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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

There are some amends due to you


"I

had done better if I had been one of his enemies, then," said I.

"It is of no use to be bitter, sir," said the page. "Men are what they are. We would all be otherwise, no doubt, if we could. See the King, Mr. Mallock, I beg of you: and appear once at least at Court, publicly. You should allow him at least to make amends."

I gave a great sigh.

"Well: it shall be so," I said. "But I must leave town on Tuesday."

* * * * *

It was with a very strange sense of detachment that I went about my affairs all Friday and Saturday; for I had still plenty to do, and was not to see His Majesty till the Saturday night after supper. The weather was turned soft again, and we had sunshine for an hour or two. On one day I watched His Majesty go to dinner, with his guards about him, and his gentlemen; but I did not see it with the pleasure I had once had in such brave sights. It was with me, during those days, as it had been with me for those two or three moments during the play, though in a gentler manner; for I thought more of the humanity beneath than of the show above; and a rotten humanity most of it seemed to me. These were but men like myself, and some pretty evil too. Those gentlemen that were with the King--there was scarcely one of them about whom I did not know something considerably to

his discredit: there was my Lord Ailesbury in strict attendance on him; and Killigrew--he that had the theatre--and the less said of him the better: and there were three or four more like him; the Earl of Craven was there, colonel of the foot-guards; and Lord Keeper Guildford; and the Earl of Bath; and there, in the midst, the King himself, with his blue silk cloak over his shoulders, and his princely walk, going fast as he always did, and smiling-well, what of those thirteen known mistresses of his that he had had, as well as of those other--God knows how many!--poor maids, who must look upon him as their ruin? It was a brave sight enough, there in the sunshine--I will not deny that--with the sun on the jewels and the silks, and on the buff and steel of the guards, with that swift kingly figure going in the midst; and it was a brave noise that the music made as they went within the Banqueting-Hall; but how, thought I, does God see it all? And for what do such things count before His Holy Presence?

I had not rehearsed what I should say to His Majesty when I saw him; for indeed it was of no further moment to me what either I or he should say. I should be gone for ever in three days to the secret service of another King than him--to that secret service where men need not lie and cheat and spy and get their hearts broken after all and no gratitude for it; but to that service which is called _Opus Dei_ in the choir, and is prayer and study and contemplation in the cloister and the cell. There I should sing, week by week:

"Oh! put not your trust in princes nor in any child of man: for there is no help in them."

In such a mood then--not wholly Christian, I will admit!--I came into the King's closet, to take my leave of him, on that Saturday night, the last day of January, in the year of Salvation sixteen hundred and eighty-five.

He was standing up when I entered his private closet, with a very serious look on his face; and, to my astonishment, took a step towards me, holding out both his hands. I will not deny that I was moved; but I had determined to be very stiff. So I saluted him in the proper manner, very carefully and punctually, kneeling to kiss his hand, and then standing upright again. A little spaniel barked at me all the time.

"There! there! Mr. Mallock," he said. "Sit you down! sit you down! There are some amends due to you."


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