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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

I think it was said something to the headsman


When

he was done he distributed the copies of his speech, and then presently kneeled down, and read a prayer or two. They were in Latin, but I could not hear the words distinctly.

When he rose up again, all observing him, he went to the rail and spoke aloud.

"God bless you, gentlemen!" he said. "God preserve His Majesty; he is as good a prince as ever governed you; obey him as faithfully as I have done, and God bless you all, gentlemen!"

It was very affecting to hear him speak so, for he did it very emphatically; but even then one of their ministers that was on the scaffold would not let him be.

"Sir," he asked, speaking loud all across the scaffold, "do you disown the indulgences of the Romish Church?"

My Lord turned round suddenly in a great passion.

"Sir!" he cried. "What have you to do with my religion? However, I do say that the Church of Rome allows no indulgences for murder, lying and the like; and whatever I have said is true."

"What!" cried the minister. "Have you received no absolution?"

"I have received none at all," said my Lord, more quietly; meaning of the kind that the minister meant, for I have no doubt at all that he made his confession in the Tower.

"You

said that you never saw those witnesses?" asked the minister, who, I think, must have been a little uneasy.

"I never saw any of them," said my Lord, "but Dugdale; and that was at a time when I spoke to him about a foot-boy." (This was at Tixall, when Dugdale was bailiff there to my Lord Aston.)

They let him alone after that; and he immediately began to prepare himself for death. First he took off his watch and his rings, and gave them to two or three of his friends who were on the scaffold with him. Then he took his staff which was against the rail, and gave that too; and last his crucifix, which he took, with its chain, from around his neck.

His man then came up to him, and very respectfully helped him off with his peruke first, and then his coat, laying them one on the other in a corner. My Lord's head looked very thin and shrunken when that was done, as it were a bird's head. Then his man came up again with a black silk cap to put his hair under, which was rather long and very grey and thin; and he did it. And then his man disposed his waistcoat and shirt, pulling them down and turning them back a little.

Then my Lord looked this way and that for an instant; and then went forward to the black baize, and kneeled on it, with his man's help, and then laid himself down flat, putting his chin over the block which was not above five or six inches high.

Yet no one moved--and the headsman stood waiting in a corner, with his axe. One of the sheriffs--Mr. Cornish, I think it was--said something to the headsman; but I could not hear what it was; and then I saw my Lord kneel upright again, and then stand up. I think he was a little deaf, and had not heard what was said.

"Why, what do you want?" he said.

"What sign will you give?" asked Mr. Cornish.

"No sign at all. Take your own time. God's will be done," said my Lord; and again applied himself to the block, his man helping him as before, and then standing back.


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