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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Hoskyns for whom I had conceived


him, Hoskyns," he said; and then, before the Colonel could speak he addressed me directly.

"Mr. Mallock," he said sharply, "I will tell you plainly why I have you here, and why you are not in ward. You have been of service to me; I do not deny that. And I have never known you yet to betray your trust. Well, then, I do not wish to disgrace you publicly without allowing you an opportunity of speaking and clearing yourself if that is possible. I tell you frankly, I do not think you will. I see no loophole anywhere. But--well there it is. Tell him, Hoskyns."

I will not deny that I was terrified. This was so wholly unlike all I had ever known of His Majesty. What in the world could be the case against me? (For I now saw that Mr. Chiffinch had not told me the whole, but only a part of the charge.) I fixed my eyes upon Mr. Hoskyns for whom I had conceived, so soon as I had set eyes on him, an extreme repulsion.

He made a kind of apologetic cringing movement towards the papers. The King made no movement, but rested heavily in his chair, with his hat forward, his elbows on the arms of his chair and his fingers knit beneath his chin. The Colonel took the papers up, shuffled them for a minute, and then began. There was an extraordinary malice in his manner which I could not understand.

"The charge against the--the gentleman--whose name, I understand,

is Roger Mallock, consists of two distinct points:

"The first is that he has received and concealed a paper, containing an account of a debate held between certain of His Majesty's enemies, five years ago, in November of sixteen hundred and seventy-nine, with the list of the persons present and the votes that they gave as regards compassing the King's death. The first point to which Mr. Mallock has to answer is, How he came to be in possession of this paper at all?"

I made a movement to speak, as his voice ceased; but the King held up his hand. Then, as if by an afterthought he dropped it again.

"Well; speak if you like--point by point. But I would recommend you to hear it all first."

"Sir," I said, "I have no reserves, and nothing to conceal. I will answer point by point if Your Majesty will give me leave."

He said nothing. I turned back to the other.

"Well, sir," I said, "I had that paper from one Rumbald, in a private parlour in the _Mitre_ inn, without Aldgate. He gave it me with some others, and forgot to ask for it again."

No one moved a finger or a feature, except the Colonel, who glanced at me, and then down again.

"The second point is, Why Mr. Mallock did not hand over the paper to the proper authorities." Again he paused.

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