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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Charles laughed again and began to walk up and down


said Charles; and he gathered his feet under him and looked at me more closely. I met his eyes fairly and then dropped my own.

"Oho! That is frank enough, Mr. Mallock. You know all about me, I suppose. You seem very young for such work. How old are you? Twenty-five?"

"I pass as twenty-five, Sir. But I am only twenty-one!"

"I would that I were!" said Charles earnestly. "And so you are a Jesuit in disguise--a wolf in sheep's clothing."

"No, Sir. I am a Jesuit at heart only, in that I would do anything in God's cause. But I am rather a sheep in wolf's clothing. I was a Benedictine novice till lately."

He seemed not to hear me. He had dropped his chin on his hand, and was looking at me as if he were thinking of something else.

"So you are come to serve me," he said presently, "in any way that I will; and you will serve me only that you may serve your master better. And what wages do you want?"

"None that Your Majesty can give," I said.

"Better and better," said Charles. "Nor place, nor position?"

"Only at Your Majesty's feet."

"And what if I kick you?"

"I will look for the halfpence elsewhere, Sir."

style="text-align: justify;">Then the King laughed outright, in the short harsh way he had; and I knew that I had pleased him. Then he stood up, and I saw that he was taller than I had thought. He was close upon six feet high.

"Well, Mr. Mallock," he said, "this seems all very pleasant and satisfactory. You said you would run errands. I suppose you mean to Rome?"

"To Rome and back, Sir," I said. "Or to anywhere else, except Hell."

"Oh! you draw the line there, do you?"

"No, Sir. It is God Almighty who has drawn it. I am not responsible."

"But you observe God His line?"

"Yes, Sir. At least, I try to."

"We all do that, I suppose. The pity is that we do not succeed more consistently ... Well, Mr. Mallock, I have nothing for you at present. I am a great deal too busy. These ladies, you know, demand so much. I suppose you heard one of them laugh just now?"

"I hear nothing but Your Majesty's commands," I said very meekly.

Charles laughed again and began to walk up and down.

"Well--and there are all these clockwork businesses, and chymical and the like. And there is so much to eat and drink and see: and there are the affairs of the kingdom--I had forgot that. Well; I have no time at present, Mr. Mallock, as you can see for yourself. But I will not forget you, if I want you. Where do you lodge?"

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