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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

But His Majesty is very anxious


"James,"

said I, "this is a very poor home-coming; but it is not my fault."

* * * * *

Though fortune so far had been against me, I must confess that it favoured me a little better afterwards, for when I went in to Mr. Chiffinch's on the next morning, he gave me the very news that I wished to hear.

"Mr. Mallock," he said, "you are the very man I most wished to see. There is a great pother in France again. I do not know all the ins and outs of the affair; but His Majesty is very anxious. He spoke of you only this morning, Mr. Mallock."

My heart quickened a little. In spite of my pain it was a pleasure to hear that His Majesty had spoken of me; for I think my love to him was very much more deep, in one way, though not in another, than even to Dolly herself.

"Mr. Chiffinch," said I, "I will be very plain with you. I have had a disappointment; and I came back to town--"

He whistled, with a witty look.

"The pretty cousin?" he said.

I could not afford to quarrel with him, but I could keep my dignity.

"That is my affair, Mr. Chiffinch. However--there is the fact. I am come to town for this very purpose--to beg for something to do. Will His Majesty see me?"

style="text-align: justify;">He looked at me for an instant; then he thought better, I think, of any further rallying.

"Why I am sure he will. But it will not be for a few days, yet. There is a hundred businesses at Christmas. Can you employ yourself till then?"

"I can kick my heels, I suppose," said I, "as well as any man."

"That will do very well," said Mr. Chiffinch. "But I warn you, that I think it will be a long affair. His Majesty hath entangled himself terribly, and Monsieur Barillon is furious."

"The longer the better," said I.

On the twenty-ninth I went down to see my Lord Stafford die. I was in so distracted a mood that I must see something, or go mad; for I had heard that it would not be until the evening of that day that His Majesty would see me, and that I must be ready to ride for Dover on the next morning. Mr. Chiffinch had told me enough to shew that the business would be yet more subtle and delicate than the last; and that I might expect some very considerable recognition if I carried it through rightly. I longed to be at it. One half of my longing came from the desire to occupy my mind with something better than my poor bungled love-affairs; and the other half from a frantic kind of determination to shew my Mistress Dolly that I was better than she thought me; and that I was man enough to attend to my affairs and carry them out competently, even if I were not man enough to marry her. It must be understood that I shewed no signs of this to anyone, and scarcely allowed it even to myself; but speaking with that honesty which I have endeavoured to preserve throughout all these memoirs, I am bound to say that my mind was in very much that condition of childish anger and resentment. I had a name as a strong man: God only knew how weak I was; for I did not even know it myself.


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