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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Beginning with my Lord Butler of Weston


When

he dealt with Turberville too, he did not do much better; for he stood continually upon little points of no importance--such points as a witness may very well mistake--as to where the windows of his house in Paris looked out, and whether the Prince of Conde lodged to right or left--such little points as a lawyer would leave alone, if he could not prove them positively.

On the fourth and fifth day I was not present; for I had a great deal to do in writing my reports for Rome; and on the sixth day--which was Monday--I was not there above an hour, for I saw that the trial would not end that day. But on the Tuesday I was there before ten o'clock; and at eleven o'clock my Lords came back to give judgment. It was a dark morning, as it had been at the trial of the Jesuits; and the candles were lighted.

As soon as all were seated my Lord Stafford was brought in; and I observed him during all that followed. He stood very quiet at the bar, with his hands folded; and although, before the voting was over, he must have known which way it was gone, he flinched never a hair nor went white at all. (His bringing in while the voting was done was contrary to the law; but no one observed it; and I knew nothing of it till afterwards.)

The Lord High Steward first asked humble leave from my Lords to sit down as he spoke, as he was ailing a little, and then put the question to each Lord, beginning

with my Lord Butler of Weston.

"My Lord Butler of Weston," said he, "is William Lord Viscount Stafford guilty of the treason whereof he stands impeached, or not guilty?"

And my Lord answered in a loud voice, laying his hand upon his breast:

"Not guilty, upon my honour."

There were in all eighty-six lords who voted; and each answered, Guilty, or Not Guilty, upon his honour, as had done the first, each standing up in his place. At the first I could not tell on which side lay the most; but as they went on, there could be no doubt that he was condemned. Prince Rupert, Duke of Cumberland, voted last, as he was of royal blood, and gave it against him.

The Lord High Sheriff, who had marked down each vote upon a paper on his desk, now added them all up: and there was a great silence while he did this. (I could see him doing it from where I sat.) Then he spoke in a loud voice, raising his head.

"My Lords," said he, "upon telling your votes I find that there are thirty-one of my Lords that think the prisoner not guilty, and fifty-five that have found him guilty--Serjeant," said he; and then I think that he was about to call for the prisoner, when he saw him already there. Then, before he spoke again, I saw the headsman turn the edge of the axe towards my Lord Stafford; and a rustle of whispering ran through the Hall.

"My Lord Stafford," said the High Steward, "I have but heavy tidings for you: your Lordship hath been impeached for high treason; you have pleaded not guilty: my Lords have heard your defence, and have considered of the evidence; and their Lordships do find you guilty of the treason whereof you are impeached."


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