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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Not to Charles but to Monmouth


By

the time that my supper came up--(I cursed the maid again for her delay, though, poor wench, she was near run off her legs)--there were left but four of us in the room; the gentleman at the head of the table, a lean quiet man with a cast in his eye who sat opposite me, Mr. Rumbald and myself.

There was, however, a shade of caution yet left in my friend that the ale had not yet driven out; and before proceeding any further, he observed again that my fortunes had improved.

"Why, they have improved a great deal," I said--for he had caught me with my silver-hilted sword and my lace, and I saw him looking at them--"I live in Covent Garden now, where you must come and see me, Mr. Rumbald."

"And your politics with them?" he asked.

"My politics are what they ever were," I said; and that was true enough.

"You were at Temple Bar?" he asked.

"Why I only came from France the day before; but you may depend upon it I was there. It warmed my heart."

"You know who was behind it all?" asked the gentleman at the head of the table, suddenly.

I knew well enough that such men as these despise ignorance above all things, and that a shrewd fellow--or a man that they think to be one is worth a thousand simpletons in their eyes;

so I made no pretence of not knowing what he meant.

"Why of course I do!" I said contemptuously. "It was my Lord Shaftesbury."

Now the truth of this was not known to everyone in London at this time, though it was known a little while later: and I should not have known it myself if Mr. Chiffinch had not told me. But these men knew it, it seemed, well enough; and my knowledge of it blew me sky-high in their view.

"My Lord Shaftesbury, God bless him!" said the lean squinting man, suddenly; and drained his mug.

"God bless him!" I said too, and put my lips to mine. My hand was immediately grasped by Mr. Rumbald; and so cordial relations were confirmed.

* * * * *

Well; we settled down then to talk treason. I must not deny that these persons skewed still some glimmerings of sense; they did not, that is to say, as yet commit themselves irrevocably to my mercy: they appeared to me to talk generally, with a view to trying me: but I acquitted myself to their satisfaction.

We deposed Charles, we excluded James, we legitimized Monmouth; we armed the loyal citizens and took away the arms of all others. We appointed even days of humiliation and thanksgiving; and we grew more enthusiastic and reckless with every mug. The lean man confided to me with infinite pride, that he had been one of the cardinals in the procession to Temple Bar; and I grasped his hand in tearful congratulation. We were near weeping with loyalty at the end, not to Charles but to Monmouth. The only man who preserved his self-control completely was the gentleman at the head of the table, though he too adventured a good deal, throwing it before me as a bait before a trout; and each time I gulped it down and asked for more. He was a finely featured man, with a nose set well out in his face, and had altogether the look and bearing of a gentleman.


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