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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

And then my Lord Stafford answered


Then

my Lord Stafford, raising his head yet higher, and flinching not at all, cried out:

"God's holy name be praised, my Lords, for it!"

Then the Lord High Steward asked him why judgment of death should not be given on him; and after saying that he had not expected it, and that he prayed God to forgive those that had sworn falsely against him, he went on, as before, upon a legal point--that was wholly without relevance-- that he had not been forced to hold up his hand at the beginning as he thought to be a legal form in all trials; and when he had said that, my Lords went out to consider their judgment.

It was above an hour before they came back. During that hour my Lord Stafford was permitted to sit down in the box provided for him; but no one was admitted to speak with him. He sat very still, leaning his head upon his hand.

When all were come back again, he was made to stand up at the bar once more; and his face was as resolute and quiet as ever.

Then, when the Lord High Steward had answered his point, saying that in no way did the holding up of the hand affect the legality of the trial; he began to give sentence.

"My part, therefore, which remains," said he, "is a very sad one. For I never yet gave sentence of death upon any man, and am extremely sorry that I must begin with

your Lordship."

My Lord Nottingham was silent for an instant when he had said that, seeking, I think, to command his voice: and then he began his speech, which I think he had learned by heart; and it was one of the most moving discourses that I have ever heard, though he committed a great indecency in it, when he said that henceforth no man could ever doubt again that it was the Papists who had burned London; and professed himself--(though this I suppose he was bound to do)--satisfied with the evidence.

When he came to give sentence, I watched my Lord Stafford's face again very hard; and he flinched never a hair. It was the same sentence as that to which the Jesuits too had listened, and many other Catholics.

"You go to the place," said my Lord Nottingham, "from whence you came; from thence you must be drawn upon a hurdle to the place of execution: when you come there you must be hanged up by the neck there, but not till you are dead; for you must be cut down alive, your bowels ripped up before your face and thrown into the fire. Then your head must be severed from your body; and your body divided into four quarters, and these must be at the disposal of the King. And God Almighty be merciful to your soul!"

There was a moment of silence; and then my Lord Stafford answered.

"My Lords," he said quietly, yet so that every word was heard, "I humbly beseech you give me leave to speak a few words: I do give your Lordships hearty thanks for all your favours to me. I do here, in the presence of God Almighty, declare I have no malice in my heart to them that have condemned me. I know not who they are, nor desire to know: I forgive them all, and beseech your Lordships all to pray for me--" (His voice shook a little, and he was silent. Then he went on again. All else were as still as death.)

"My Lords, I have one humble request to make to your Lordships, and that is, my Lords, that the little short time I have to live a prisoner, I may not be a close prisoner as I have been of late; but that Mr. Lieutenant may have an order that my wife and children and friends may come at me. I do humbly beg this favour of your Lordships, which I hope you will be pleased to give me."


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