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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Even in Puckeridge it was not known


* * * * *

So, once more, the time began to pass very agreeably for me. Here was I, safe from all the embroilments of town, in the same house with my Cousin Dorothy, and with plenty of leisure for my languages again. Yet my satisfaction was greatly broken up when I heard, on the last day of January that all that I had feared was come about, and that of the three men whom I had seen condemned at the Old Bailey, two--Mr. Ireland and Mr. Grove--had been executed seven days before: (Mr. Pickering was kept back on some excuse, and not put to death until May). The way I heard of it was in this manner.

I was in Puckeridge one day, on a matter which I do not now remember, and was going to the stable of the _White Hart_ inn to get my horse to ride back again, when I ran into Mr. Rumbald who was there on the same errand. I was in my country suit, and very much splashed; and it was going on for evening, so he noticed nothing of me but my face.

"Why, Mallock," he cried--"It is Mr. Mallock, is it not?"

I told him yes.

He exchanged a few words with me, for he was one of those fellows who when they have once made up their minds to a thing, do not easily change it, and he was persuaded that I was of his kind and something of a daredevil too, which was what he liked. Then at the end he said something

which made me question him as to what he meant.

"Have you not heard?" he cried. "Why the Popish dogs were hanged a week ago--Ireland and Grove, I mean. And there be three or four more men--accused by Bedloe of Godfrey's murder, and will be tried presently."

I need not say what a horror it was to me to hear that; for I had had more hope in my heart than I had thought. But I was collected enough to say something that satisfied him; and, as again he had been drinking, he was not very quick.

"And those three or four?" I asked. "Are they Jesuits too?"

"No," said Rumbald, "but there will be another batch presently, I make no doubt."

I got rid of him at last; and rode homewards; but it was with a very heavy heart. Not once yet had the King exercised his prerogative of mercy; and if he yielded at the first, and that against the Jesuits whom he had sworn to protect, was there anything in which he would resist?

My Cousin Dorothy saw in my face as I came in that something was the matter; so I told her the truth.

"May they rest in peace," she said; and blessed herself.

* * * * *

From time to time news reached us in this kind of manner. Though we were not a great distance from London we were in a very solitary place, away from the high-road that ran to Cambridge; and few came our way. Even in Puckeridge it was not known, I think, who I was, nor that I was cousin to Mr. Jermyn; so I had no fear of Mr. Rumbald suspecting me. Green, Berry, and Hill were all convicted of Sir Edmund's murder, through the testimony of Bedloe, who said that he had himself seen the body at Somerset House, and that Sir Edmund had been strangled there by priests and others and conveyed later to the ditch in Primrose Hill where he was found. Another fellow, too, named Miles Prance, a silversmith in Princes Street (out of Drury Lane), who was said by Bedloe to have been privy to the murder, in the fear of his life, and after inhuman treatment in prison, did corroborate the story and add to it, under promise of pardon, which he got. Green, Berry, and Hill, then, were hanged on the tenth day of February, on the testimonies of these two; and were as innocent as unborn babes. It was remarked how strangely their names went with the name of the murdered man and of the place he was found in.


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