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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Once a stable boy to my Lord Bellasis


rulers, since His Majesty, it

appeared, could do nothing to stem the tide. It was my Lord Danby who opened the matter in the House of Peers that he might get what popularity he could to protect him against the disgrace that he foresaw would come upon him presently for the French business; and every violent word that he spoke was applauded to the echo. The House of Commons took up the cry; a solemn fast was appointed for the appeasing of God Almighty's wrath; guards were set in all the streets, and chains drawn across them, to prevent any sudden rising of the Papists; and all Catholic householders were bidden to withdraw ten miles from London. (This I did not comply with; for I was no householder.) Besides all this, both men and women went armed continually--the men with the "Protestants' flails," and ladies with little pistols hidden in their muffs. Workmen, too, were set to search and dig everywhere for "Tewkesbury mustard-balls," as they were called--or fire-balls, with which it was thought that the Catholics would set London a-fire, as Oates had said they would--or vast treasures which the Jesuits were thought to have buried in the Savoy and other places. Folks took alarm at the leastest matters; once my Lord Treasurer himself rode into London crying that the French army was already landed, when all that he had seen were some horses in the mist; once it was thought, from the noise of digging that some fat-head heard, that the Papists were mining to blow up Westminster. The King, whom I dared not go to see
in all this uproar, and who did not send for me, went to and fro even in Whitehall, guarded everywhere--in private, as I heard, pouring scorn upon the plot, yet in public concealing his opinion; and upon the ninth of November he made a speech in the House of Lords, confirming all my fears, thanking his subjects for their devotion, and urging them to deal effectually with the Popish recusants that were such a danger to the kingdom! In October, too, five Catholic Lords--the Earl of Powis, Viscount Stafford, my Lord Petre, my Lord Arundell of Wardour, and my Lord Bellasis were committed to the Tower on a charge of treason.

I saw Dr. Oates more than once during these days, coming out of Whitehall with the guards that were given to protect him, carrying himself very high, in his minister's dress; and no wonder, for the man was the darling of the nation and was called its "Saviour," and had had a great pension voted to him of twelve hundred pounds a year. He did not think then, I warrant, of the day when he would be whipped from Newgate to Tyburn at a cart's tail; and again, laid upon a sled and whipped again through the City, for that he could not stand by reason of his first punishment. Another fellow too had come forward, named Bedloe, once a stable-boy to my Lord Bellasis, who had given himself up at Bristol, with "information," as he called it, as to Sir Edmund's murder, which he said had been done in Somerset House itself, by the priests and others, saying that the wax that was found upon the dead man's breeches came from the candles of the altar that the priests had held over him while they did it! Presently too, at the trial and even before it, Bedloe made his evidence to concur with Oates', though at the first there was no sign of it. Even before the trial, however, the audacity of the two villains waxed so great, as even to seek to embroil Her Majesty herself in the matter, and to make her privy to the whole plot; and this Oates did, at the bar of the House of Commons. But the King was so wrath at this, that little more was heard of it.


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