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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Chiffinch was accustomed by now to receive me at any hour


I

was pretty reassured then, when I knocked upon the door of Mr. Chiffinch's lodgings, and told the man who opened to me that I must see his master.

He took me through immediately into the little passage I had been in before, and himself tapped upon the door of the inner parlour; then he opened it, and let me through: for Mr. Chiffinch was accustomed by now to receive me at any hour.

He rose civilly enough, and asked me what I wished with him, so soon as the door was shut.

"The verdict is given," I said. "I must see His Majesty."

He screwed up his lips in a way he had.

"It is Guilty, I suppose," he said.

I told him Yes;

"And I have never seen," I said, "such a travesty of justice."

He looked down upon the table, considering, drumming his fingers upon it.

"That is as may be," he said. "But as for His Majesty--"

I broke out on him at that: for I was fiercely excited.

"Man," I cried, "there is no question about that. I must see His Majesty instantly."

He looked at me again, as if considering.

"Well," he said. "What must be, must. I will

see His Majesty. He is not yet gone to supper."

At the door he turned again.

"The verdict was Guilty?" he said. "You were there and heard it?"

I told him Yes; for I was all impatient.

"And how was that verdict received in court?"

"It was applauded," I said shortly.

He still waited an instant. Then he went out.

* * * * *

I was all in a fever till he came back; for his manner and his hesitation had renewed my terrors. Yet still I would not let myself doubt. I went up and down the room, and looked at the pictures in it. There was a little one by Lely, not finished, of my Lady Castlemaine, done before she was made Duchess, which I suppose the King had given to him; but I remembered afterwards nothing else that I saw at that time.

In about half an hour he came back again; but he shut the door behind him before he spoke.

"His Majesty will see you in a few minutes," he said, "but he goes to supper presently; and must not be detained. And there is something else that I must ask you first."

I was all impatient to be gone; but impatience would not help me at all.

"Mr. Mallock," he said, sitting down, "did you see any man following you from the Court? Or at the doors of the Palace?"

My heart stood still when he said that; for though I had done my best at all times for the last month or two to pass unnoticed so far as I could, I had known well enough that having been so much with the Jesuits as I had, it was not impossible that I had been marked by some spy or other, or even by Oates himself, since he had seen me go into Mr. Fenwick's lodgings. But I had fancied of late that I must have escaped notice, and had been more bold lately, as in going to the Court to-day.

"Followed?" I said. "What do you mean, Mr. Chiffinch?"

"You saw no fellow after you, or loitering near, at the gates, as you came in?"

"I saw no one," I said.


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