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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Simply that I may serve His Holiness in serving Your Majesty


He

was sitting in his great chair, not yet dressed for supper, for his wristbands were tumbled and turned back, and his huge dark brown periwig was ever so little awry. He was in a dark suit, with a lace cravat; and his rosetted shoes were crossed one over the other as he sat. The light of the window fell full upon him from one side, shewing his swarthy face, his thin close moustaches, and his heavy eyes under his arched brows--shewing above all that air of strange and lovable melancholy that was so marked a trait in those of the Stuart blood. He smiled a little at me, but did not move, except to put out his hand. I came across the floor, kneeled and kissed his hand, then, at a motion from him, stood up again.

"So you are Mr. Roger Mallock," he said. "Welcome to England, Mr. Roger Mallock. You bring good news of His Holiness, I hope."

"His Holiness does very well, Sir," I said.

"We should all do as well if we were as holy," said the King. "And you come to look after my soul, I am informed."

(He said this with a kind of gravity that can scarcely be believed.)

"I am no priest, Sir," I said, "if you mean that. I am only a forerunner, at the best."

"_Vox clamantis in deserto_," said the King. "I hope I shall be no Herod to cut off your head. But it is very kind of you to come to

this wilderness. And have you seen my brother yet?"

"I am to see his Royal Highness immediately," I said. "I waited upon Your Majesty first."

"Poor James!" said the King. "He wants looking after, I think. And what have you come to do in England, Mr. Mallock?"

Now I felt that I was cutting a poor figure at present; and that I must say something presently, if I could, to make the King remember me afterwards. It appeared to me that he was trying me, as he tried all newcomers, to see whether they would be witty or amusing; but, for the life of me, I could think of nothing to say.

"I am come to put myself wholly at Your Majesty's disposal," I said.

"Come! come! That's better," said Charles. "It is usually the other way about. _Servus servorum Dei_, you know. And in what manner do you propose that I should use you?"

"I will clean Your Majesty's shoes, if you will. Or I will run errands in my own. Or I will sing psalms, or ditties; or I will row in a boat; or I will play tennis, or fence. I am what is called an accomplished young gentleman, Sir."

Now I think I put in a shade too many clauses, for I was a little agitated. But the King's face lightened up very pleasantly.

"But I have plenty of folks who can do all that," he said. "In what are you distinguished from the rest?"

Then I determined on a bold stroke; for I knew that the King liked such things, if they were not too bold.

"I am a Jesuit at heart, Sir;" I said. "I desire to do these things, if Your Majesty wills it so, simply that I may serve His Holiness in serving Your Majesty."


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