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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

There are some amends due to you


I

seated myself as he bade me; and he leaned towards me a little from his own chair, with one leg across the other. I saw that he limped a little as he went to his chair; and learned afterwards that he had a sore on his heel from walking in the Park.

"There are some amends due to you," he said again: "but first I wish to tell you how very truly I grieve at the sorrow that has come on you, and in my service too, as I understand."

(Ah! thought I: then Mr. Chiffinch has made that plain enough.) He spoke with the greatest feeling and gravity; but the next moment he near ruined it all.

"Ah! these ladies!" he said. "How they can torment a man's heart to be sure! How they can torture us and yet send us into a kind of ecstasy all at once! We hate them one day, and vow never to see them again, and yet when they die or leave us we would give the world to get them back again!"

For the moment I felt myself all stiff with anger at such a manner of speaking, and then once more a great pity came on me. What, after all, does this man, thought I, know of love as God meant it to be?

"Well, well!" he said. "It is of no use speaking. I know that well enough. And it was that very cousin, I hear, that was Maid to Her Majesty!"

"Yes, Sir," said I, very short.

I

wondered if he would say next that that circumstance made it all the sadder; but he was not gross enough for that.

"Well," he said, "I will say no more on that point. I am only grieved that it should have come upon you in my service; and I wish to make amends. I already owed you a heavy debt, Mr. Mallock; and this has made it the heavier; and before saying any more I wish to tell you that I am heartily sorry for my suspicions of you. They were real enough, I am ashamed to say: I should have known better. But at least I have got rid of Hoskyns; and he hath gone to the devil altogether, I hear. He had a cunning way with him, you know, Mr. Mallock."

He spoke almost as if he pleaded; and I was amazed at his condescension. It is not the way of Kings to ask pardon very often.

"Well, Mr. Mallock," he said next; "and I hear that you wish to leave my service?"

"If Your Majesty pleases," said I.

"My Majesty doth not please at all; but he will submit, I suppose. Tell me, sir, why it is that you wish to leave."

"Sir," I said, "the reasons are pretty plain. I have displeased Your Majesty for the past half-year; and I cannot forget that, even though, Sir, you are graciously pleased to compliment me now. Then I have quarrelled with my Cousin Jermyn, so that I have not a kinsman left in England; and--and I have lost her whom I was to make my wife this year. Finally, if more reasons are wanting, I am weary of a world in which I have failed so greatly; and I must go back again to the cloister, if they will have me there."

All came with a rush when I began to speak, for His Majesty's presence had always an extraordinary effect upon me, as upon so many others. I had determined to say very little; yet here I had said it all, and I felt the blood in my face. He listened very patiently to me, with his head a little on one side, and his underlip thrust out, and his great melancholy eyes searching my face.


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