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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

But what of your apostleship in the world


well! well," he said again, "if you must be a monk there is no more to be said. But what of your apostleship in the world?"

"Sir," I cried--for I knew what he meant--"my apostleship as you name it has been a greater disaster than all the rest: and God knows that is great enough."

He was silent a full half minute, I should think, still looking on me earnestly.

"Are you so sure of that?" said he.

My heart gave a leap; but he held up his hand before I could speak.

"Wait, sir," he said. "I will tell you this. You have said very little to me; but I vow to you that what you have said I have remembered. It is not argument that a man needs--at least after the first--but example. That you have given me."

Then I flushed up scarlet; for I was sure he was mocking me.

"Sir," I cried, "you might have spared--"

He lifted his eyes a little.

"I assure you, Mr. Mallock," he said, "that I mean what I say. You have been very faithful; you have ventured your life again and again for me; you have refused rewards, except the very smallest; you have lost even your sweetheart in my service; and now, when all is within your reach again, you fling it back at me. It is not very gracious; but it

is very Christian, as I understand Christianity."

I said nothing. What was there to say? I seemed a very poor Christian to myself.

"Come! come, Mr. Mallock," pursued the King very gently and kindly. "Think of it once again. You shall have what you please--your Viscounty or anything else of that sort; and you shall keep your lodgings and remain here as my friend. What do you say to that?"

For a moment again I hesitated; for it is not to everyone that a King offers his friendship. If it had been that alone I think I might have yielded, for I knew that I loved this man in spite of all his wickedness and his treatment of me--for that, and for my "apostleship" as he called it, I might have stayed. But at the word _Viscounty_ all turned to bitterness: I remembered my childish dreams and the sweetness of them, and the sweetness of my dear love who was to have shared them; and all turned to bitterness and vanity.

"No, Sir," said I--and I felt my lips tremble. "No, Sir. I will be ungracious and--and Christian to the end. I am resolved to go; and nothing in this world shall keep me from it."

The King stood up abruptly; and I rose with him. I did not know whether he were angry or not; and I did not greatly care. He stepped away from me, and began to walk up and down. One of his bitch-spaniels whined at him from her basket, lifting her great liquid eyes that were not unlike his own; and he stooped and caressed her for a moment. Then the clocks began to chime, one after the other, for it was eight o'clock, and I heard them at it, too, in the bed-chamber beyond. There would be thirty or forty of them, I daresay, in the two chambers. So for a minute or two he went up and down; and I have but to close my eyes now, to see him again. He was limping a little from the sore on his heel; but he carried himself very kingly, his swarthy face looking straight before him, and his lips pursed. I think that indeed he was a little angry, but that he was resolved not to shew it.

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