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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Tonge had been sent for and soundly rated


Mr.

Chiffinch told me this, as shortly almost as I have written it down, glancing at His Majesty once or twice, and at the Duke, as if he wished to know whether he were telling it properly; and as soon as he ended His Majesty began:

"That is where we stand now, Mr. Mallock. As for me, I do not believe one word of the tale, as I have said before: and I say that it is best to destroy the letters, to tell Doctor Tonge that he is a damned fool, if not worse, so to be cozened, and to say no more of it. I would not have this made public for a thousand pounds. It is as I said before: I knew that the matter would grow."

"And I say, Sir," put in the Duke savagely, "that Your Majesty forgets who it is who are implicated--that it is these good Jesuit Fathers, and my own confessor, too"--(he bowed slightly to the fair man, who returned it)--"and that if the matter be not probed to the bottom, the names of all will suffer, in the long run."

"Brother, brother," said Charles, "I entreat you not to speak so violently. We all know how good the Fathers are, and do not suspect any one of them. It is to save their name--"

"And I tell you," burst in James again, "that mine is the only way to do it! Do you think, Sir, that these folks who are behind it all will let the matter rest? It will grow and grow, as Your Majesty said; and we shall have half the kingdom involved."

style="text-align: justify;">Here was a very pretty dispute, with sense on both sides, and yet there appeared to me that there was more on His Majesty's than on the other. If even then Dr. Tonge had been sent for and soundly rated, and made to produce his informant, and the matter sifted, I believe we should have heard no more of it. But it was not ordained so. They all spoke a good deal, appealing to the two priests--Mr. Bedingfeld and Mr. Young--and they both gave their opinions.

Presently Charles was silent; letting his chair come forward again on to its four legs, and putting his head in his hands over the table. I had never seen him so perturbed before. Then I ventured on a question.

"Sir, may I ask who is Doctor Tonge's informant?"

His Majesty glanced up at me as if he saw me for the first time.

"Tell him, Chiffinch," he said.

"His name is Doctor Oates," said the page. "He was a Papist once, and is turned informer, he says. He still feigns secretly to be friends with one or two of the Jesuits, he says."

"But every word you hear here is _sub sigillo_, Mr. Mallock," added the King.

I knew no such name; and said no more. I had never heard of the man.

"Have you anything to say, Mr. Mallock?" asked the King presently.

"I have some reports to hand in, Sir," I said, "but they do not bear directly upon this matter."


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