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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

And you were to deliver to eh


"And

you were to deliver to--eh? what was his name?"

"Your Majesty told me that the name would be sent to me."

"Why, so I did," said the King, smiling. "Well; let us open the packet and see what is within."

He took up a little ivory knife that was on the table by his elbow, and slipped it beneath the folds of the paper, so as to burst open the seals; and when he had done that, there was another wrapper, also sealed. This seal he also scrutinized, still smiling a little; and then he burst that; and when he had taken off that covering, a folded piece of paper fell out. This he unfolded, and spread flat with his fingers; and there was nothing written on that side; then he turned it over, and shewed me how there was nothing written on that either. So the message I had borne about me, was nothing in the world but a piece of blank paper.

I drew a long breath when I saw that; for my anger surged up at the way I had been fooled; but before I could think of anything to say, the King spoke.

"Mr. Mallock," he said, "you have done very well. You understand it now, eh?"

"No, Sir; I do not," I said.

"Why; it is a very old trick;" went on His Majesty, "to see if a messenger will be faithful. Your folks did it first, I think, in Queen Bess her reign; so as

to risk nothing. And you have kept it all this while!"

"I obeyed Your Majesty's commands," I said.

"Well; and you have delivered it to the right person." (He tossed the papers altogether upon the table and turned to me again.) "Now, sir; I had no real doubt of you; but others were not so sure; and I consented to this to please them; so now that all has been done, I can use you more freely, if you will: I have more than one mission which must be done for me; and if you like it, Mr. Mallock, you may have the first."

"Sir; I must go to France immediately. The hunt is up, after me, too."

"What do you mean by that?" he said sharply. "The hunt! What is that?"

"I would not weary Your Majesty with it all; but the truth is that the fellow Dangerfield, who came after me here, came yesterday with a magistrate and near a dozen men, to Hare Street to take me. I eluded them, and came to London."

"You eluded them! How was that?"

Well; I told him as shortly as I could; and he laughed outright when I came to my Cousin Dolly's part in it.

"Why: that was very wittily done!" he said. "The minx!"

I did not much like that; but I could not find fault with the King.

"And I was at Tyburn this morning, Sir."


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