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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Though not from my Lord Dorset


is better to be envied than pitied," observed His Majesty, with a very serious look.

* * * * *

At first be bore himself with extraordinary geniality this evening. He had been drinking a little, I think, yet not at all to excess, for this he never did, though he had no objection to others doing so in his company. There was related of him, I remember, how the Lord Mayor once, after a City Banquet, pressed His Majesty very unduly to remain a little longer after he had risen up to go. His Majesty was already at the door when the Mayor did this, even venturing--(for he was pretty far gone in wine)--to lay his fingers on the King's arm.

His Majesty looked at him for an instant, and then burst out laughing.

"Ah well!" he said, quoting the old song, "'He that is drunk is as great as a King.'"

And he went back and drank another bottle.

* * * * *

He was in that merry kind of mood, then, this evening: but such moods have their reactions; and half an hour later he was beginning first to yawn behind his hand and then to wear a heavy look on his face. Her Majesty observed it, too, as I could see: for she fell silent (which was the worst thing in the world to do), and began to eye him sidelong

with a kind of dismay. (It was wonderful how little knowledge she had of how to manage him; and how she shewed to all present what she was feeling.)

Presently he was paying no more attention to her at all, but was leaning back in his chair, listening to my Lord Dorset who was talking in his ear; and nodding and smiling rather heavily sometimes. I felt very sorry for the Queen; but I had best have been feeling sorry for myself, for it was now, that, all unknown to me, a design was maturing against me, though not from my Lord Dorset.

As I was about to turn away, to go once more through the rooms before taking my leave, I observed Mr. Chiffinch coming through very fast from the direction of the King's apartments, as if he had some message. He did not observe me, as I was within the crowd; but I saw him go up, threading his way as well as he could, and touching one or two to make them move out of his way, straight up to the King's side of the state. I thought he would pause then; but he did not. He put his hand on my Lord Dorset's shoulder from behind, and made him give way; and then he took his place and began to whisper to His Majesty. I saw His Majesty frown once or twice, as if he were displeased, and then glance quickly up at the faces before him, and down again, as if he looked to see if someone were there. But I did not know that it was for me that he looked. Then the King nodded thrice, sharply--Mr. Chiffinch whispering all the while--and then he leaned over and whispered to the Queen. Then both of them stood up, the King looking heavier than ever, and the Queen very near fit to cry, and both came down front the dais together, all the company saluting them and making way. And so they went down the gallery together.

I was still staring after him, wondering what was the matter, when I felt myself touched, and turned to find Mr. Chiffinch at my elbow. He looked very serious.

"Come this way, sir," said he. "I must speak with you instantly."

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