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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Chiffinch so I took affairs into my own hands


why not take them before they can do any mischief?" I asked.

"First, Mr. Mallock," he said, "because we have not enough positive evidence--at any rate not enough to hang them all; and next we must catch the small fry--the desperate little ones who will themselves attempt the killing. It is now that I should be ready for a visit from your friend Rumbald, if I were you. They can have no suspicion that you have done anything but betray them in the way they intended: they have a great weapon, they think, in you, to continue carrying false news. Now, Mr. Mallock, is the very time come of which you once spoke to me--the climax, when they will feign to reveal everything to you, and then make their last stroke. You have seen my Lord Essex again?"

"Not a sight of him. I had only a very guarded note, two days ago, but very friendly: saying that the designs were fallen through for the present."

"Precisely what I have been saying," observed Mr. Chiffinch. "No, Mr. Mallock, you must not stir from town. I am sorry for your pretty cousin, and Christmas, and the rest: but you see for yourself that we must leave no loophole unguarded. His Majesty must not die out of his bed, if we can help it."

There, then, I was nailed until more should happen. I dared not ask my cousins to come to town; for God only knew what mischief my Cousin Tom might not play; and I

had not eyes on both sides of my head at once. I wrote only to Dolly; and said that once more I was disappointed; but that I would most certainly see her soon, if I had to ride two nights running, from town and back.

I accomplished this, but not until Christmas was well over, and indeed Lent begun. During those weeks, certainly nothing of any importance happened to me, though my Lord Essex kept me in touch with him, and I even was present at one very dismal meeting with him and Mr. Ferguson, when it was deplored, in my presence, that the "demonstration"--as they still called it--of the seventeenth of November had been so adroitly prevented; and my Lord Shaftesbury's death--which had taken place (chiefly, I think, from disappointment) that very week--was spoken of with a certain relief. I think they were pleased to have matters entirely in their own hands now. However they proposed no immediate action, which more than ever persuaded me that this was what they intended. Yet the days went by: and no more news came, either from them or from Mr. Chiffinch--so I took affairs into my own hands, and one night, before the gates of the City were shut went down to Hare Street with a couple of men, leaving James at home, for I could trust him better than any other man.

Now I need not relate all that passed at Hare Street; for every lover knows how sweet was that day to me. I had seen her not at all for more than a year--(one year of those three that were to pass!)--and though we had written often to one another, whenever we could get a letter taken, yet the letters had done no more than increase my thirst. I think she was dearer to me than ever; she was a shade paler and more grave, and I knew what it was that had made her so, for I had told her very plainly indeed that I was in peril and that she must pray much for me. My Cousin Tom was friendly enough, though I saw he was no more reconciled in his heart to our affair than he had been at the beginning; but I guessed nothing whatever of what he was contemplating. (However perhaps he was not contemplating it then, for he did not attempt it till much later.) Yet he was pretty reasonable, and interrupted us no more than was necessary; so we had that day to ourselves, until night fell, and I must ride again. I was so weary that night, though refreshed in my spirit, that I think I drowsed a little on my horse, and thought that I stood again at the gate of the yard with Dolly, bareheaded in spite of the cold, holding the lantern to help us to mount.

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