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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

At that the shouting of the crowd grew louder and louder


The

three figures that remained now began to wrestle together, stamping to and fro, up to the very edge, then reeling back again, and so on--the two apprentices against the great red dummy. At that the shouting of the crowd grew louder and louder, and the torches tossed up and down: it was like hell itself, for noise and terror, there in the red flare of the bonfire: and, at the last, all roaring together, with the trumpets and drums sounding, and the fifes too, the effigy was got to the edge of the platform, where it yet swayed for an instant or two, and then toppled down into the fire beneath.

* * * * *

It was a great spectacle, I cannot but confess it, and admirably designed; and I took my leave of Mr. Martin and his lady, and went home to supper through the crowded streets, more in tune, perhaps, with my country's state than I had been when I lolled last night in Mr. Chiffinch's closet.

CHAPTER II

With Dangerfield's demonstration in my mind I was not greatly inclined to embroil myself in other matters; and I kept my intention to ride down to Hare Street three days after, when I had done my business in London and kissed the King's hand; and this I had done by the evening of the second day. I saw His Majesty on that second day; but he was much pressed for time, and he did no

more than thank me for what I had done: and so was gone. On that evening, however, a new little adventure befell me.

The taverns in town were rare places for making new acquaintances; and since I, for the most part, dined and supped in them, I met a good number of gentlemen. From these I would conceal, usually, most of my circumstances, and sometimes even my name, though that would not have told them much. Above all I was very careful to conceal my dealings with His Majesty, and as, following the directions he had first given me, I presented myself seldom or never at Court, and did my business through Mr. Chiffinch, and in his lodgings, usually, I do not suppose that there were five men in town, if so many, who knew that I had any private knowledge of him at all. In this manner then, I heard a deal of treasonable talk of which I did not think much, and only reported generally to Mr. Chiffinch when he asked me what was the feeling in town with regard to Court affairs. It was through this, and helped, I daresay, by what I have been told was the easy pleasantness which I affected in company, that I stumbled over my next adventure; and one that was like, before the end of it, to have cost me dear.

I went to supper, by chance, on the second day after my coming to London, to an inn I had never been to before--the _Red Bull_ in Cheapside--a very large inn, in those days, with a great garden at the back, where gentlemen would dine in summer, and a great parlour running out into it from the back of the house, of but one story high. The rooms beneath seemed pretty full, for it was a cold night; and as there appeared no one to attend to me I went upstairs, and knocked on the door of one of the rooms. The talking within ceased as I knocked, and none answered; so I opened the door and put my head in. There was a number of persons seated round the table who all looked at me.

"This is a private room, sir," said one of them at the head.

"I beg your pardon, gentlemen," I said. "I was but looking for someone to serve me." And I was about to withdraw when a voice hailed me aloud.

"Why it is Mr. Mallock!" the voice cried; and turning again to see who it was I beheld my old friend Mr. Rumbald, seated next the one that presided.


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