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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

He very graciously made me sit down


King smiled.

"Well," he said, "I must be off while you two plot, I suppose. Come and see me too, Mr. Mallock; when you have done all your duties."

I took him to the door of the closet where the servants were waiting for him; and even his gait seemed to me older.

Now James had very little--(though no Stuart could have none)--of his family's charm. He looked no older, no sharper and no lighter than a year ago; and he had learned nothing from adversity, as I presently understood. He very graciously made me sit down; but in even that the condescension was evident--not as his brother did it.

"You have been to Rome, again," he said pretty soon, when he had told me how he did, and how the King was not so well as he had been. "And what news do you bring with you?"

I told him first of the Holy Father's health, and delivered a few compliments from one or two of the Cardinals, and spoke of three or four general matters of the Court there. He nodded and asked some questions; but I could see that he was thinking of something else.

"But you have more to say to me, have you not?" said he. "I had a letter from the Cardinal Secretary--" he paused.

"Yes, Sir," said I. "The Holy Father was graciously pleased to put me at Your Royal Highness' disposal, if

you should wish to know His Holiness' mind on one or two affairs."

I put it like this, as gently as I could; for indeed I had something very like a scolding, in my pocket, for him. He saw through it, however, for he lowered his eyelids a little sullenly as his way was, when he was displeased.

"Well; let us hear it," said he. "What have I done wrong now?"

This would never do. His Royal Highness resembled a mule in this, at least, that the harder he was pushed, the more he kicked and jibbed. He must be drawn forward by some kind of a carrot, if he were to be moved. I made haste to draw out my finest.

"His Holiness is inexpressibly consoled," I said, "by Your Royal Highness' zeal for religion, and courage too, in that course. He bade me tell you that he could say his _Nunc Dimittis_, if he could but see such zeal and obedience in the rest of Europe."

The Duke smiled a little; and I could see that he was pleased. (It was really necessary to speak to him in this manner; he would have resented any such freedom or informality as I used towards the King.)

"These are the sweets before the medicine," he said. "And now for the draught."

"Sir," I said, "there is no draught. There is but a word of warning His Holiness--"

"Well; call it what you will. What is it, Mr. Mallock?"

I told him then, as gently as I could (interlarding all with a great many compliments) that His Holiness was anxious that matters should not go too fast; that there was still a great deal of disaffection in England, and that, though the pendulum had swung it would surely swing back again, though, please God! never so far as it had been; and that meantime a great deal of caution should be used. For example, it was a wonderful thing that His Royal Highness should be Lord High Admiral of the Fleet again; but that great care should be observed lest the people should be frightened that a Papist should have the guarding of them; or again, that the Test Act should be set aside in His Royal Highness' case, yet the exception should not be pressed too far. All this my Lord Cardinal Howard had expressly told me; but there was one yet more difficult matter to speak of; and this I reserved for the moment.

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