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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

He was in wonderful good humour that evening


There

was a great clamour of voices from the basset-table as I came in and the King looked up; and, as I went across to pay my respects to His Majesty, he said something to the Duchess, very merrily. She too glanced up at me; and indeed she was a splendid sight in her silks and in the jewels she had had from him.

"Why; here is my friend!" said the King, as he put out his hand to me; and once more the dogs yapped at me from his side. He put his left hand out over their heads and pressed them down.

"You must not bark at my friend Mr. Mallock," he said. "He is off to be a holy monk."

For a moment I thought the King was making a mock of me; but it was not so. He was smiling at me very friendly.

* * * * *

He was in wonderful good humour that evening; and I heard more of his public talk than ever before; for he made me draw up a stool presently upon the hearth. Now and again a gentleman came across to be presented to him; and others came and looked in for a while and away again. There were constant comings and goings; and once, as a French boy was singing songs to a spinet, near the door, I saw the serious face of Mr. Evelyn, with two of his friends, look in upon the scene.

I cannot remember one quarter of all the things that were said. Now the King was

silent, playing with the ears of his dogs and smiling to himself; now he would say little things that stuck in the memory, God knows why! For example, he said that he had eaten two goose's eggs for supper, which shewed what a strong stomach he had; and he described to us a very fierce duck that had snapped his hand that afternoon in the park. History is not made of these things; and yet sometimes I think that it should be; for those be the matters that interest little folk; and most of us are no more than that. I do not suppose that in all the world there is one person except myself who knows that His Sacred Majesty ate two goose's eggs to his supper on that Sunday night.

He spoke presently of his new palace at Winchester that he was a-building, and that was near finished.

"I shall be very happy this week," said he, "for my building will be all covered in with lead." (He said the same thing again, later, to my Lord Ailesbury, who remembered it when it was fulfilled, though in another manner than the King had meant.)

He talked too of "little Ken," as he named him (who had been made Bishop last week), and of the story that so many told--(for the King told his stories several times over when he was in a good humour)--and the way he told it to-night was this.

"Ah! that little Ken!" said he. "Little black Ken! He is the man to tell me my sins! Your Grace should hear him"--(added he)--"upon the Seventh Commandment! And such lessons drawn from Scripture too-from the Old Testament!"


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