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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

I had told Dolly we should ride at noon next day


to how my Cousin Dolly came to be in such a place, I began to think that I understood. It must all have dated from that unhappy visit of the Duke of Monmouth to Hare Street; my Cousin Tom must have followed up that strange introduction, and the affair must have been worked through Her Grace of Portsmouth. I think I could have taken my Cousin Tom by the throat, and choked him, as I thought of this.

Meantime I had no idea as to what I should do the next day--except, indeed, see His Majesty, and say, perhaps, one tenth of what I felt. I had told Dolly we should ride at noon next day; I was beginning to wonder whether this prediction would be fulfilled. Yet, though I had begun to consider myself more than in the first flush, I still felt my anger rise in me like a tide whenever I regarded the bare facts. But mere anger would never do; and I set myself to drive it down. Besides, it would be there, I knew, and ready, if I should need it on the next day.

* * * * *

When I arrived at Mr. Chiffinch's the next morning, I found him in a very grave mood. He did not rise as I came in, but nodded to me, only.

"Sit down, Mr. Mallock," said he. "This is a very serious affair."

"So I think," I said.

He waved that away.


Majesty hath heard every word of it, with embellishments. He is very angry indeed. Nothing but what you have done for him lately could have saved you; and even now I do not know--"

"Man," I said, "do not let us leave such talk as this. It is not I who am in question--"

"I think you will find that it is," he answered me, with a quick look.

I strove to be patient, and, even more, to appear so.

"Well," I said, "what have I done? I am come back from France: I hear my cousin is here; I go to see her; a fellow at the door is impertinent, and I chastise him for it. Then I go upstairs to my cousin's parlour--"

"That is the point," he interrupted. "It is not your cousin's. It is the lodging of the Maids of Honour."

Yes: he had me there. That was my weak point. But I would not let him see that.

"How was I to understand that distinction? I knocked at the door as peaceably as any man could."

"And after that," he said, smiling a little grimly, "after that, your cousinly affection blinded you."

"Well, that will do," I said.

He smiled again.

"Well; that is your case," he observed. "We will see how His Majesty regards it. For I must tell you, Mr. Mallock, that for five minutes last night it was touch and go whether you were not to be arrested. And I will tell you this too, that if you had not come this morning, you would have been brought."

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