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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Then he went out after his gentlemen


I not say so?" said the king.

He did not give his hand to anyone when he said good-night, but turned and bowed a little to the company about him on the hearth, and they back to him, the three duchesses curtseying very low. But to me he gave his hand to kiss.

"Good-night, Mr. Mallock," said he, in a loud voice; then, raising it--

"Mr. Mallock goes abroad to-morrow; or is it Tuesday?"

"It is Tuesday, Sir," said I.

"Then God go with you," he said very kindly.

I watched him go out to the door with his hat on, all the other gentlemen uncovered and bowing to him, and him nodding and smiling in very good humour, though still limping a little. And my heart seemed to go with him. At the door however he stopped; for a strange thing had happened. As my Lord Ailesbury had given the candle to the page who was to go before them, it had suddenly gone out, though there was no draught to blow it. The page looked very startled and afraid, and shook his head a little. Then one of the gentlemen sprang forward and took a candle from one of the cressets to light the other with. His Majesty stood smiling while this was done; but he said nothing. When it was lighted, he turned again, and waved his hand to the company. Then he went out after his gentlemen.

style="text-align: justify;"> CHAPTER VIII

It was a little after eight o'clock next morning that I heard first of His Majesty's seizure.

I had drunk my morning and was on the point of going out with my man--indeed I was descending the stairs--when I heard steps run past in the gallery outside; and then another man also running. I came out as he went past and saw that he was one of Mr. Chiffinch's men, very disordered-looking and excited. I cried out to know what was the matter, but he shook his head and flapped his hand at me as if he could not stay, and immediately turned off from the gallery and ran out to the right in the direction of the King's lodgings.

I turned to my man James who was just behind me.

"Go and see what the matter is," I said; for after seeing the King so well and cheerful last night, I never thought of any illness.

While he was gone, I waited just within my door, observing one of my engravings, with my hat on. It was a very bitter morning. In less than five minutes James was back again, very white and breathing fast.

"His Majesty is ill," said he. "Mr. Chiffinch--"

I heard no more, for I ran out past him at a great pace, and so to the King's lodgings.

* * * * *

When I came to the door of them, all was in confusion. There was but one guard here--(for the other was within with the Earl of Craven)--and a little crowd was pestering him with questions. I made no bones with him, but slipped in, and ran upstairs as fast as I could. There was no one in the first antechamber at all, and the door was open into the private closet beyond. It was contrary to all etiquette to enter this unbidden, but I cared nothing for that, and ran through; and this again was empty; so I passed out at the further door and found myself at the head of a little stair leading down into a wide lobby, from which opened out two or three chambers, with the King's bedchamber at the further end. And here, in the lobby, I ran into the company.

There was above a dozen persons there, at least, all talking together in low voices; but I saw no one I cared to speak with, since I had no business in the place at all. But no one paid any attention to me. It was yet pretty dark here, for there were no candles; so I waited, leaning against the wall at the head of the stairs.

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