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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Walking very upright and stiff


It

was from Moorfields that the procession came, and it took a good while to come. But I was entertained enough by the sight of all the people, to pass the time away. A number of gentlefolks opposite to my window sat on platforms, all wrapped up in furs, and some of them masked, with a few ministers among them; and I make no doubt that Dr. Tonge was there, though I did not see him. But I did see a merry face which I thought was Mistress Nell Gwyn's; and whether it was she or not that I saw, I heard afterwards that she had been there, to His Majesty's great displeasure.

And in the same group I saw Mr. Killigrew's face--that had been page to Charles the First, and came back to be page to his son--for his grotesque and yet fine face was unmistakable; the profligate fop Sir George Etheredge, gambler and lampooner, with drink and the devil all over him; solemn Thomas Thynne, murdered two years afterwards, for a woman's sake, by Count Conigsmark, who was hanged for it and lay in great state in a satin coffin; and last, my Lord Dover, with his great head and little legs, looking at the people through a tortoiseshell glass. The Court, or at least, some of it, enjoyed itself here, in spite of the character of the demonstration. Meanwhile out of sight a great voice shouted jests and catchwords resonantly from time to time, to amuse the people; and the crowd, that was by now packed everywhere against the houses, upon the roofs and even up Chancery Lane, answered

his hits with roaring cheers. I heard the name of the Duke of Monmouth several times; and each time it was received with acclamation. Once the Duke of York's was called out; and the booing and murring at it were great enough to have daunted even him. (But he was in Scotland now--too far away to hear it--and seemed like to remain there.) And once Mrs. Gwyn's name was shouted, and something else after it; and there was a stir on the platform where I thought I had seen her; and then a great burst of cheering; for she was popular enough, in spite of her life, for her Protestantism. (It was not works, they hated, thought I to myself, but Faith!)

The first that I knew of the coming of the procession was the sound of fifes up Fleet Street; and a great jostling and roaring that followed it by those who strove to see better. I was distracted for an instant by a dog that ran out suddenly, tail down, into the open space and disappeared again yelping. When I turned again the head of the procession was in sight, coming into view round the house that was next to Mr. Martin's.

First, between the torches that lined the procession through all its length, came a band of fifers, very fine, in scarlet tunics and stiff beaver-hats; shrilling a dirge as they walked; and immediately behind them a funeral herald in black, walking very upright and stiff, with a bell in one hand which he rang, while he cried out in a great mournful bellowing voice:

"Remember Justice Godfrey! Remember Justice Godfrey;" and then pealed upon his bell again. (It was pretty plain from that that we Catholics were to bear the brunt of all, as usual!)


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