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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

James was already on his way to Hoddesdon


letter to Mr. Chiffinch was not long. It ran as follows:

"Rumbald hath been to see me; and bids me be with him, if I can, by noon to-day at the _Mitre_, without Aldgate. I know no more than that; but I am making ready to go down with him to the Rye at Hoddesdon, if he should want me there. I think that something is intended, if we are right in our conjectures. I shall have my man at the inn in Hoddesdon. You must send no one else for fear of alarming them, unless my man comes to you to-morrow to tell you that he does not know where I am. Is His Majesty still at Newmarket? If so, when does he purpose to return? Which road will he come by? Send an answer back by my man who bears this.


Well; that was all that I could do. I gave the letter to James; telling him not to awaken me with the answer till he came at eleven o'clock; and after eating a good meal, I went to my bed and fell sound asleep; and it seemed scarcely five minutes, before James came knocking, with Mr. Chiffinch's answer. I sat up on my bed and read it--my mind still swimming with sleep.

"_Prospere procede_!" it ran. "I will observe all that you say. The King and His Royal Highness are together at Newmarket. They purpose to return on a Saturday, as the King usually does; but he hath not yet sent to say whether it will be to-morrow, the 18th or the 25th. I shall hear by night,

no doubt. Neither do I know the road by which they may come."

I read it through twice; then I tore it into fragments and gave them to James.

"Burn all these," I said. "Are the horses ready?"

"Yes, sir," said James.

Undoubtedly my sleep had refreshed me; for by the time that I rode up to the _Mitre_ without Aldgate, I was awake with a kind of clear-headedness that astonished me. It appeared to me that I had thought out every contingency. I had with me a little valise, ready for the country, if need be; yet I could return to my lodgings without remark. James was already on his way to Hoddesdon, and would be there if I needed him. No harm was done if my conjectures were at fault; I had left no loophole that I could see, if they were not. It was with a tolerably contented heart, in spite of the dangers I foresaw--(for I think these gave spice to my adventure)--that I rode up to the _Mitre_, and saw Mr. Rumbald himself standing astraddle in the doorway.

I must confess however that the sight of him gave me a little check. He appeared to me more truculent than I had ever seen him. He had his hands behind him, with a great whip in them; he hardly smiled to me, but nodded only, fixing his fierce eyes on my face. He had, more than I had ever noticed it before, that hard fanatic look of the Puritan. After all, I reflected, this maltster had commanded a troop under Cromwell at Naseby. His manner was very different from when I had last seen him; he appeared to me as if desperate.

However, I think I shewed nothing of what I felt. I saluted him easily, and swung myself off my horse. He had gone into the house at my approach; and I followed him straight through into a little parlour to which, it seemed, he had particular access, for he turned a key in the door as he went in. When I was in, after him, and the door was shut, he turned to me, with a very stern look.

"Well, Mr. Mallock?" he said. "I see you are come ready for a ride."

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