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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

If His Grace of Monmouth will do nothing


declare," cried Mr. Sheppard, once more talking at me very evidently, "that His Grace of Monmouth breaks my heart. I was with his Grace a fortnight ago. His loyalty and love for the King are overpowering. I had heard"--(this was a very bold stroke of poor Mr. Sheppard)--"I had heard that some villainous fellows had proposed to His Grace--oh! a great while ago, in April, I think--that an assault should be made upon the King; and that His Grace near killed one of them for it. Yet His Majesty will scarce speak to him, so much he distrusts him."

This was all very pretty: and from it I argued that the Duke was deeper in the affair than we had thought, and perhaps belonged even to the extremest party, led, we supposed, chiefly by Mr. Sidney. But I murmured that it was a shame that His Majesty treated him so; and while I was listening to further eulogies on His Grace, a new thought came to me which I determined to put into execution that very night; for I felt we were not making any progress.

There was not much more conversation of any significance, and I was soon able to carry out what I determined; for my Lord Essex when we broke about half-past nine o'clock, again offered to take me home.

I said good-night very respectfully to the company; and followed him into the coach.

For a while I said nothing, but appeared preoccupied; so that at last my

Lord clapped me on the knee and asked me if I ailed--which was what I wished him to do.

"My Lord," said I, with an appearance of great openness, "I have a confession to make."

"Well?" said he. "What is it?"

"I am disappointed," I said. "There is a deal of talk; and most interesting talk; and all very loyal and respectful. But I had fancied there was more behind."

"What do you mean?" asked he.

"Well:" I said. "If His Grace of Monmouth will do nothing, will none of his friends do it for him?"

"Of what nature?" asked my Lord.

"My Lord," said I, "need I say more?"

He was silent for a while; and I could see how his mind was a trifle bewildered. But he did presently exactly what I hoped he would do.

"Mr. Mallock," he said, "you are right: there is more behind. And I promise you you shall hear of it when the time comes. Is that enough?"

"That is enough, my Lord," said I. "I am content."

* * * * *

I was with Mr. Chiffinch before the gates were shut for the night; and this was the report I gave him.

"I have learned three things at least," I said, when he had bolted the door, and drawn the hanging across it. "First that they are contemplating a rising as soon as they can get their men together; and that it will be from Wapping and thereabouts that the insurrectionists will come. Next that His Grace of Monmouth is more deeply involved than we had thought. And the third thing is, that I have persuaded my Lord Essex that I can be trusted to be a good traitor, and to report everything; but that if they do not commit more important falsehoods to me, I shall lose heart with them. We may expect then that after a little while I shall have more vital and significant lies told me, whence we can arrive at the truth."

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