (whom I had met at Mr. West's), that was situated in Wapping; and I learned something else too at the same time. My Lord Essex; came for me in his coach that day, and himself carried me down. (I need not say that on these occasions I carried always some pistol or other weapon with me beside my sword, for I never knew when they might not find me out.)

Mr. Sheppard's house was in a little street, that was a _cul-de-sac_, between the Garden Grounds, which was a great open space, and the Old Stairs on the river. It was about eight o'clock, and was beginning to be twilight when we came.

As we descended from the coach I noticed at a little

distance away a number of fellows, very rough looking, standing together watching us; and I perceived that they saluted my Lord who returned the salute very heartily. I did not much like that. Who were these folks, I wondered, who knew my Lord?

The house was very ordinary within; it was flagged with stones that had some kind of matting upon them: the entrance was all panelled; and, what surprised me was that no servant was to be seen. Mr. Sheppard himself opened the door to us when we knocked.

We did not speak at all as we came in; and my Lord led me straight through into the parlour on the left that was full of tobacco-smoke. This was a very good room, hung all round with tapestry, though of a poorish quality, and, though it was not yet dark, the windows were shuttered and barred. At the table sat half a dozen persons, of whom I knew my Lord Shaftesbury at the head of the table as usual, and Mr. Goodenough that sat with his back to the hearth. Between these two sat a gentleman whom I knew to be my Lord Howard of Escrick, though I had never spoken with him. He carried himself with a very high air, and was the only man there dressed as if he were still in Westminster; the rest were subdued, somewhat, in their appearance. My Lord Howard looked at me with an intolerant kind of disdain, which my Lord Essex made haste to cover by directing me to my place.

I thought that my Lord Shaftesbury seemed very heavy this evening. He treated me with a silent kind of civility; and so, too, did he treat the rest. His eyes wandered away sometimes as we talked, as if he were thinking of something else. We spoke of nothing of any importance for a time, for Mr. Sheppard was bringing in wine with his own hands, though I saw a number of used glasses on the press which shewed me that the company had been here some time already.


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