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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Chiffinch immediately and told him what had passed


I

have that paper still. It is written with five lines only, and a signature. It runs as follows:

"This is to command Mistress Dorothy Jermyn, late Maid of Honour to Her Majesty, now dismissed by the King, though through no fault of her own, to leave the Court at Whitehall at noon to-day, in company with her cousin Mr. Roger Mallock, and never to return thither without his consent.

"CHARLES R."

Then followed the date.

I had a criticism or two; but I dared not make them.

"That is more than I could have asked, Sir. I am under an eternal obligation to Your Majesty."

"I daresay: but all mine are discharged to you, until you earn some more. It might have meant a peerage, Mr. Mallock."

"I do not regret it, Sir," I said.

As I rose after kissing his hand, he said one more word to me.

"You are either a very wise man, or a fool, Mr. Mallock. And by God I do not know which. But I do know you are a very brave one."

"I was a very angry one, Sir," said I.

"But you are appeased?"

"A thousand times, Sir."

CHAPTER IV

I knew I could never carry the matter through alone; so, upon leaving the King's presence, I sought out Mr. Chiffinch immediately and told him what had passed.

He whistled, loud.

"You are pretty fortunate," he said. "Many a man--"

"I have no time for compliments," said I. "You must come with me to my cousin at once. We must ride at noon; and it is close upon eleven."

"You want me to plead for you, eh?"

"Not at all," said I. "There will be no pleading. It is to certify only that this is the King's writing, and that he means what he says."

"Well, well," said Mr. Chiffinch. "And what of the matter I spoke to you of last night? Have you decided? There is not much time to lose."

"You must give me a day or two," I said.

* * * * *

It was he who knocked this time; and it was not until the old woman had opened, and was curtseying to the King's page, that he called me up.

"Come, Mr. Mallock. Your cousin is within."

We went straight upstairs after the old lady; and upon her knock being answered, she threw the door open.

My Cousin Dolly was sitting over her needle, all alone. She looked, I thought, unusually pale; but she flushed scarlet, and sprang up, so soon as she saw me.


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