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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Chiffinch appeared to think Why

* * * * *

All the while we were talking, still, with one-half of my mind I was considering what was to be done next. It was a part, only, of my business that had been done; yet how to accomplish the rest without spoiling all? Presently His Majesty himself repeated that which Mr. Chiffinch had already said to me; and spoke of some kind of recognition that was due to me. That gave me my cue.

"Your Majesty is exceedingly kind," I said. "But I trust I am not to be dismissed from the King's service? Mr. Chiffinch appeared to think--"

"Why, no," said he; "not even after all your crimes. Besides we have something for you. Did he not tell you?"

"Any public recognition, Sir," I said, "would effectually do so. The very small value that my services may have would wholly be lost, if they were known in any way."

"Chiffinch said the same," observed the King meditatively. "But--"

"Sir," I said, "might I not have some private recognition instead? There is a very particular favour I have in mind, which would be private altogether; and which I would take as a complete discharge of that which Your Majesty has been good enough to call a debt of the King's."

"Not money, man! Surely!" exclaimed the King in alarm.

justify;">"Not in the least, Sir; it will not cost the exchequer a farthing."

"Well, you shall have it then. You may be sure of that."

"Well, Sir," said I, "it is a serious matter. Your Majesty will dislike it exceedingly."

He pursed his lips and looked at me sharply.

"Wait!" he said. "It will not affect my honour or--or my religion in any way?"

I assumed an air of slight offence.

"Sir; I should not be likely to ask it, if it affected Your Majesty's honour. And as for religion--" I stopped: for one more opening presented itself which I dared not neglect. From both his manner and his words I saw that religion was not very far from his thoughts.

"Well--sir," he said. "And what of religion?"

"Sir, I pray every day for Your Majesty's conversion--"

"Conversion, eh?"

"Conversion to the Holy Catholic Church, Sir. I would give my life for that, ten times over."

"There! there! have done," said His Majesty, with a touch of uneasiness.

"But I would not ask a pledge, blindfold, Sir; even to save all those ten lives of mine."

"One more than a cat, eh? Do you know, Mr. Mallock, you remind me sometimes of a cat. You are so demure, and yet you can pounce and scratch when the occasion comes."

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