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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Either that His Majesty would come


"Yes,

sir," whispered James; and he named one.

"Very good. With him you must go straight to His Majesty; and have him awakened if need be. Tell him that you come from me--Mr. Chiffinch's men will support you in that. Tell His Majesty that if he values his life he must return to town to-morrow--and not sleep anywhere on the way: and that the Duke of York must come with him. Tell him that there is no fear whatever if he comes at once; but that there is every fear if he delays. He had best come, too, by this road and not by Royston. You understand?"

"Yes, sir."

"I shall remain here until to-morrow night at the earliest. If I am not at home by Sunday night, go to Mr. Chiffinch, as I told you this morning. Is all clear?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then go at once. Spare no horses or expense. Good-night, James."

"Good-night, sir."

I watched him out of the gate. Then I turned and went back to the house.

CHAPTER X

It was a strange night and day that followed. On the one side my host found it hard, I think, to maintain the story he had told me, in action; for, in accordance with his tale, he had to bear himself as though he expected before nightfall the assassination

of the King and His Royal Highness half a mile away, and the rush of the murderers to his house for shelter. On my side, it was scarcely less hard, for I knew nothing of how my man James had fared, or whether or no His Majesty would act upon my message. I guessed, however, that he would, if only my man got there; for Chiffinch's men (who now followed him everywhere) would be as eager as I that no danger should come to him.

My plans therefore were more secure than Rumbald's; since I knew, either that His Majesty would come, and no harm done, or that, merely, he would not come. In the latter case Rumbald would be certified that I had done as he thought I would; and would, no doubt, let me go peacefully, to use me again later in the same manner, if occasion rose. For myself, then, I intended after nightfall at the latest to ride back to London and report all that had passed; and, if the King had not come, to lay all in Mr. Chiffinch's hands for his further protection.

I was left a good deal to myself during the morning--Mr. Rumbald's powers of dissimulation being, I think, less than his desire for them; and I did not quarrel with that. I was very restless myself, and spent a good deal of time in examining the house and the old arms, used no doubt, forty years ago in the Civil War, that were hung up everywhere. Within, as well as without, it was liker an arsenal or a barracks, than a dwelling-house. Its lonely situation too, and its strength, made it a very suitable place for such a design as that which its owner had for it. The great chamber, at the head of the stairs, and over the archway, where we had our food, was no doubt the room where the conspirators had held their meetings.


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