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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Hamerton was a very quiet gentleman


hope you are well, Mr. Hamerton," I said.

He gave a great start at that, and looked at me closely.

"I do not remember you," he said. "And why do you call me Mr. Hamerton?"

"I knew that is not the name you were usually known by, father. Would you be easier if I called you Mr. Young?"

"I give it up," he said. "Who are you, sir?"

"Do you remember a young man," I said, "a year and a half ago, who came into Mr. Chiffinch's inner parlour on a certain occasion? You were sitting near His Royal Highness; His Majesty was at the end of the table; and by you was Father Bedingfeld who died in prison in December."

He smiled at me.

"I remember everything except the young man," he said. "So you are he. And what is your name, sir?"

I told him.

"I am Mr. Jermyn's cousin," I said. "And I have been looking after his lambs for him. I would there was some spiritual shepherd who would look after us. We have not heard mass since Christmas." (For we had ridden over to Standon on that day.)

He seemed altogether easier at that.

"Why, that can be remedied to-morrow," he said. "If you have an altar stone and linen and vestments.

I have all else with me."

We had these, and I told him so.

"Then you mean to lie at Hare Street to-night, sir?" I said.

"I had hoped to do so," he said. "I am come from Lincolnshire; and I was recommended to Mr. Jermyn's if I could not get so far as Standon; and I cannot, for my horse is lame."

* * * * *

My Cousin Tom received the priest in a surprising medley of emotions which he exhibited one by one to me who knew him so well. He was at first plainly terrified at receiving a priest and a Jesuit; but, presently recovered himself a little and strove to remember that here was one of God's priests who would bring a blessing on the house--(and said so); finally all else was swallowed up in pleasure, or very nearly, when I took occasion on Mr. Hamerton's going upstairs to pull off his boots, to tell him that I had seen this priest very intimate with His Royal Highness the Duke of York; and that he had been a near friend of Mr. Bedingfeld, the Duke's confessor.

My Cousin Dorothy received him with the reverence that pious maids can shew so easily towards a priest. She had his chamber ready for him in ten minutes; with fresh water in the basin and flowers upon the table: she even set out for his entertainment three or four books of devotion by his bedside. And all the time at supper she never ceased to give him attention, drawing the men's eyes to his plate and cup continually.

Mr. Hamerton was a very quiet gentleman, wonderfully at his ease at once, and never losing his discretion; he talked generally and pleasantly at supper, of his road to Hare Street, and told us an edifying story or two of Catholics at whose houses he had lain on his way from Lincolnshire. These Jesuits are wonderful folk: he seemed to know the country all over, and where were the safer districts and where the dangerous. I have no doubt he could have given me an excellent road-map with instructions that would take me safe from London to Edinburgh, if I had wished it.

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