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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Chiffinch had sent down to Wapping


we were yet twenty yards from the Privy Stairs a wherry shot past us, with no light burning. There was but one passenger in it, whom I knew well enough, though I feigned to see nothing; and once more my sickness came on me, that it was for a King like this, slipping out on some shameful pleasure, that I so toiled and endangered myself.

* * * * *

When I had reported all to Mr. Chiffinch, sitting back weary in my chair, yet knowing that I must go through with the work to which I had set my hand, he remained silent.

"Well?" I said. "Am I wrong in any point?"

"Why no," he said. "Your information tallies perfectly with all I know, and has increased the sum very much. For example, I had no idea where my Lord Shaftesbury was. I have no doubt whatever, from what you say, that he is in Wapping."

"Will you send and take him there?" I asked.

"No," he said shortly. "Leave him alone. We failed last time we took him. And he can do no great harm there. Plainly too, he is at the waterside that he may escape if there is need. I shall set spies there; and no more."

"What is to be done then? Double the guards again?"

"Why that of course," said he.

"And what

else?" I asked; for I could see that he had not said all.

"A counterstroke," he said. "But of what kind? You say the rising will be pretty soon."

"I do not suppose for a week or two at the most. They were decided, I am sure; but no more."

Suddenly the man slapped his leg; and his eyes grew little with his smile.

"I have it for sure," he said. "It will be for the seventeenth of November. That is the popular date. Queen Bess and Dangerfield and the rest."

"But what can you do?"

"Why," said he, "forbid by proclamation all processions or bonfires on that day. Then they cannot even begin to gather."

* * * * *

He proved right in every particular. The proclamation was issued, and met their intended assault to the very moment, as we learned afterwards, besides frightening the leaders lest their intention had been discovered: and the next night came one of the spies whom Mr. Chiffinch had sent down to Wapping, to say that my Lord Shaftesbury had slipped away and taken boat for Holland.


Now indeed the fear grew imminent. I had thought that once my Lord Shaftesbury was gone abroad, one of two things would happen--either that the whole movement would collapse, or that the leaders would be arrested forthwith. But Mr. Chiffinch was sharper than I this time; and said No to both.

"No," said he, sitting like a Judge, with his fingers together, on the morning after my Lord Shaftesbury's evasion. "The feeling is far too strong to fall away all of a sudden. I dare predict just the contrary, that, now that the coolest of them all is gone--for he dare not come back again--the hot-heads will take the lead; and that means the sharpest peril we have yet encountered. This time they will not stop at a demonstration; indeed I doubt if they could raise one successfully; they will aim direct at the person of the King. It is their only hope left."

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