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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

You have seen His Majesty before


am honoured to meet you, Mr. Mallock," he said. "I have had His Majesty's instructions very particular in your regard. I am ashamed that you should find me so unready; but I will not keep you above five minutes, if you will sit down for a little."

He made haste to set me a chair near the window; and with another apology or two he went out of a second door. The room in which he left me was like the suit that he wore--in that it was both plain and rich. There were three or four chairs with arms; a table, with twisted legs, on which lay a great heap of papers and a pair of candlesticks: and there was a tall lightly-carved press, with locks, between the windows. The walls were plain, with a few good engravings hung upon them. I went up to examine one, and found it to be a new one, by Faithorne.

Now that I was drawing so near to the King, I found my apprehensions returning upon me, for half my success, I knew, if not all, turned upon the manner I first shewed to him. I knew very well that I could bear myself with sufficient address; but sufficient address was not all that was needed: I must so act that His Majesty would remember me afterwards, and with pleasure. Yet how was I to ensure this?

As I was so thinking to myself, Mr. Chiffinch came in again, having, with marvellous speed, changed his suit into one of brown velvet, with a great black periwig, from which his sharp face looked

out like a ferret from a hole.

"I must ask your pardon, Mr. Mallock," he said, as I stood up to meet him, "again and again; but I have scarcely an hour to myself day or night. Duty treads on the heels of duty all day long. But we have still time: His Majesty does not expect us till half-past five."

I made the usual compliments and answers, to which he bowed again; and then, as I thought he would, he began upon what was not his business--at least I thought not then.

"You are come from Rome, I hear. I trust that His Holiness was in good health?"

"The reports were excellent," I said, determined not to be taken in this way.

"You have seen His Holiness lately, no doubt?"

"It was the French and Spanish ambassadors," I said, "who gave me my letters. A poor gentleman like myself does not see the Holy Father once in a twelvemonth."

He seemed contented with that; and I think he put me down as something of a well-bred simpleton, which was precisely what I wished him to think; for his manner changed a little.

"You have seen His Majesty before, no doubt?"

"I have not been in England for seven years," I said, smiling. "I saw His Majesty once when I was a lad, as he went to dinner; and I have seen him once, on Saturday last; at least, I saw the top of his hat from a hundred yards off."

"And the Duke of York?" he asked.

"I have never seen the Duke of York in my life, to my knowledge," I said.

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