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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Or if I might go to the tennis court


I named my lodgings in Covent Garden.

"And I have a cousin, Sir," I said, "who has bidden me to his house in Hare Street. I shall be here or there."

"His name?"

"Thomas Jermyn, Sir."

The King nodded.

"I will remember that," he said. "Well, it may be a long time before I have anything more to say to His Holiness. 'He that will not when he may--' You know all about that, I suppose, Mr. Mallock?"

"I know that Your Majesty has the reunion of Christendom at heart," I said discreetly.

"Yes, yes; I understand," said Charles. "I have received very favourable accounts of you, sir. And your letters, which are for the public eye, are perfectly in order. Well; I will remember, Mr. Mallock. Meanwhile you had best not shew yourself at Court in public too much." (And this he said very earnestly.)

He put out his hand to be kissed.

"And you will give my compliments to my brother James," he said.

* * * * *

One of the spaniels snored in his sleep as I went out again.

CHAPTER III

My interview with the Duke was a very different matter. I was informed at his lodgings that he was not yet come from tennis; and upon asking how long he would be, or if I might go to the tennis-court, was told that he might be half an hour yet, and that I might go there if I wished; so I went up from the river again, with a fellow they sent to guide me, down through the Stone Gallery, across the Privy Garden, and so across the street, midway between the gates, and so by the Duke of Monmouth's lodgings to the tennis-court. Here, as I went across the street, I caught sight of the sentries changing guard. These were the Coldstream Guards, in their red coats; for it was these foot-guards who did duty for the most part in the Palace and round about at the gates. The other troops about His Majesty were, first the King's Guards proper, who attended him when he rode out: these were in buff coats and cuirasses, very well mounted, and very gay with ribbons and velvet and gold lace and what not: and to each troop of these were attached a company of grenadiers with their grenades. Besides these were the Blues, also cavalry; and the dragoons, who were infantry on horseback, and carried bayonets. Of the foot-soldiers, such as the Buffs, most were mousquetaires; but some trailed pikes, and every one of them had a sword. These troops I saw constantly in town; besides the Yeomen who were closely attached to the person of his Sacred Majesty.

It was by the Duke of Monmouth's lodgings that I had my first sight of the Duke of Monmouth himself; for as I came towards the archway, by which were the lodgings of my Lady Suffolk, he himself came out from his own. I did not know who he was, until the fellow by me saluted him and doffed his cap, whereupon I did the same. I think I have never seen a more handsome lad in all my life (for he looked no more, though he was near thirty years old). His face was as smooth as a girl's, though not at all effeminate; he had a high and merry look with him, and bore himself, with his two friends, like a prince; he had violet eyes and arched brows over them. It is piteous to me now to think of his end, and that it was against his uncle by blood (whom I was to see presently) that he rebelled later, and by his uncle that he was condemned; and it is yet more piteous to think how he met that end, crying and cringing for fear of his life, both in the ditch in which he was discovered, and afterward in prison. He looked very kindly on me as he passed, lifting his hand to his hat; but I think he would not have so looked if he had known all about me; for he was as venomous against the Catholics as a man could be, or at least feigned himself so, for I think he had not a great deal of religion at any time. But he was to know me better afterwards.


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