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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Chiffinch turned and stared at me again


the voices grew louder; and the crowd opened out a little to let someone through; and there came, walking very quickly, and talking together, my Lord Craven leaning on the arm of my Lord Ailesbury. My Lord Craven--near ninety years old at this time--was in his full-dress as colonel of the foot-guards, for he had attended a few minutes before to receive from His Majesty the pass-word of the day: and my Lord Ailesbury was but half dressed with his points hanging loose; for he had been all undressed just now, when the King had been taken ill.

After they had passed by me I stood again to wait; but, almost immediately, across the further end of the lobby I saw Mr. Chiffinch pass swiftly from a door on the left to a door on the right. At that sight I determined to wait no longer: for there was but one thought in my mind, all this while.

I said nothing, but I came down the stairs and laid my hand on the shoulder of a physician (I think he was), who stood in front of me, and pushed him aside, as if I had a right to be there; and so I went through them very quickly, and into the room where I had seen Mr. Chiffinch go. The door was ajar: I pushed it open and went in.

It was a pretty small room, and there were no beds in it; it had presses round the walls: a coal fire burned in the hearth in a brazier, and a round table was in the midst, lit by a single candle, and near the candle stood

a heap of surgical instruments and a roll of bandages. (This was the room, I learned later, next to the Royal Bedchamber, where the surgeons had attended half an hour ago to dress the King's heel.) There were three persons in the room beyond the table, talking very earnestly together. Two of them I did not know; but the third was Mr. Chiffinch. They all three turned when I came in, and stared at me.

"Why--" began the page--"Mr. Mallock, what do you--"

He came towards me with an air of impatience.

"Mr. Chiffinch," said I, in a low voice--"how is His Majesty. I--"

The further door which stood at the head of three or four steps leading up to it opened sharply, and the page whisked round to see what it was. A face looked out, very peaked-looking and white, and nodded briskly at the bandages and the instruments; the two other men darted at those, seized them, ran up the stairs and vanished, leaving the door but a crack open behind them.

Then Mr. Chiffinch turned and stared at me again. He appeared very pale and agitated.

"Mr. Chiffinch," said I, "I will take no refusal at all. How is His Majesty?"

His lips worked a little, and I could see that he was thinking more of what was passing in the chamber beyond than of my presence here.

"They are blooding him again," he said; and then--"What are you doing here?"

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