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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

My peroration would be after this fashion


King laughed, very short and harsh.

"You put it admirably," he said. "You are a diplomat, indeed."

"That is my defence to Your Majesty; and it is perfectly true--neither less nor more than the truth. But I am not only a diplomat."

He did not fully understand me, I think, for he looked at me sharply.

"Well?" he said. "What else?"

"I have another defence for the public--Sir--not so courteous to Your Majesty."

He remained rigid an instant.

"Then for the public," he said, "you do not think the truth enough?"

"No, Sir; it is for Your Majesty that I think the truth too much."

"I will have it!" cried the King. "This moment!"

Interiorly I licked my lips, as a dog when he sees a bone. His Majesty should have the truth now, with a vengeance. All was falling out exactly as I had designed. He should not have kept me waiting so long; or I might not have thought of it.

"Well, Sir," said I, "you will remember I should not have dared to say it to Your Majesty, had I not been commanded."

He said nothing. Then, once more, I ruffled my growling dog's ears, so that he snarled.

justify;">"First, Sir; to the public I should say: If this is counted brawling, what of other scenes in Whitehall on which no charge was made? What of the sun-dial, smashed all to fragments one night, in the Privy Garden, by certain of the King's Gentlemen whom I could name? What of the broken door-knockers--not only in the City, but upon certain doors in Whitehall itself--broken, again by certain of the King's Gentlemen whom I could name? What of a scene I viewed myself in the Banqueting Hall last Christmastide in Your Majesty's presence, when a Spanish gentleman received full in his face a bunch of raisins, from--"

"Ah!" snarled the King. "And you would say that to the public?"

"Sir--that is only the exordium "--(my voice was raised a little, I think, for indeed I was raging again by now). "Next, I would observe that Mistress Jermyn is my own cousin, and that the hour was eight o'clock in the evening--not nine, if I may so far correct Your Majesty; whereas very different hours are kept by some members of the Court, and the ladies are not their cousins at all."

I had never seen the King so angry. He was unable to speak for fury. His face paled to parchment-colour under his sallow skin, and his eyes burned like coals. This time I lashed my anger, deliberately, instead of tickling it merely.

"Sir; that is not nearly all; but I will miss out a few points, and come to my peroration. My peroration would be after this fashion. Such, I would say, is the charge against one who has been of service to His Majesty; and such is the Court (as I have described) of that same King. There is not a Court in Europe that has a Prince so noble as our own can be, of better parts, or of higher ambitions, or of so pure a blood. And there is no Prince who is served so poorly; no Court that so stinks in the nostrils of God and man, as does his. He is capable," I cried (for by now I was lost to all consideration for myself; my loyalty and love for him had come to the aid of my anger; and I saw that never again should I have such an opportunity of speaking my mind), "He is capable of as great achievements, as any Prince that has gone before him; for he has already won back the throne which his fathers lost. Would it be of service, I would say, to such a Prince as this, to punish a man who would lay down his life for him to give him even a moment's pleasure; and to let go scot-free men and women who have never done anything but injure him?"

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