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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

Even though he lacked discretion


"Well,"

said the Duke, when I had got so far, "I am obliged to His Holiness for his solicitude; and I shall give the advice my closest attention. Was there anything more, Mr. Mallock?"

He had received it, I thought, with unusual humility; so I made haste to bring out the last of what I had to say.

"There is no more, Sir," I said, "in substance. There was only that His Eminence thought perhaps that the extraordinary courage and fervour of Your Royal Highness' Jesuit advisers led them to neglect discretion a little."

"Ah! His Eminence thought that, did he?" said James meditatively.

His Eminence had said it a great deal more strongly than that; but I dared not put it as he had.

"Yes, Sir," I said. "They are largely under French influence; and French circumstances are not at all as in England. The Society is a little apt at present--"

Then the Duke lost his self-command; and his heavy face lightened with a kind of anger.

"Mr. Mallock," he said, "you have said enough. I do not blame you at all; but His Eminence (with all possible respect to him!) does not know what he is talking about. These good Fathers have imperilled their lives for England; if any have a right to speak, it is they; and I would sooner listen to their counsel than to all the Cardinals

in Christendom. They know England, as Rome cannot; and, while I allow myself to be led by the nose by no man living, I would sooner do what they advise than what a Roman Cardinal advises. It is not by subtlety or plotting that the Faith will be commended in this country; but by courageous action; and since God has placed me here in the position that I hold, it is to Him alone that I must answer. You can send that message back to Rome, sir, as soon as you like."

Now there was James, true to himself; and I could see that further words would be wasted. I smoothed him down as well as I could; and I was happy to see that it was not with myself that he was angry--(for he made that very plain)--for that I still might hope he would listen to me later on. But anything further at that time was useless; so I prepared to take my leave; and he made no opposition.

"Well, sir," he said, "you have given your message very well; and I thank you for not wrapping it up. You have done very well in France, I hear."

"His Majesty hath been pleased to think so," I said. Then his face lightened again.

"Ah!" said he, "when the time comes, we shall shew Europe what England can do. We shall astonish even Rome itself, I think. We have long been without the light; but it is dawning once more, and when the sun is indeed risen, as His Majesty said, men will be amazed at us. We shall need no more help from France then. The whole land will be a garden of the Lord."

His face itself was alight with enthusiasm; and I wondered how, once more in this man, as in many others, the Church shewed itself able to inspire and warm, yet without that full moral conversion that she desires. He was not yet by any means free from the sins of the flesh and from pride--(which two things so commonly go together)--he could not be released from these until humiliation should come on him--as it did, and made him very like a Saint before the end. Meanwhile it was something to thank God for that he should be so whole-hearted and zealous, even though he lacked discretion.


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