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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

That black mood is on His Majesty


George Jeffreys was the first to move. He had remained motionless, smiling a little, while the page had been speaking, watching him as a man may watch an actor who pleases him. At the end, after a little pause, he jerked his head a little, as if to throw off the situation. I think he had had no malice to me, but had watched the whole affair as a kind of sport, which was what he did upon the Bench too. He made a movement as if to move away, but remembered where he was, and stood still.

The two magistrates began to move also; and one nodded at the other.

Colonel Hoskyns shook his head sharply, and began to speak.

"Sir-" he began in his harsh voice.

The King held up his hand; and all was dead still again.

It was strange to me to watch the King, or rather to shoot a glance at him now and again; for I saw presently, in spite of the shadow of his hat and his dusky face, that he was looking from one to the other of us, as if appraising what had been said. I heard a fellow cough somewhere, not in the chamber, and knew by that that it was the guards, most likely, who were waiting for the verdict. Truly, during those moments all my confidence left me again; for this was a mood of the King that I never understood and had never seen so clearly as I saw it now. It was a sort of heaviness of mind, I think, that fell on

him sometimes and obscured his clear wit, for to my mind nothing could be more plain than Mr. Chiffinch's argument. Yet I depended now, not only for my liberty, but for my very life, on the King's judgment. As a Catholic and a member of the secret service I could look for no hope at all if I were sent for trial. I looked at Mr. Ramsden, the Officer of the Green Cloth; for I had scarcely noticed him before, so quiet was he. It was through his hands first, I supposed, that the case would pass. He was still motionless, looking down upon the table.

Then the King spoke, not moving at all.

"Go into the antechamber, Mr. Mallock," he said dully, "and wait there till you be sent for."

* * * * *

I suppose that that waiting was the hardest I have ever done. Again my suspense came down on me, and I had no idea as to which way the matter would go. I sat very still there, hearing again one of the men hemming without the door on the one side: and very low voices talking in the chamber I had come from.

Then all of a sudden the door opened sharply, and Mr. Chiffinch came through. He smiled and nodded, though a little doubtfully, as he came through; and my heart gave a great leap, for I knew that the worst would not happen to me.

He said nothing, but beckoned me to follow, and we went straight through to where the guards wailed.

"You can go," he said; "this gentleman is no longer under arrest."

Still, all the way as we went, he said nothing; neither did I. He said nothing at all till we were back again in his closet, and the door shut. Then he faced me, smiling.

"Well, Mr. Mallock," he said, "His Majesty has determined to do nothing. You may even keep your lodgings for the present; but you will be watched, I need not tell you, very closely indeed: and you must expect no more employment for a while."


"Wait," said he. "That black mood is on His Majesty; and you are very fortunate indeed to have come out of it so well. It was a very clever little design--"

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