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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

What single name do you know besides that of Rumbald


I put in my spurs and was gone, hearing before me, the hollow tramp and rumble of the great coach in front, as the King's party went across the bridge.


It was three months later that I sat once more, though not for the first time since my adventure at the Rye in Mr. Chiffinch's parlour.

* * * * *

Of those three months I need not say very much; especially of the beginning of them, since I received then, I think, more compliments than ever in my life before. My interviews had been very many; not with Mr. Chiffinch only, but with two other personages whose lives, they were pleased to say, I had saved.

His Majesty had laughed very heartily indeed at the tale of my adventures.

"Odds-fish!" said he. "We had all been done, but for you, Mr. Mallock. It was three or four days after, at the least, that I had intended returning; and by that time, no doubt, our friends would have had their ambushment complete. But when your man came, all a-sweat, into my very bed-chamber, telling me to fly for my life--well; there was no more to be said. There was a fire too at my lodgings that same morning;--and poor Sir Christopher's low ceilings all ruined with the smoke--but that would not have brought me, though I suppose

we must give out that it did. No; Mr. Mallock, 'twas you, and no other. Odds-fish! I did not think I had such an accomplished liar in my service!"

His Royal Highness, too, was no less gracious; though he talked in a very different fashion.

To him there was no humour in the matter at all; 'twas all God's Providence; and I am not sure but that he was not more right than his brother; though indeed there are always two sides to a thing. His talk was less of myself, and more of the interests I had served; and there too he was right; for, as I have said, if there had been any mistake in the matter, good-bye to Catholic hopes.

My first interview with Mr. Chiffinch astonished me most. When he had finished paying compliments, I began on business.

"You will hardly catch Rumbald," said I, "unless you take him pretty soon. He too will be off to Holland, I think."

He shook his head, smiling.

"I am sorry not to be able to give you vengeance for that cleaver-throwing; but you must wait awhile."

"Wait?" cried I.

"What single name do you know besides that of Rumbald, which was certainly involved in this affair? Why, Mr. Mallock, you yourself have told me that he observed discretion so far; and did not name a single man."

"Well; there is Keeling," I said.

"And what is Keeling?" he asked with some contempt. "A maltster, and a carpenter: a fine bag of assassins! And how can you prove anything but treasonable talk? Where were the 'swan-quills' and the 'sand and the ink'? Did you set eyes on any of them?"

I was silent.

"No, no, Mr. Mallock; we must wait awhile. I have even talked to Jeffreys, and he says the same. We must lime more birds before we pull our twig down. Now, if you could lay your hand on Keeling!"

He was right: I saw that well enough.

"And meantime," said I, smiling, "I must go in peril of my life. They surely know now what part I have played?"

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