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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Who frequented the Mitre tavern


But I think that I acquitted myself pretty well; and that none guessed that anything was amiss with me; for I spoke of the plays I had seen in Rome, before that I was a novice, and of the singers that I heard there; and I listened, too, to their own speeches, gathering this and that, of what they did and where they went, if by chance I might gather something to their own advantage thereafter.

It was pretty to see, too, how courteous and gallant Mr. Ireland was with his mother and sister; and how he put their cloaks about them at the door, and feigned that he was a constable to carry them off to prison--(at which my heart failed me again)--for frequenting the company of suspected persons; and how he gave an arm to each of them, as they set off into the dark.

* * * * *

That night too, as I lay abed, I thought much of all this again. I had established a great friendliness with the Fathers by now, telling them I was come up again to London, as Mr. Whitbread had recommended me, until the Court should go again to Windsor, and that perhaps I should go with it thither. They had told me at that, that one of their Fathers was there, named Mr. Bedingfeld (who was of the Oxburgh family, I think), and that he was confessor to the Duke of York, and that they would recommend me to him if I should go. But all through my anxiety I comforted myself with the assurance the King had given to me, that, whatever else might ensue, not a hair of their heads should be touched, for I had great confidence in His Majesty's word, given so solemnly.

CHAPTER VI

Now begins in earnest that chapter of horrors that will be with me till I die; and the learning of that lesson that I might have learned long before from one that was himself a Prince, and knew what he was talking of--I mean King David, who bids us in his psalm to "put no trust in princes nor in any child of man."

For several days all passed peacefully enough. I waited upon Mr. Chiffinch, and asked whether the King had spoken of me again, and was told he had not; so I went about my business, which was to haunt the taverns and to frequent the company of the Jesuits.

I made an acquaintance or two in the taverns at this time, which served me later, though not in the particular manner that I had wished; but for the most part matters seemed quiet enough. Men did not speak a great deal of the Catholics; and I always fenced off questions by beginning, in every company that I found myself in, by speaking of some Church of England divine with a great deal of admiration, soon earning for myself, I fear, the name of a pious and grave fellow, but at the same time, of a safe man in matters of Church and State.

One of these acquaintances was a Mr. Rumbald, a maltster (which was all I thought him then), who frequented the Mitre tavern, without Aldgate, where I went one day, dressed in one of my sober country suits, wearing my hat at a somewhat rakish cock, that I might seem to be a simple fellow that aped town-ways.

The tavern was full when I came to it, and called for dinner; but I made such a to-do that the maid went to an inner room, and presently returning, told me I might have my dinner there. It was a little parlour she spewed me to, with old steel caps upon the wall, and strewed rushes under foot; and there were three or four men there who had just done dinner, all but one. This one was a ruddy man, with red hair going grey, dressed very plain, but well, with a hard kind of look about him; and he had had as much to drink as a man should have, and was in the merry stage of his drink. Here, thought I, is the very man for me. He is of both country and town; here is a chamber of which he seems lord--for he ordered the maid about royally, and cursed her once or twice--and it is a chamber apart from the rest. So I thought this a very proper place to hear some talk in, and a very proper fellow to hear it from. For a while I thought he had something of the look of an old soldier about him; but then I thought no more of it.


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