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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

My cousin looked out of a door



"You dare to say you were not drunk?"

"Yes, Sir."

His Majesty caught up an ivory knife and sat drawing it through his fingers, still looking at me, I perceived; though I kept my eyes down. I could see that he was violently impatient.

"Mr. Mallock," said he, "this is intolerable. You come back from France where you have done me good service--I will never deny that--and you win my gratitude; and then you fling it all away by a piece of unpardonable behaviour. Are you aware of the penalties for such behaviour as yours?--brawling in the Palace itself, knocking my men down, forcing your way into the lodgings of Her Majesty's Ladies? Have you anything to say as to why you should not go before the Green Cloth?"

A great surge of contradiction and defiance rose within me; but I choked it down again. It was there if I should need it. The effort held me steady and balanced.

"Do you hear me, sir?"

"Yes, Sir," said I.

"Well--what have you to say?"

He glanced past me towards the door; and I thought again that the guards were in his mind.

"Sir; I have a very great deal to say. But I fear I should offend Your Majesty."

justify;">The King jerked his head impatiently.

"It is of the nature of a defence?"

"Certainly, Sir."

"Say it then. You need one."

I raised my eyes and looked him in the face. He was frowning; and his lips were moving. Evidently he was very angry; and yet he was perplexed, too.

"Sir, this is precisely what took place. I returned from France last night, where, as Your Majesty was good enough to remark, I was able to be of some little service. Upon my return I heard from Mr. Chiffinch that my 'pretty cousin' as he was kind enough to call her, was in Whitehall, as one of Her Majesty's ladies. I went to see my cousin, perhaps a little precipitately, but I went peaceably, first inquiring of one of Your Majesty's guards where her lodgings were. I knocked, peaceably, upon the door. An old woman opened to me, and would give me no intelligible answer to my--peaceable--inquiry as to whether my cousin were there. I prevented her closing the door in my face, but peaceably; then a fellow ran out, and asked me who the devil I was. Again, peaceably, I inquired for my cousin. I even sat down upon the stairs. Then he made at me; and in self-defence I struck him once, with my hand. My cousin looked out of a door, and I went up into what I understood was her parlour. When the guard came, she sent them away, telling them I was her cousin. The serjeant was impertinent to her; and she shut the door in his face. I remained five minutes, or six, with my cousin, and then went peaceably away, and to my lodgings. That is the entire truth, Sir, from beginning to end."

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