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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Chiffinch had said to me at the beginning of the trouble


As

I came towards the gate of Whitehall, I was riding very carelessly and heavily, paying little attention to anything, for I was thinking, as it happened, of Dolly, with an extraordinary misery in my heart, and of how I should ever tell her (unless matters mended soon) of what her father had done; and whether in some manner he would not yet contrive to separate us. My horse swerved a little, and I pulled him up, for there were a couple of fellows immediately crossing before me. I saw that they looked hard at me; but I noticed no more, for at that instant I heard a horse coming up behind me, and turned to see that it was James. He looked a little strange, thought I, but he said nothing: only he came up, right beside me, and so rode with me through the gate.

He said nothing then, nor did I; and it was not until I was dismounted and a fellow had run out to take the horses that he asked if he might speak with me.

"Why, certainly," said I; and we turned together into the Court.

"Sir," he said, so soon as we were out of earshot of the guard, "did you see those two fellows without the gate?" I said that I had.

"Sir," he said, "they were following you all the way from Chelsea. I saw them at Winchester House; and I have seen them before to-day, too."

"Eh?" said I, a little startled.

Then

he told me he had seen them for the last fortnight, three or four times at least, and that he was sure they were after some mischief. Once before to-day too, as we were riding in Southwark, and he had delayed for a stone in his horse's foot, he had seen them run out from behind a wall, but that they had made off when they saw him coming.

Now I knew very well what he meant. London was very far from being a safe place in those days for a man that had enemies. There was scarcely a week passed but there was some outrage, in broad daylight too, in less populated parts, and in the various Fields, and after dark men were not very safe in the City itself.

A year ago I should have thought nothing of it; but I was down in the world now, I knew very well, and I had enemies who would stick at nothing. It was true that they had let me alone for a while--no doubt lest any suspicion should attach to them--but the winter was on us now, and the mornings and evenings were dark; and, too, a good deal of time had elapsed. I remembered what Mr. Chiffinch had said to me at the beginning of the trouble.

"You did very well to tell me," I said. "Would you know them again if you saw them?"

"I think so, sir," he said.

"Well," I said, "I have no doubt that they are after me. You will tell my other men, will you not?"

"I told them a week ago," he said.

I said no more to him then; but instead of going immediately to my lodgings, I went first to see Mr. Chiffinch, and found him just come in. I told him very briefly what James had told me; but made no comment. He whistled, and bade me sit down.

"They are after you then," he said. "I thought they would be."

"But who are they?" said I, a little peevishly.

"If I knew their names," said the page, "I could put my hands on them on some excuse or other. But I do not know. It is the dregs of the old country-party no doubt."

"And what good do they think to get out of me?"


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