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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

My Lord Danby turned to the King


"_Mon

Dieu_!" he said; "and here is good Mr. Mallock, come here hot-foot, and knows not a word of the proceedings. Mr. Mallock, these good gentlemen--Doctor Tonge, a very worthy divine and a physician of the soul, and Mr. Kirby, a very worthy chymist, and a physician of the body--are come to tell me of a plot against my life on the part of some of my faithful lieges, whereby they would thrust me swiftly down to hell--body and soul together. So that, I take it is why God Almighty hath raised up these physicians to save me. I wish you to hear their evidence. That is why I sent for you. Continue, my Lord."

My Lord looked a little displeased, pursing up his mouth, at the manner in which the King told the tale; but he said nothing on that point.

"Grove and Pickering, then, it appears, were to shoot His Majesty; and Wakeman to poison him--"

("They will take no risks you see, Mr. Mallock," put in the King.)

"Yes, my Lord," said Tonge. "They were to have screwed pistols, with silver bullets, champed, that the wounds may not heal."

("Prudent! prudent!" cried the King.)

Then my Lord Danby lost his patience; and pushed the papers together with a sweep of his arm.

"Sir," he said, "I think we may let these worthy gentlemen go for the present, until the papers

are examined."

"With all my heart," said the King. "But not Mr. Mallock. I wish to speak privately with Mr. Mallock."

So the two were dismissed; but I noticed that the King did not give them his hand to kiss. They appeared to me a pair of silly folks, rather than wicked as others thought them afterwards, who themselves partly believed, at any rate, the foolish tale that they told. Mr. Kirby was a little man, as I have said, with a sparrow-like kind of air; and Doctor Tonge had no great distinction of any kind, except his look of foolishness.

When they were gone, my Lord Danby turned to the King, with a kind of indignation.

"Your Majesty may be pleased to make a mock of it all; but your loving subjects cannot. I have permission then to examine these papers, and report to Your Majesty?"

"Why, yes," said the King, "so you do not inflict the forty-three heads upon me. I have one of my own which I must care for."

My Lord said no more; he gathered his papers without a word, saluted the King at a distance, still without speaking, and went out, giving me a sharp glance as he went.

"Now, Mr. Mallock," said His Majesty, "sit you down and listen to me."

I sat down; but I was all bewildered as to why I had been sent for. What had I to do with such affairs as these?

"Do you know of a man called Grove?" the King asked me suddenly.

Now the name had meant nothing to me when I had heard it just now; but when it was put to me in this way I remembered. I was about to speak, when he spoke again.

"Or Pickering?" he said.

"Sir; a man called Grove is known to me; but no Pickering."

"Ha! then there is a man called Grove--if it be the same. He is a Papist?"

"Sir, he is a lay-brother of the Society of Jesus, and dwells--"

The King held up his hand.


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