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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Whitbread in such a manner that my heart turned cold


And

at that I broke in: for I had never forgotten the man's face, against whom I had knocked one night in Drury Lane.

"I have seen the very man," I cried. "He is of middle stature; with a little forehead and nose and a great chin."

"That is the man," said Mr. Whitbread. "When did you see him?"

I told them that it was on the night that I found Mrs. Ireland and her daughter come from the play.

"He was standing in the mouth of the passage opposite," I said, "and watched me as I went in."

"He will have been watching many nights, I think," said Mr. Whitbread, "here, and in Duke Street, and at my own lodgings too."

I asked what he would do that for, if he had his tale already.

"That he may have more truth to stir up with his lies," said Mr. Whitbread. "He will say who he has seen go in and out; and we shall not be able to deny it."

He said this very quietly, without any sign of perturbation; and Mr. Ireland was the same. They seemed a little thoughtful only.

"But no harm can come to you," I cried. "His Majesty hath promised it."

"Yes: His Majesty hath promised it," said Mr. Whitbread in such a manner that my heart turned cold; but I said no more

on the point.

"Now, Mr. Mallock," said the priest, "we must consider what is best to be done. When the case comes on, as it surely will, the question for us is what you must do. I doubt not that you could give evidence that you have found us harmless folk"--(he smiled as he said this)--"but I do not know that you will be able to add much to what other of our witnesses will be able to say. I am not at all sure but that it may not be best for you to keep away from the case at first at any rate. You have the King's ear, which is worth more to us than any testimony you could give."

"Why do you not fly the country?" I cried.

He smiled again.

"Because that," he said, "would be as much as to say that we were guilty; and so the whole Society would be thought guilty, and the Church too. No, Mr. Mallock, we must see the matter out, and trust to what justice we can get. But I do not think we shall get a great deal."

So it was decided then, that I would not give testimony unless there was some call for it; and I took my leave, marvelling at the constancy of these men, who preferred to imperil life itself, sooner than reputation.

* * * * *

Well; all went forward as Mr. Whitbread had said it would. On the twenty-eighth day of September Dr. Oates appeared before the Council to give his testimony; and it was to the same effect as was that which I had heard Mr. Chiffinch relate before, as to the Jesuit plot to murder the King, and if need be, the Duke too, and to establish Catholic domination in England.


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