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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

I know nothing till I have seen Rumbald

* * * * *

I was still brooding all the way up Fleet Street, and even to my own door; until I saw James standing there; and at the sight of him I knew that something was fallen out.

I said nothing, but nodded at him only, as a master may, but he understood that he was to follow upstairs. There, in my chamber I faced him.

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

"Sir," he said, "a fellow came last night and seemed much put out when I told him you were out of town."

"What sort of a fellow was he?" said I.

"He was a clean-shaven man, sir, rather red in the face, with reddish hair turning grey on his temples."

"Heavily built?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well; what did he say?"

"He said that you would know what affair he was come about--that it was very urgent; and that he could not stay in town beyond noon to-day. He said, sir, that he was to be found till then at the _Mitre_ without Aldgate."

Well; that was enough for me. But I did not relish the prospect of no sleep again; for I cannot trust my wits when I have not slept my seven or eight hours. But there was no help for it.

justify;">"James," said I, "bring my morning up here at once, with some meat too. I may not be able to dine to-day, or not till late. When you have brought it I shall have a letter ready, for Mr. Chiffinch. That you must take yourself. Then return here, and pack a pair of valises, with a suit in them for yourself. Have two horses ready at eleven o'clock: you must come with me, and no one else. I do not know how long we may be away. You understand?"

"Yes, sir."

"Very well. I must get some sleep if I can before eleven."

Then a thought came to me. If Rumbald must be gone from town by noon, would he not likely want me to go with him?

"Wait," I said. "I do not know this man very well; but I will tell you that his name is Rumbald and that he lives at the Rye, near Hoddesdon. You had best not come with me. But do all else as I have said; but you must ride by yourself at eleven, to Hoddesdon; and put up at the inn there--I forget its name, but the largest there, if there be more than one. Remain there until you hear from me again: I may want a courier. Do not go a hundred yards from the inn on any account; and do not seem to know me, unless I speak to you first. You may see me, or you may not. I know nothing till I have seen Rumbald. If you do not hear of me before ten o'clock to-night, you can go to bed, and return here in the morning. I will communicate with you by to-morrow night at latest. If I do not, go to Mr. Chiffinch yourself and tell him."

My mind was working at that swift feverish speed which weariness sometimes will give. I was amazed afterwards at my own foresight, for there was very little evidence of what was intended; and yet there had come upon me, as in an illumination, that the time for which we had waited so long was arrived at last. I do not see how I could have guessed more than I did; neither do I now see how I guessed so much.

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