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Oddsfish! by Robert Hugh Benson

She lies now in the churchyard of Hormead Parva


inquest was held that day, but nothing came of it. I related my story in the barest words, saying that I knew nothing of the three men, and leaving it to Mr. Chiffinch to whisper in the officer's ear to prevent him asking what he should not. Of the man I had killed nothing was ever made public, except that he was a tanner's man and lived in Wapping, and that his name was Belton.

On the Saturday we went down to Hare Street, all together, with the body of the little maid in a coach by itself. I rode my horse behind, but would speak never a word to my Cousin Tom who went in a coach, neither then nor at any other time; neither would I lie in Hare Street House, nor even enter it; but I lay in the house of a farmer at Hormead; and waited outside the house for the funeral to come out next day, after the Morning Prayer had been said in the church. She lies now in the churchyard of Hormead Parva, where we laid her on that windy Sunday, in the shadow of the little Saxon church. I rode straight away again with my men from the churchyard gate, and came to London very late that night. I went straight to my lodgings, and refused myself to everyone for three days, writing letters here and there, and giving orders as to the packing of all my effects. On the Thursday, a week after my Cousin Dolly had come to town, I went to Mr. Chiffinch to take my leave.

Now of those days I dare say no more than that; and even if I would I

could add very little. My mind throughout was in a kind of dark tumult, until, after my three days of solitude, I had determined what to do. There were hours, I will not deny, in which my very faith in God Himself seemed wholly gone; in which it was merely incredible to me that if He were in Heaven such things could happen on earth. But sorrow of such a dreadful kind as this is, in truth, if we will but yield to it, a sort of initiation or revelation, rather than an obscurer of truth; and, by the time that my three days were over I thought I saw where my duty lay, and to what all those events tended. I had come from a monk's life that I might taste what the world was like; I had tasted and found it very bitter; there was not one affair--(for so it appeared to me then)--that had not failure written all over it. Very well then; I would go back to the monk's life once more if they would have me. On the third day, then, I had written to my Lord Abbot at St. Paul's-without-the-Walls, telling him that I was coming back again, and had thrown up my affairs here.

"You were right, my Lord," I wrote at the end of it, "and I was wrong. My Vocation seems very plain to me now; and I would to God that I had seen it sooner, or at the least been more humble to Your Lordship's opinion."

At first I had thought that I would take no leave of the King; and had told Mr. Chiffinch so, after I had announced to him what my intentions were, and announced them too in such a manner that he scarcely even attempted to dissuade me from them. But he had begged me to take my leave in proper form; no harm would be done by that; and then he had told me that His Majesty knew all that had passed and was very sorry for it.

I sat silent when he said that.

"Yes, Mr. Mallock," he said again, "and I mean not only for your own sorrow, but for his own treatment of you. It hath been a whim with him: he treats often so those whom he loves. His Majesty hath something of a woman in him, in that matter. His suspicions were real enough, at least for a time."

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