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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

You have seen Father Whitbread


"We

must all be discreet, however," he said--(though I suppose there was never any man less discreet than himself, especially when he most needed to be so). "It is useless to say that we are altogether loved; for we are not. But you will soon acquaint yourself with all our politics."

I did not say that I had already done so; but assured him that I would do my best.

"As a general guide, I may say," he went on; "where there is Whiggery, there is disloyalty, however much the Whigs may protest. They say they desire a king as much as any; but it is not a king that they want, but his shadow only."

He talked on in this manner for a little, for we had the Gallery to ourselves, telling me, what I knew very well already, that the Catholics and the High Churchmen were, as a whole, staunch Royalists; but that the rest, especially those of the old Covenanting blood, still were capable of mischief. He did not tell me outright that it was largely against his own succession that the disaffection was directed; nor that the Duke of Monmouth was his rival; but he told me enough to show that my own information was correct enough, and that in the political matters my weight, such as it was, must be thrown on to the side of the Tories--as the other party was nicknamed. I understood, even in that first conversation with him, why he was so little loved; and I remembered, with inward mirth, how His Majesty

once, upon being remonstrated with by his brother for walking out so freely without a guard, answered that he need have no fears; for "they will never kill me," said he, "to set you upon the throne."

"You have seen Father Whitbread, no doubt," said the Duke suddenly.

"No, sir. I waited to pay my homage first to His Majesty and to yourself."

He nodded once or twice at that.

"Yes, yes; but you will see him presently, I take it. You could not have a better guide. Why--"

He broke off on a sudden.

"Why here is the man himself," he said.

A man in a sober suit was indeed approaching, as His Highness spoke. He was of about the middle-size, clean-shaven, of grave and kindly face, and resembled such a man as a lawyer or physician might be. He was dressed in all points like a layman, though I suppose it was tolerably well known what he was, if not his name.

He saluted as he came near, and made as if he would have passed us.

"Mr. Whitbread! Mr. Whitbread!" cried the Duke.

The priest turned and bowed again, uncovering as he did so. Then he came up to the Duke and kissed his hand.

"I was on my way to see your Royal Highness," he said, "but when I saw you were in company--"

"Why, this is Mr. Mallock, come from Rome, who has letters to you. This will save you a journey, Mallock."

The priest and I saluted one another; and I found his face and manner very pleasant.

"I have heard of you, Mr. Mallock," he said, "but I hope His Highness is misinformed, and that this will not save you a journey, after all."

"I was just telling this gentleman," broke in the Duke, as we continued our walking, "that he must take you for his mentor, Dr. Whitbread, in these difficult times. Mr. Mallock seems very young for his business, but I suppose that the Holy Father knows what he is about."

"The Holy Father, sir," I said, "has committed himself in no sort of way to me. I am scarcely more than a free-lance who has had his blessing."


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