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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Barillon came out and beckoned to me


all that went through my mind as I walked up and down, with a page watching me from the door, I can give no account at all. Again one half of my attention was fixed, though with out any coherency, on the business I was at; the other half observed the carpet under my feet, the cabinets along the wall, and the pictures. It was not near as splendid as were the rooms I had left so short a while ago.

I had not to wait long. There was a sudden talking of voices beyond the door that the Ambassador had just passed through; and I heard the Duke's tones very plain. Then the page stiffened to attention, the door was flung open suddenly, and the Duke came out alone at a great pace, leaving the door open behind him. He never saw me at all. The page darted after him, and the two disappeared together round the corner in the direction of the King's rooms. As soon as they were gone, M. Barillon came out and beckoned to me; and together we went up and down the gallery.

"You are perfectly right, sir," he said. "His Royal Highness shewed great sorrow for not leaving thought of it. He is gone instantly to His Majesty."

"He will fetch a priest?"

"He will speak to His Majesty first. He will find out, at least, what he thinks."

"But, good God!" said I. "His Majesty hath told me himself what he wishes."


must let His Royal Highness do it in his own way," he said. "He must not be pushed. But I think you have done the trick, Mr. Mallock."

"How is Her Majesty?" I asked abruptly.

"The physicians have been at her too," he said dryly. "She had a fainting-fit just now in His Majesty's presence; and they have been blooding her."

"What priest can be got?" I asked next.

He made a gesture towards the chamber he had just come out of.

"There is a pack of them in there," he said, "next to Her Majesty's private closet. They have been praying all day in the oratory."

* * * * *

It was fallen dark by now; for it was long after five o'clock; and there were no candles lighted here. We went up and down a good while longer, for the most part in silence, speaking of this and that; and I will not deny that we talked a little of French affairs, though God knows I was in no heart for that, and answered very indifferently. It appeared to me extraordinary that a man could think of such little things as the affairs of kingdoms when an immortal soul was at stake.

A little before six o'clock, when at last the servants brought lights, the Ambassador left me again to go in to see the Queen, leaving me to watch for the Duke; and I had not very long to wait, for soon after I had heard a clock chime the hour, His Royal Highness came again, walking very quickly as before; and, when he saw me waiting there, beckoned me to follow him. We went through two or three rooms, all lighted up and empty--the Duke sending a page to fetch M. Barillon out of the Queen's private closet where he was talking with her--into a little chamber that looked out upon the court, where there was a fire lighted. We had hardly got there before the Ambassador came, all in haste, to hear what had been done.

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