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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

I came round and received the packet


"Sir,"

I cried, "if your Majesty will entrust that to me, you shall never repent it."

He smiled; but his face went back again to its heaviness. "It is a very difficult commission," he said. "And, what is of more importance than all else is that the packet should fall into no hand other than the one that should have it. For this reason, there is no name written upon it. But I have sealed it with a private signet of my own, both within and without; and you must bear the packet with you until you can deliver it."

"I understand, Sir."

"I can send no courier with it, for the reasons of which I have spoken. No man, Mr. Mallock, but you and I must know of its very existence. Neither can I tell you now to whom the packet must be given. You must bear it with you, sir, until you have a message from me, signed with the same seal as that which it bears, telling you where you must take it, and to whom. You understand?"

"I understand, Sir."

"You must leave London immediately until your face is forgotten, and until this storm is over. You have a cousin in the country?"

"Yes, Sir; Mr. Jermyn at Hare Street."

"You had best lie there for the present; and I can send to you there, so soon as I have an opportunity. Meanwhile you must have this always at hand, and

be ready to set out with it, so soon as you hear where you must go with it. That is all plain, Mr. Mallock?"

"I understand, Sir."

The King rose abruptly, pushing back his chair; and as he rose I heard the trumpets for supper, in the Court outside.

"Then you had best be gone. Take it, Mr. Mallock."

I came round and received the packet; and I kissed the King's hand which he had not given to me as I had come in. My heart was overjoyed at the confidence which he shewed me; and I slipped the packet immediately within my waistcoat. It was square and flat and lay there easily in a little pocket which the tailor had contrived there. Then, as I stood up again, the memory of what I had come for flashed back on me again.

"Sir," I said, "there is one other matter."

His Majesty was already turning away; but he stopped and looked over his shoulder.

"Eh?" he said.

"Sir, it is with regard to the Jesuits who were condemned to-day."

He jerked his hand impatiently in a way he had.

"I have no time for that," he said, "no time."

Then he was gone out at the other door, and I heard him going downstairs.

Now as I came downstairs again the further way, and heard the trumpets go, to shew that the King was come out, I had no suspicion of anything but my own foolishness in not speaking of what I had come about. But, by the time that I was at the Temple Stairs, I wondered whether or no the King had not had that very design, to put me off from which I wished to say. And at the present time I am certain of it--that His Majesty wished to hear from me at once of the proceedings at the trial, and then spoke immediately of that other matter of the packet, and of my being followed to the Palace Gates, with the express purpose of hindering me from saying anything; for I am sure that at this time he had not yet made up his mind as to what he would do when the warrants were brought to him, and did not wish to speak of it.

CHAPTER VIII


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