free ebooks

Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Chiffinch had company in his inner closet


I

promised I would remember him: and indeed after a while all England has remembered him ever since.

* * * * *

It was that same evening, I think (for my diary is confused at this time, and no wonder), that when I came back to my lodgings about supper-time, I found that a man had been from Mr. Chiffinch to bid me come to Whitehall as soon as I returned; but the messenger had not seemed greatly perturbed, James told me; so I changed my clothes and had my supper and set out.

It would be about half-past seven o'clock when I came to Mr. Chiffinch's; and when I tapped I had no answer. I tapped again; and then a servant of Mr. Chiffinch's came running up the stairs (who had left his post, I suspect) and asked me what I wanted there. When I told him he seemed surprised, and he said that Mr. Chiffinch had company in his inner closet; but that he would speak with him. So he left me standing there; and went through, and I heard a door shut within. Presently he came out again in something of a hurry, and bade me come in; and, to my astonishment we went through the first room that was empty, and out again beyond and down a dark passage. I heard voices as I went, talking rapidly somewhere, but there was no one to be seen. Then he knocked softly upon a door at the end of the passage; a voice cried to us to come in; and I entered; and, to my astonishment, not only

was the little closet half full of persons, but these persons were somewhat exceptional.

At the end of the table that was opposite me, sat His Majesty, tilting his chair back a little as if he were weary of the talk; but his face was flushed as if with anger. Upon his right sat the Duke, with his periwig pushed a little back, and his face more flushed even than the King's. Opposite to the Duke sat two men, whom I took to be priests by their faces--one fair, the other dark--(and I presently proved to be right)--and beside him Mr. Chiffinch, very eager-looking, and lean, talking at a great speed, with his hands clasped upon the table. Finally, my Lord Danby sat next to the Duke, opposite to Mr. Chiffinch, with a sullen look upon his face. There was a great heap of papers, again, upon the table, between the five men. All these persons turned their eyes upon me as I came in and bowed low to the company; and then Mr. Chiffinch jerked back a chair that was beside him, and beckoned to me to sit down in it. The room appeared to me a secret kind of place, with curtains pulled across the windows, where a man might be very private if he wished. Mr. Chiffinch ended speaking as I came in, and all sat silent.

His Majesty broke the silence.

"You are very late, Mr. Mallock," he said--no more than that; but I felt the reproof very keenly. "Tell him, Chiffinch."

Then Mr. Chiffinch related to me an extraordinary story; and he told it very well, balancing the two sides of it, so that I could not tell what he thought.

It appeared that a day or two ago, Doctor Tonge had come to my Lord Danby, in pursuance of the tale he had told before, saying that he had received further information, from the very man whom he had suspected, and now had certified, to be the writer of the first information under forty-three heads, to the effect that a packet of letters was on its way to Windsor, to that very Mr. Bedingfeld (of whom Mr. Whitbread had spoken to me), on the matter of the plot to murder the King, and the Duke too unless he would consent to the affair. My Lord Danby posted immediately to Windsor that he might intercept these letters and examine them for himself; but found that not only had Mr. Bedingfeld received them, but had taken them to the Duke, saying that he did not understand one word that was written in them. Those letters purported to have been written from a number of Jesuits, and others--amongst whom were a Mr. Coleman, an agent of the Duke's, and Mr. Langhorn, a lawyer; and related to a supposed plot, not only to murder the King, and his brother, too, perhaps, but to re-establish the Popish domination, to burn Westminster, as they had already burned the City; and that the new positions in the State had already been designed to certain persons, whose names were all mentioned in the letters, by the Holy Father himself. The matter that was now being discussed in this little chamber was, What was best to be done?


eBook Search
Social Sharing
Share Button
About us

freefictionbooks.org is a collection of free ebooks that can be read online. Ebooks are split into pages for easier reading and better bookmarking.

We have more than 35,000 free books in our collection and are adding new books daily.

We invite you to link to us, so as many people as possible can enjoy this wonderful free website.

© 2010-2013 freefictionbooks.org - All Rights Reserved.

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Contact Us