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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Having been down the river bank past Chelsea


Neither

could I even go to Hare Street; for how could I live again even for an hour in the house of my Cousin who had betrayed me? I could not even tell Dolly all that had fallen; for I was as sure as of anything in the world that her father would tell her nothing, and I did not have the heart to disgrace him in her eyes. I but wrote to her that I was a little out of favour with His Majesty at present, though I kept my lodgings, and that I must not stir from Court till I had regained my position. Meanwhile I reserved what I had to say to my Cousin Tom, until I should meet with him alone. I had no doubt whatever that he had done what he had, thinking to get rid of me as his daughter's lover.

The time dragged then very heavily; for I did not care to go much into the society of others, and had nowhere else to go, since I must not leave Whitehall; for it soon became known that I was out of favour, though I do not suppose that the reason was ever named. I spent my days principally in my own lodgings, and did a good deal of private work for Mr. Chiffinch, which occupied me. I went to the play sometimes, taking my man James with me; and I rode out with him usually, down Chelsea way, or to the north, coming back for dinner or supper. I never went alone, by Mr. Chiffinch's urgent desire.

* * * * *

It was after Christmas that matters were brought to a head, and

that the last great adventures of my life came about that closed all that I thought to be life at that time. Even now, so many years after, I can scarce bear to write them down, though, as I look back upon them now, there were at least two matters for which I should have thanked God even then. I thank Him now.

* * * * *

It was on the last Thursday but one, in January, to be precise, that I was coming back from a ride, having been down the river-bank past Chelsea, where I had seen, I remember, Winchester House--that great place with all its courts--and my Lord Bishop returning in his coach: I do not remember anything else that I saw, for I was very heavy indeed and more than ever determined that, if matters did not mend very soon, I would be off to France (where, six months later, I should be obliged to go in any case when my estates would come to me), if not to Rome. It was near five months now that I had lived in disgrace, His Majesty not speaking to me above three or four times all that while, and then only to avoid incivility.

I could not understand why it was that he behaved so to me. He must know by now, surely, that I had never been anything but faithful to him; and I strove to put away the thought that it was mere caprice, and that he often behaved so to others. But I am afraid that such was the case. There were plenty of folks at Court, or who had left it, who had once been in high favour and had ceased to be, through no fault of their own. Neither would I seek consolation from any other source. The Duke was civil to me whenever we met, and I suppose he knew that I was in trouble, but he never spoke of it. Indeed it was a sad change from the time when I had returned so joyfully, and found my new lodgings waiting for me.

* * * * *

As we came up through Westminster I was riding alone, for I had bidden my man James to go aside to a little shop that was almost on our route, behind the abbey, to buy me something that I needed--I think it was a pair of cuffs; but I am not sure. It was very near dark, and the lamps were not yet lighted.


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