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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

The interruption came in this manner


a while after that, matters were more quiet. A man named Samuel Atkins was tried presently, but was acquitted; and then a Nathaniel Reading was tried for suppressing evidence, and was punished for it. But our minds, rather, were fixed upon the approaching trial of the "Five Jesuits" as they were called, who still awaited it in prison--Whitbread, Fenwick, Harcourt, Gavan and Turner--all priests. But I had not a great deal of hope for these, when I thought of what had happened to the rest; and, indeed, at the end of May, Mr. Pickering himself was executed. At the beginning of May too, we heard of the bloody murder of Dr. Sharpe, the Protestant Archbishop in Scotland, by the old Covenanters, driven mad by the persecution this man had put them to; but this did not greatly affect our fortunes either way. One of the most bitter thoughts of all was that a secular priest named Serjeant, who, with another named Morris, was of Gallican views, had given evidence in public court against the Jesuits' casuistry.

Meanwhile, in other matters, we were quiet enough. Still I hesitated in pushing my suit with my Cousin Dolly, until I could see whether she was being forced to it or not. But my Cousin Tom had more wits than I had thought; for he said no more to me on the point, nor I to him; and I think I should have spoken to her that summer, had not an interruption come to my plans that set all aside for the present. During those months of spring and early summer

we had no religious consolation at all; for we were too near London, and at the same time too solitary for any priest to come to us.

The interruption came in this manner.

I had sent my man over to Waltham Cross on an affair of a horse that was to be sold there on the nineteenth day of June (as I very well remember, from what happened afterwards); and when he came back he asked if he might speak with me privately. When I had him alone in my room he told me he had news from a Catholic ostler at the _Four Swans_, with whom he had spoken, that a party had been asking after me there that very morning.

"I said to him, sir, What kind of a party was it? And he told me that there were four men; and that they went in to drink first and to dine, for they came there about noon. I asked him then if any of them had any mark by which he could be known; and he laughed at that; and said that one of them was branded in the hand, for he was pulling his glove on when he came into the yard afterwards, so that it was seen."

I said nothing for a moment, when James said that, for I was considering whether so small a business of so many months ago was worth thinking of.

"And what then?" I said.

"Well, sir; as I was riding back I kept my eyes about me; and especially in the villages where it might be easy to miss them; and in Puckeridge, as I came by the inn I looked into the yard, and saw there four horses all tied up together."

"Did you ask after them?" I said.

"No, sir; I thought it best not. But I pushed on as quickly as I could."

"Did the ostler at Waltham Cross tell you what answer was given to the inquiries?"

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