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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

If Your Majesty will condescend


"I

would sooner it had been a little dog, Sir," I said, glancing at the spaniels that were curled up together before the fire.

"Well--well; we are wandering," smiled the King. "Now what is this favour?"

I supposed I must have looked very grave and serious; for before I could speak he leaned forward.

"It is to count as a complete discharge, I understood you to say, Mr. Mallock, for all obligations on my part. And there is no money in it?"

"Yes, Sir," said I. "And there is no money in it."

He must have seen I was serious.

"Well; I take you at your word, sir. I will grant it. Tell me what it is."

He leaned back, looking at me curiously.

"Sir," I said, "it is now about half-past ten o'clock. What I ask is that my cousin, Mistress Dorothy Jermyn, receives an immediate dismissal from Her Majesty's service; and is ordered to leave London with me, for her father's house, at noon."

His Majesty looked at me amazed. I think he did not know whether to be angry, or to laugh.

"Well, sir," he said at last. "That is the maddest request I have ever had. You mean what you say?"

"Certainly, Sir."

justify;">"Well: you must have it then. It is the queerest kindness I have ever done. Why do you ask it? Eh?"

"Sir; you do not want my peroration over again!"

His face darkened.

"That is very like impudence, Mr. Mallock."

"I do not mean it for such, Sir. It is the naked truth."

"You think this is not a fitting place for her?"

"I am sure it is not, Sir," I said very earnestly, "nor for any country-maid. Would Your Majesty think--"

He jerked his head impatiently.

"What my Majesty thinks is one thing; what I, Charles Stuart, do, is another. Well: you must have it. There is no more to be said."

I think he expected me to stand up and take my leave. But I remained still in my chair.

"Well; what else, sir?" he asked.

"Sir; it is near a quarter to eleven. I have not the order, yet."

"Bah! well--am I to write it then?"

"If Your Majesty will condescend."

"And what shall I say to the Queen? It is not very courteous to dismiss a lady of hers so abruptly."

"Sir; tell Her Majesty it is a debt of honour."

He wheeled back to his table, took up a sheet and began to write. When he had done he scattered the sand on it, and held it out to me, his mouth twitching a little.

"Will that serve?" he said.


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