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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Mallock The door opened softly behind me


I

ceased; breathless, yet triumphing; for I knew that I had held His Majesty with my words. How he would take it, when he recovered, I did not know: nor did I greatly care. I had spoken my mind to him at last; and what I had said was no more than my conviction. That blessed gift of anger had done the rest: and, having done its work, retired again to chaos; and left me clear-headed and master of myself.

When I looked at him he was motionless. He was still very pale, but the terrible brightness of his eyes was gone.

Then he roused himself to sneer; but I did not care for that; for there was no other way for him just then, consonant with his own dignity.

"Very admirably preached!" said he; "even if a trifle treasonous."

"I am pleased Your Majesty is satisfied," I said, with a little bow.

Then he broke down altogether, in the only way that he could; he gave a great spirt of laughter; then he leaned back and laughed till the tears ran down. Presently he was quieter.

"Oddsfish!" he cried, "this is a turning of tables indeed! I sent for you, Mr. Mallock--"

The door opened softly behind me; and a man put his head in.

"Go away! go away!" cried the King. "Cannot you see I am being preached to?"

justify;">The door closed again.

"I sent for you, Mr. Mallock, to reprimand you very severely. And instead of that it is you who have held the whip. Little Ken is nothing to it: you should have been a Bishop, Mr. Mallock."

Again he spirted with laughter. Then he drew himself up in his chair a little; and became more grave.

"This is all very well," he said. "But I think I must get in my reprimand, for all that. You will not be sent to the guard-room, or the Green Cloth--(or whatever it is that would meet your case)--this time, Mr. Mallock; I will deal with you myself. But it is a very serious business, and your distinctions would not serve you in law. A sundial is not so important as a Christian lady; and a bunch of raisins is not, legally, a blow in the face. Still less are all the sundials and Spaniards in the world, equal to one of Her Majesty's Maids of Honour. You understand that?"

I bowed again; reminding myself that I was not done with him, even yet.

"Yes, Sir."

"Consider yourself reprimanded severely, Mr. Mallock."

I bowed; but I stood still.

"You have my leave--Oh! by the way, Mr. Mallock; there are just ten words I must have with you on the French affairs."

He motioned to a seat.

"I may kiss the hand that has beaten me?" said I.

He laughed again. He was a very merry prince when he was in the mood.

"It should be the other way about, I should think," he said. But he gave me his hand; and I sat down.


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